Hi Prisms! For my first interview on Prizmatik., I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of Noirbnb's co-founders Jide Ehimika. If you haven't heard about Noirbnb already, it is a company that was founded by a group of individuals who experienced unprecedented racism and prejudice while renting an Airbnb for a trip they were on. They decided to turn the experience into an opportunity to create safe spaces for Black travelers to stay in during trips. You can watch the interview clips below:
When asked about the story of Noirbnb, Jide said,
"...Two of our co-founders, Stefan Grant and Ronnia Cherry, had an incident of discrimination with their Airbnb...Stef told them (Airbnb) at the time that this can happen again and probably will happen again...then the hashtag came out #AirbnbWhileBlack...and kind of went viral and all these people came out with experiences...the young lady in North Carolina where the host called her all sorts of racial names...you have people who are renting their homes to strangers so you have strangers interacting in our society and our society, you know, unfortunately, has discrimination..."
I asked about what struggles they had to face as a company run by young Black entrepreneurs:
"...Another challenge of being a young, Black, entrepreneur is, again, your market, so now you're talking about investors, so when we go in front of investors and talk, there are certain biases that the majority of society come in with, certain questions like "Do Black people even travel?..."
Does Noirbnb have any future plans to enhance the Black travelers' experience in areas other than lodging?
Does Noirbnb have any community engagement plans for the future?
"...We're really trying to fight gentrification in cities like DC, like Chicago, like New York...Airbnb tries to offer a way for people to earn extra income and we're saying why can't we bring this to our community?...So we're offering education for people to rent your place...We're all about Black wealth, we're all about Black improvement...We have community seminars, open houses, classes we have planned down the road, also helping people maximize their lodging space...And we have in our entire ecosystem, setting you up, you know, cleaning services, telling you how to set up your house, the type of products you have...partnerships with other Black-owned businesses to make sure you have things like amenities and toiletries..."
Who are some of the most influential people you have met on this journey and what have you learned from them?
"...The biggest thing is talking to people who are in the venture capital field, who are in the tech field, who are in Silicon Valley, and who are Black, and who have kind of looked at us like 'This is a great idea...'...This has really been the year of Black excellence, really a year that, you know, I think it's okay to wake up, it's okay to get information...Our community is waking up in a wider sense, like, why can't we have a Noirbnb?..."
You can find more information about Noirbnb and how to support them on www.noirbnb.com. They are looking for willing homeowners or renters who are willing to list their spaces on their website and, of course, are inclusive of Black travelers. Please also follow them on Twitter at @Noirbnb, @STEFisDOPE, @wakeupstar, and @JideThinks.