By now we’ve all heard the stories. There’s the North Carolina man who was banned from AirBnB after denying a potential guest, a black female, and releasing a barrage of racial slurs against her. Then there’s the young black man who, after being denied lodging, requested the same property under a different name with pictures of white men in his profile and was accepted immediately. And there’s the young black woman who, after having tremendous difficulty securing an available property, shortened her name to something less “African-American sounding” and changed her profile picture to a cityscape instead of her likeness and has had no trouble booking since.
This hashtag has caught on like wild-fire among those who have experienced racial discrimination while attempting to use the accommodation-sharing site.
As a very active traveller for both work and personal vacations, I have used the website and accompanying app to find accommodations in cities across the U.S, Canada, and even overseas. I’ve never experienced any of the blatant racism that I’ve been reading about as of late, so I was quite surprised when I started hearing so many stories of this kind of treatment. Sure, I’ve been denied lodging before but I’ve never chalked it up to racism.
When these stories began surfacing people started kicking around the idea of a “Black AirBnB”. The discussions began as jokes and wishful thinking, but a few weeks ago I started seeing promo ads for Noirbnb. I thought “Wow! Somebody actually did it!”
A few days ago I had the opportunity to speak with Ronnia Cherry and Stefan Grant, the creators of this platform which will be “launching all summer 2016”. They could not give me too many details of their launch – gotta protect the baby before it’s born – but we were able to have a chat about this new company that is sure to change or elevate the home-sharing game.
Stefan, a DC based musician who goes by STEFisDOPE, recounts the story. Late last year they were joined by friends in Atlanta and used AirBnB to rent out a residence. While there, the neighbors called the police on the group with the assumption that they were robbing the place.
“Thankfully, we were able to de-escalate the situation once the police arrived, and we even got a selfie with the cops!”
Ronnia adds, “The owners of the property accepted us, yes, but they removed valuable things from the house; televisions and speakers were removed. It’s really silly to remove the speakers when you have musicians renting your house!”
Stef shared the picture and the situation on his social media…and the story went viral.
AirBnB caught wind of the story and offered free vouchers as a way of acknowledging the situation, but Stef and Ronnia knew that this kind of thing was still occurring and would continue to occur. They expressed their concerns of continued racial discrimination to AirBnB and took a trip to San Francisco in the fall of 2015 to visit the headquarters. They conceptualized the idea of Noirbnb and even offered it to AirBnB, but the response was lackluster. At that point more and more stories of this kind of discrimination began to surface, as did the trending hashtag #AirBnBwhileBlack. Not wanting to wait any longer, Ronnia and Stef secured the name, purchased the domain in January of this year, and got to work, planning. They both have experience in marketing, promo work, and branding so they brought their skills together to get the job done.
To date, there has been a roll-out of promo pictures as well as a website that invites visitors to submit their email address to be kept in the loop as the company continues to develop and move into launching.
Now many people are asking a few questions. I shared one of the promos on my personal FB page the other day and had a dialogue with a friend of mine who was concerned that this website might add to the problem of discrimination of non-Black renters. I’ve also encountered a few people, myself included, who have wondered if this site will be for Black people only.
I posed these questions to the duo and Stef immediately addressed the concern.”We don’t want to leave something because of prejudice and then create a prejudiced experience.” His words!
The goal is make sure black people have a booking alternative that will allow them to feel safe and comfortable. With that said, they made it very clear that Noirbnb will be inclusive and will not seek to fan the flames of discrimination. Also, there will be policies in place to adequately screen all parties involved. They want to build a global brand and lifestyle that encourages community, growth, interaction, and perhaps a little peek into the black experience.
Now some of you may have seen promos for another company Noirebnb (with an ‘e’). I asked the pair if they were aware that there is another company with the same name and goal. They are very aware of the presence of this other company and shared that they had been in communication. They’ve discussed coming together but found that their approaches are very different. Ronnia and Stef state that they are very open to partnership and collaboration and are happy to answer questions about their platform.
So there you have it folks. Noirbnb.
They seek to provide a safe space for travelers of color.
Inclusive and non-discriminatory.
Ronnia says “We really didn’t expect that this would blow up as much as it has and as quickly as it has. We’re taking the time we need to get all things in place so it can be done right.”
The face of travel has changed, folks. And this duo is seeking to be part of that change.
In Ronnia’s words…”It’s gonna be lit!”