Internet is evolving so fast, everybody has a site. Every movie
has a URL and nobody does any advertising without carving out a
space in cyberspace. The Internet is so commonly used, that I predict
that by 2005, 85% of the families living above the poverty level
will have a presence in cyberspace. Family web pages will be commonplace.
I can envision some sites headers now. "Coming in 2005, www.atterberry.com
to a domain near you. Check the family tree and download relative's
So just who is using the web? EVERYBODY IS. Every ethnic group in
America is utilizing the Internet. All the people who don't want
to be left out of the loop are making the adjustment. Don't believe
any of the hype saying African - Americans are not flocking to the
Internet. Don't believe one iota of it.
I have observed the African American
web presence more than double
in a year. If you don't believe me just try to do a search under
some of the Black or African American thematic topics that you used
to. See how much more data comes up.
There is just one catch. Many of the sites that you think are controlled
by African Americans are not Black owned, controlled and conceived.
I have an acronym for this. I ask is it a BOCC= B(lack) O(wned)
C(ontrolled) C(onceived) ?
Is this a problem? Heck yes. Herein lies another disappointing thing
"happening" wherein we are not controlling our images and ideas.
Yes, I know that there are those who think that "it is only important
that the target audience be African American." Some say it is not
relevant that popular African American sites be BOCC's. I just want
to name some sites, which most people assume, are BOCC but have
White ownership. Black Voices (www.blackvoices.com) is owned by
the Tribune Media Corporation. Not Barry Cooper! Blackfamilies.com
(www.blackfamilies.com) is owned by Cox Interactive Media. Not John
Pembroke! Cybersoul (www.cybersoul.com) is owned by HBO. I have
just one statement, to those who think that it is not important
who owns the Black Image in cyberspace. "If it was not important
to control the Black images in cyberspace White firms would not
I am not saying that Blackvoices, Blackfamilies and Cybersoul are
bad sites, they provide great information, but I am saying that
this trend is detrimental to the potential African Americans on
the Internet, especially from an economic vantage point. I remember
when Afronet gave space to a White columnist. There were so many
people who told me what an ill-conceived move they felt this was.
I agreed then, but I ask, Where are your voices now!!
These sites are well financed and whether they make money or not
having that cushion allows the worker bees to not worry about if
they are making money or not.
But how do the sites make money? ADVERTISING!! Procter and Gamble
advertises on Black Voices, but do you think CEO Barry Cooper gets
any of that money ? Is he or his staff rewarded with a bonus? NO!!
Does he have any control over the way the money is spent on the
site. NO! The money goes straight into the coffers of the Tribune
Media Corporation. Advertising is the lifeblood of television, newspaper,
radio and the Internet. Yes, those sites may look great and have
all the fancy bells and whistles, but do you really think Cox Interactive,
Tribune and Time Warner love the African American way of life that
much? What say do you have in supporting BOCC ? Or the question
should be. Are you BUYING BLACK!! The Internet may be the last place
the African Americans can control the destiny of their portrayal
in the media. If we donít support these sites now, by buying books,
music or other gift items THROUGH these site, they eventually will
go out of business. Next time you decide to buy something on the
Internet, take the time to pull up a BOCC site and then buy the
item or recommend to the site owner that he or she should carry
that item, its not as hard as you might think. Anything you can
buy at Yahoo!, you can buy on any BOCC site.
My hypothesis is that in five years Whites will either own or become
the significant contributors to the majority of the most popular
"Black" web sites. These people realize that to be able to control
access to data and what data people receive is critical to controlling
them. Since the Internet is nothing more than a whole bunch of computers
networked together, it has allowed Black folk to meet and express
ideas without interference from Whites as you have with television,
radio, and other media. During the days of chattel slavery it was
a no-no for Blacks to meet up and discuss ideas. Even in Africa,
colonial European efforts combined to prevent African People from
communicating without their presence. Although many African countries
have their independence now, the colonizing groups still exert a
lot of influence over their radio and television programming. Nowadays
Black people can legally congregate in most places on the globe.
It is still discouraged like it is in my hometown of New York City,
but itís just more subtle.
I remember some years ago I was home from college for winter break
and I was accosted by police for simply walking with too many other
African American males at night. We were on the sidewalk and they
were riding in the street. They blared their sirens and rode their
vehicles on the sidewalk blocking our path. They got out of the
car with hands on their guns and told us to get up against the wall.
We were orderly, quiet and had committed no crime, but we were Black,
all male and there was 20 of us. There was only two of them initially,
but by the time it was all over, there was a 1 to 1 ratio of Black
males to police officers. Nobody got arrested, although due to my
outrage over being stopped, I came close. Their mission was to give
us the "subtle" message, "this is what happens when we see too many
of you people together." The sergeant who arrived on the scene said
we were stopped because we were reported being disorderly by a 911
caller. Likely story. Twenty Black people were together doing nothing
but "shooting the breeze," but for this white woman, it was a frightening
scene. Just think about the fear that the Internet represents when
you have millions of people who come together in web site chat rooms,
post to message boards, read the ideas of other people who look
like them. It gets even scarier if some of these people aim to do
more than "shoot the breeze" but instead talk about legitimate social
issues like the murder of unarmed African emigrant Ahmed Diallo
at the hands of the New York City Cops. Eventually this sort of
linkage could spill over into "activism." There has to be a medium
to dilute or control the way people interpret national, global or
local events. These types of questions posed by the site administrators
on the message boards and the site survey questionnaire, which downplay
race as a factor are examples of the little things which a White
controlled site is more likely to do. To those who feel the need
to monitor us, the Internet is no exception. The best way to do
this is to use a "Black Face/person" as the visible site person.
Another example might be in the case of a movie, or T.V. series
that Blacks feel is worthy of boycott. The white site is not likely
to endorse a boycott and takes the route of "let's all watch the
show before we judge it prematurely, lets see how it represents
"us," as one White owned Black series did with the short-lived television
sitcom "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfieffer," which burlesqued
slavery and virtually made a joke of the horrible life that African
people enslaved in the Western Hemisphere experienced.
You would never see that sort of nonsense done with other human
tragedies like the Jewish Holocaust. Thank God we were smart enough
to recognize that this show could not continue to air with our economic
support. I could draw thousands of analogies of ways, in which these
web sites are likely to subtly use subversive methods to control
black frustration and rage, but I feel that portion of my conveyance
should be left to your own imagination. I am sure that you have
experiences which would allow you to recall or draw your own examples.
Although there is a small upside. I think the phenomenon of Black
web sites controlled by whites can actually wind up being very educational.
There is a lot of information being circulated which passes itself
off as legitimate data simply because it was done by a Black person
without careful attention being paid to the actual content of that
data. More so I believe that regardless of the race of the author,
the work the individual does should be viewed on its scholastic
merit. Scholarship can not be quantified simply by race; cyber-browsers
should go further with information they receive on the web even
when Blacks control the web site. If Black people realize that the
data they are receiving may be an interpretation from a White controlled
perspective (as are 95% of the other media and communication outlets)
they may dig deeper and go further with the data and discover that
the data they received is erroneous. If the ambiguity of web site
ownership causes cyber-browsers to do a double take at the information
they receive, then in my opinion it is a good thing. Many Black
people too easily accept information on the basis that the author
is Black or has a cultural or ethnic sounding name. I have seen
information appear on BOCC sites which was more detrimental in its
propaganda than stuff that normally receives a red flag on White
Take for example the recently released "Encarta Africana" Encyclopedia
released by Microsoft. This double CD package has been billed as
the first comprehensive work on African culture and history throughout
the Diaspora and Africa. The brain children behind this project
are Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr., Chairman of Afro-American Studies
and Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of Afro-American Studies and
Philosophy. Both of these men are Black and have a following among
various groups in the Black community. I have read interviews with
them and about them which makes me worry what they have done with
the original efforts of W.E.B. Dubois to produce this Encyclopedia.
Dubois moved to Ghana in 1961 to establish the Secretariat of the
Encyclopedia Africana, but he died before it was completed. There
is a lot of criticism from sources regarding the efforts by Gates
and Appiah. I do know that the Secretariat in Ghana totally disassociated
Duboisí original project from their effort. The teacher in me forced
me to go through the lesson plans for educators at www.encarta.msn.com/schoolhouse.
In our efforts to learn more about other white sites we spoke to
John Pembroke of Black Families.com which is owned by Cox Interactive.
He was quite evasive about providing information about the staff,
page views and amount of money Cox invested. Johnís official position
is Brand Manager (now whatís that) ? He is not the CEO, CFO, COO
or even the founder. So you know he answers to someone else. Are
all of these H.N.I.C. executives selling us out? Even the recent
BET venture is still partially white owned. Why?
The bottom line is that you should know which sites are created
by Black efforts or White efforts. You should check it out for yourself.
You might be surprised by what you will find. Just remember when
you spend your money, are you handing it over to the white man or
are you buying black? With the Internet, believe me folks, WE HAVE