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Airbnb Campaigns to Increase Diversity on Its Platform

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By Freddie Allen (Editor-In-Chief, NNPA Newswire)

Airbnb, the housing marketplace that connects travelers with hosts in 65,000 cities and 191 countries worldwide, is now on a mission to increase awareness about the company’s economic benefits in communities of color.

It’s part of an ongoing effort to increase diversity and eliminate discrimination on the platform that launched during the Great Recession.

In 2015, the company came under fire when Harvard researchers reported widespread discrimination by Airbnb hosts.

“Real Airbnb users of color said they weren’t surprised,” SmarterTravel.com reported. “Black users shared stories of repeated cancellations and failed booking attempts, using #AirbnbWhileBlack on social media.”

Janaye Ingram, the director of national partnerships for Airbnb, said that since those revelations were made public, the company recruited former Attorney General Eric Holder and Laura Murphy, the director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, as consultants to examine the claims of discrimination.

The home-share rental platform implemented a “Community Commitment” pledge and an “Open Doors” policy, which allows anyone who feels like they’ve been discriminated against to issue a claim to the company.

“We will rebook guests immediately to another listing, begin investigating the claim of discrimination and remove the host from the community,” if the claim is proven to be true, said Ingram.

Ingram continued: “Racism exists in this world, but the company is striving to do everything that it can to prevent anyone from being discriminated against for their disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We’re continuing that work and it’s a lot of work, but we have a commitment to do it.”

Actor and humanitarian Danny Glover, who joined the campaign to highlight Airbnb’s success stories in communities of color, said that, “If we have an ally, if we have a company that is willing to be a part of the world that we all want to see, it’s important that we engage ourselves with that process.”

Glover continued: “[Airbnb] understands the position that they are in as a responsible company and as responsible citizens, as well. If [Airbnb] is willing to stand up and face those challenges in a way in which I think they’re capable of, then something special will happen here.”

Glover said that he’s met African American and Latinx Airbnb hosts that were able to make ends meet, help pay for college tuition and save for retirement; the hosts are also forming new bonds and communities for support.

Ingram said that the platform allows hosts to set their own rates and keep 97 percent of what they earn from their listings.

“Our typical hosts earns about $6,100 a year,” said Ingram. “Imagine having $6,100 extra dollars in your bank account; imagine what that means for your life, what that means for your family, what that means for your community.”

Airbnb hosts are starting to pop-up in communities, where there are no hotels, she added.

“Now, you’re bringing in tourists, who are frequenting these businesses and restaurants and becoming patrons of these businesses, so it’s an overall benefit for the community,” said Ingram.

This is a new brand of entrepreneurship, Ingram said.

“It’s important for people to understand that some Airbnb hosts are becoming participants in their own rescue,” said Glover, adding that their using social media and marketing tools to promote and build their businesses.

Ingram said that there are a lot of things that are happening that are positive, because of Airbnb, and the company wants to educate and engage people around those things.

Although much of the company’s growth has been organic, Ingram said that, now, Airbnb has to be more strategic and intentional about the alliances they form.

That’s why their reaching out to organizations like the NAACP and partnering with activists, like Glover, to really connect with communities of color.

“Danny is beloved in our community not just for his acting, but also for his activism and all of the great things that he has done to promote equity for the Black community,” said Ingram.

Ingram said that’s also why Airbnb connected with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies, to announce its partnership with Glover; The “Lethal Weapon” actor penned an op-ed for the Black Press.

“We just want to create the opportunity to educate people and to allow them decide for themselves,” said Ingram. “Yes, we have had instances of people dealing with racism on the platform, but we’ve also done a lot to prevent it and we want people to know that.”

Ingram said that the Black Press will be invaluable in educating the Black community about the economic opportunities available with Airbnb.

“[African Americans] rely on the Black Press, we trust our press, because it’s part of our community,” said Ingram. “So, having a relationship with the Black Press is going to be important for Airbnb in conveying this message.”

Ingram continued: “As we continue to do this work, it will be increasingly important that we work in partnership and in tandem with the Black Press.”

#NNPA BlackPress

Historians Celebrate the Black Press ahead of NNPA Annual Convention

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The Black Press has been able to survive – and thrive – at least since 1827 because of its remarkable ability to speak to the immediate needs and interests of the constituency that it represents: African Americans,” stated Gerald Horne, an American historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, and who authored the book, “The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett’s Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox.”

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Registration for the 2021 convention is free, and those interested can sign up at www.virtualnnpa2021.com.
Registration for the 2021 convention is free, and those interested can sign up at www.virtualnnpa2021.com.

This is the first in a series about the Black Press of America.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Dr. D’Weston Haywood did not hesitate when asked about the value of today’s Black Press of America.

The historian of 20th century American history with research and teaching interests in Black protest and protest thought, Black masculinity, Black power, and intersections of Black culture, Black politics, and Black public spheres, Dr. Haywood is himself a trusted voice.

He said the 194th anniversary of the Black Press of America and this year’s National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) summer convention theme – Black Press Matters: Trusted Voice, Resilient Vitality, and Transformative Vision – is fitting.

“The Black Press has remained a resilient, trusted voice, heralding a transformative vision for nearly two centuries precisely because, since its inception, it has remained invested in truth-telling, expanding democracy, and exposing and critiquing the limits of both unapologetically,” remarked Dr. Haywood, who authored the 2018 book, “Let Us Make Men: The Twentieth-Century Black Press and a Manly Vision for Racial Advancement.”

The NNPA, the 81-year-old trade association representing the 230 African American-owned newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America, will host its annual convention from June 23 to June 26.

While the conventions regularly occur in cities throughout the country, the pandemic has forced the NNPA to hold the event virtually for the second consecutive year.

This year’s theme highlights how significant the Black Press remains, its vitality in the many communities it serves, and the transformative vision that has helped keep the millions of subscribers informed.

“The Black Press has been able to survive – and thrive – at least since 1827 because of its remarkable ability to speak to the immediate needs and interests of the constituency that it represents: African Americans,” stated Gerald Horne, an American historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, and who authored the book, “The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett’s Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox.”

From Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm’s Freedom’s Journal to Frederick Douglass’ North Star to John Abbott’s Chicago Defender, African American-owned newspapers have sparked fires for truth and equality that have burned with the passion of fighting for freedom throughout history.

March 16, 2021, marked the 194th anniversary of the Black Press of America, whose global impact remains undeniable.

It all began with Freedom’s Journal, the first African American newspaper which in 1827, announced its presence with a front page that contained these words:

“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”

The 4-page edition included stories about the struggle to end the horrors of slavery, lynching, and social injustice.

It also informed the African American community of international news of particular interest like Haiti and Sierra Leone events.

The newspaper featured biographies of African American men and women, schools, jobs, and housing opportunities.

Those who have made contributions to the Black Press include Douglass, WEB DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, and former NNPA Chairman Dr. Carlton Goodlett.

“Over the course of its storied history, The Black Press of America has stared down government suppression, defied mob violence, and resisted many a Post-Truth era before it ever had a name, all to report, cover, and construct stories that might move the public, institutions, and historical zeitgeist to forge America into what it should be,” Dr. Haywood concluded.

Registration for the 2021 convention is free, and those interested can sign up at www.virtualnnpa2021.com.

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#NNPA BlackPress

Wells Fargo Expands Commitment to Black-Owned Banks

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Wells Fargo is really committed to helping foster a more inclusive world, quite frankly, and we want to make sure that we are reaching into the economically disadvantaged communities as well as serving all of our customers and constituents across the footprint of the enterprise,” Georgette “Gigi” Dixon, head of External Relations for Wells Fargo, told NNPA Newswire.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Wells Fargo & Company announced equity investments in five African American Minority Depository Institutions, or MDIs, as part of a 2020 pledge to invest up to $50 million in Black-owned banks.

The banking giant said it is also offering access to a dedicated relationship team that can work with each MDI on financial, technological, and product development strategies to help each institution strengthen and grow.

“Wells Fargo is really committed to helping foster a more inclusive world, quite frankly, and we want to make sure that we are reaching into the economically disadvantaged communities as well as serving all of our customers and constituents across the footprint of the enterprise,” Georgette “Gigi” Dixon, head of External Relations for Wells Fargo, told NNPA Newswire.

“This past year has been a terrible year for all of us, and it makes it extra-special that we can provide this investment at this time,” Dixon, the 27-year banking veteran, stated.

“I’ve never seen this type of approach to ensuring the legacy like MDIs and, more specifically, Black-owned banks to be preserved and promoted nationally the way Wells Fargo is taking with this position,” she continued.

Dixon added that Wells Fargo began working on the initiative one year before the pandemic and before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We started meeting with each one of the MDIs, and we partnered with the National Banking Association,” Dixon revealed.

“We had these meetings with the banks and said, ‘let’s walk through your strategic plan and the things you need to stabilize and or grow the institution so that you are better able to serve your constituents.’ When all these banks are thriving and, in a position, to grow, that helps everybody.”

With that, Wells Fargo decided to provide what Dixon called an injection of equity that gave the MDIs opportunities to maintain their positions as majority owners.

Wells Fargo then created a relationship management team that focused on understanding what the MDIs needed.

Throughout the process, Wells Fargo remained engaged by providing resources from various factions of the banking organization.

“We reached across all our lines of business and said, ‘we have these great MDIs who are sustaining, stabilizing, growing, and expanding, and we want to make ourselves available through subject matter expertise,’” Dixon recalled. “I’m so excited about this.”

Wells Fargo’s latest announcement includes investments in Carver State Bank in Savannah, Georgia; Citizens Trust Bank in Atlanta; First Independence Bank in Detroit; Liberty Bank in New Orleans; and Unity National Bank in Houston.

The investments follow Wells Fargo’s Feb. 8 announcement regarding its investments in six African American MDIs and take its total investment to 11 MDIs overall.

Additionally, Wells Fargo plans to make its nationwide ATM network available for customers of the 11 MDIs to use without incurring fees.

The company announced that its financial commitments are in the form of critical equity capital, which is foundational to the MDIs’ ability to expand lending and deposit-taking capacity in their communities.

“The thing that impressed us the most is that these are solid institutions,” Dixon voiced.

“They all unequivocally, across-the-board, have a huge mission to provide financial help to their community and customers. These communities are disproportionately not in the banking system and are not necessarily taking full advantage of the wide range of financial products and services available.

“These MDIs are trusted, and that’s important for all to realize that, when you have trust and credibility, you are going to be able to reach communities that others cannot. Their mission is focused, and it’s all about the financial health in the community and about expanding access to financial products and services.”

Click here for the full announcement from Wells Fargo.

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U.S. Supreme Court Sounds Ready to Pay Student Athletes

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The business of college sports, which includes millions in television contracts and sponsorships, resulting in a world of lucrative payouts for everyone other than the players, may have met its match at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The argument over whether “student athletes” should be paid has gone on for decades with the NCAA arguing that pay would mean the end of the “student” athlete. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
The argument over whether “student athletes” should be paid has gone on for decades with the NCAA arguing that pay would mean the end of the “student” athlete. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor
@LVBurke

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh called the NCAA’s practices “disturbing.”

“The antitrust laws should not be a cover for exploitation of the student-athletes. To pay no salaries to the workers who are making the schools billions of dollars on the theory that consumers want the schools to pay their workers nothing,” he said, seems “entirely circular and even somewhat disturbing,” Kavanaugh said.

On March 30 the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of NCAA v. Alston, which is a class action case, first filed in 2014. The NCAA is an organization with over 1,000 member colleges and universities. As millions are made from the talent ion college athletes and colleges pay millions in salaries to coaches, college athletes remain unpaid. Under the NCAA’s rules, paid athletes become ineligible to play sports.

The main plaintiff in the case is Shawne Alston, a former West Virginia University running back, who says he and other athletes were exploited.

The business of college sports, which includes millions in television contracts and sponsorships, resulting in a world of lucrative payouts for everyone other than the players, may have met its match at the U.S. Supreme Court. Several court members sounded skeptical of the NCAA’s arguments that the current set up is fair. A federal district court in California gave athletes a victory. It ruled that the NCAA could not limit income to athletes.

“It just strikes me as odd that the coaches’ salaries have ballooned,” said Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. “They’re in the amateur ranks, as are the players,” Thomas added.

“Why does the NCAA get to define what ‘pay’ is?” asked Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

“Antitrust laws should not be a cover for exploitation of the student-athletes, so that is a concern, an overarching concern here,” added Associated Justice Kavanaugh.

Judge Sam Alito went even further. Alito said athletes, “face training requirements that leave little time or energy for study, constant pressure to put sports above study, pressure to drop out of hard majors and hard classes, really shockingly low graduation rates. Only a tiny percentage ever go on to make any money in professional sports.”

“So, the argument is they are recruited, they’re used up, and then they’re cast aside without even a college degree. How can this be defended in the name of amateurism?” Alito added.

If the questions and comments from members of the Court were a guide change could be coming soon. The argument over whether “student athletes” should be paid has gone on for decades with the NCAA arguing that pay would mean the end of the “student” athlete.

But with the level of revenue that colleges and universities make from athlete performance it is becoming increasingly difficult to argue that arrangement is nothing more than big business that benefits from revenue from a never-ending unpaid workforce.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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OP-ED: Communities of Color and Other Buyers, Beware of Bold Promises from Health Insurers

A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “older Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native adults were nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as older White adults,” and “cases among Black and Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries were 1.6 times higher than the rate observed among White beneficiaries.”

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African Americans clearly need better health insurance. But we can’t get lured in by companies that are more interested in taking money than providing real healthcare benefits.

By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., President and CEO, National Newspaper Publishers Association

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought issues of healthcare equity to the forefront of discussions of racial justice. Even when controlling for factors like age and income, communities of color have been much more severely impacted that white Americans.

A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “older Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native adults were nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as older White adults,” and “cases among Black and Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries were 1.6 times higher than the rate observed among White beneficiaries.”

Access to healthcare and health insurance is a vital issue for African Americans. And it’s important to be on the lookout for healthcare companies that make big promises but fail to deliver.

In this context, let’s take a look at Oscar Health, an insurance company that tries to appeal to consumers by positioning itself as a tech company. But its track record is questionable at best.

The company has been investigated and fined by the NY State Department of Financial Services. During its expansion in New York, Oscar cut the number of doctors in its network by more than half.

The company also has connections to former Trump Administration officials. It was founded by Jared Kushner’s brother Josh, and its parent company, Thrive Capital, was partly owned by Kushner until he took a job at the White House. And the company is run by serial Wall Street investors who seem primarily interested in flipping companies for a profit.

Even more concerning, Oscar has been expanding into the Medicare Advantage program, where they can leverage taxpayer money to provide health coverage to our seniors. That means one of our most vulnerable communities could be opting into a company that has questions hanging over it.

African Americans clearly need better health insurance. But we can’t get lured in by companies that are more interested in taking money than providing real healthcare benefits.

So, before you make a decision about health insurance, please get more than one opinion or option.  There are healthcare insurance companies that are considerably more equitable and beneficial. Healthcare for all is both a fundamental civil and human right.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and Executive Producer and Host of The Chavis Chronicles (TCC) broadcast weekly on PBS TV stations throughout the United States. 

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Florida GOP Lawmakers Vote to Strip Newspapers of Legal Advertising Revenue

NNPA NEWSWIRE — House Bill 35 repeals part of the law that requires placement in newspapers announcements about tax increases, special elections, and other public notices. Estimates suggest that such notices provide the state’s 100-plus newspapers with millions of dollars in annual revenue. The Republican-sponsored measure passed this week by an 85-34 vote.

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The Republican-sponsored measure passed this week by an 85-34 vote. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
The Republican-sponsored measure passed this week by an 85-34 vote. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Florida lawmakers are acting like alligators who smell blood – they are out for the kill.

Their sights set on the struggling newsprint industry, the Florida House passed a bill that would strip the state’s newspapers of desperately needed legal advertising revenue.

House Bill 35 repeals part of the law that requires placement in newspapers, announcements about tax increases, special elections, and other public notices.

Estimates suggest that such notices provide the state’s 100-plus newspapers with millions of dollars in annual revenue.

The Republican-sponsored measure passed this week by an 85-34 vote.

“When the telegram industry died because communication methodologies changed, government didn’t step in and require people to continue to send telegrams,” a cynical GOP Rep. Randy Fine, the bill’s primary sponsor, argued.

Fine called payments to newspapers an unnecessary subsidy and said the government should not save the “dying industry.”

The 60-page bill notes, in part, that if a governmental agency publishes a legal notice in a newspaper, each legal notice must be posted on the newspaper’s website on the same day that the printed notice appears in the newspaper, at no additional charge, also in a separate web page titled “Legal Notices,” “Legal Advertising,” or comparable identifying language.

The measure continues:

“A link to the legal notices web page shall be provided on the front page of the newspaper’s website that provides access to the legal notices. If there is a specified size and placement required for a printed legal notice, the size and placement of the notice on the newspaper’s website must optimize its online visibility in keeping with the print requirements.

“The newspaper’s web pages that contain legal notices must present the legal notices as the dominant and leading subject matter of those pages. The newspaper’s website must contain a search function to facilitate searching the legal notices. A fee may not be charged, and registration may not be required for viewing or searching legal notices on a newspaper’s website if the legal notice is published in a newspaper.”

The Senate version of the legislation, SB 402, is scheduled to be heard in its first Senate committee next week.

“There may be an asteroid out there somewhere, and it may be hurtling towards us right now. But until it hits, there’s still some dinosaurs like me left walking around,” Democratic Rep. Joe Geller countered during a Floor argument. “We’re not as comfortable with what you’re proposing as you are.”

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Ex-Loves, Lies and Video Game Addictions: Pandemic Secrets

NNPA NEWSWIRE — There are thousands – perhaps millions – of Americans who have not only found the pandemic as tough a challenge to navigate as any, but whose need for socialization rationale is among the litany of “secrets” they’ve kept to themselves during the first year of COVID-19.

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Reunions indeed count among the biggest pandemic secrets. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Reunions indeed count among the biggest pandemic secrets. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Steve Marrow, who founded the kayak website called Paddle About, knew that during the COVID-19 pandemic, going to a party was out of the question – or at least it should have been.

Marrow and his wife went anyway.

“I was leery of going, but we were in serious need of socialization,” Marrow explained. “Until that point, we hadn’t really done anything with friends. So, we went to the party, had a great time, and came home,” he remarked.

Afterward, Marrow offered some regret.

“If one of us had been sick, yes, for sure, I would have had regrets, but fortunately, we didn’t hear of anyone who got sick or had symptoms,” he said.

Marrow is one of the thousands – perhaps millions – who have not only found the pandemic as tough a challenge to navigate as any, but his story — and need for socialization rationale — is among the litany of “secrets” Americans have kept to themselves during the first year of COVID-19.

Yurii Brown said he was forced to swallow some pride when he accepted a private loan from his father-in-law as a last resort to keep his business afloat.

Brown, the founder of Coffee Geek Lab, noted that he is on good terms with his in-laws, but he kept a promise he made at the altar.

“I said I would do my best, use all of my resources, and do all the things that I can do on my own to give my wife a steady life,” Brown uttered.

He revealed that his wife had no idea.

“Fortunately, the loan and my business strategy led to success, and my business has now found the momentum it needs during the crisis,” Brown divulged.

With stay-at-home orders, mask requirements, and social distancing, many others said they had to find a release, but they had to do it quietly.

For Maria Snider, that meant being dishonest with her family and friends about her video game and Instagram addiction.

“It was hampering my work life,” Snider admitted. “I would ignore events with family and friends. The isolation and the lack of communication started [bothering] me.”

Later, Snider revealed, she did take steps to reconnect with her loved ones, which required uninstalling certain social media and gaming apps.

For Sandra Henderson, revealing her pandemic secret isn’t as simple as uninstalling an app.

“My best friend got into a terrible fight with her girlfriend and she decided to kick her latter out of the house,” said Henderson. “I couldn’t bear seeing her out in the streets in the middle of the pandemic, so I offered my house to her without my best friend’s knowledge since I didn’t want to get involved in their fight.”

Months later and Henderson acknowledges that her best friend remains unaware of her gesture even though the feuding pair have reconciled.

“I really care for the two of them, and I already treat them as my own siblings,” she said. “So, I tried multiple times to stand as their mediator, and thankfully, just last month, they reconciled. However, I still haven’t told my best friend how I helped her girlfriend seek shelter for five months.”

Reunions indeed count among the biggest pandemic secrets.

Stephan Jacob began dating his ex after months of quarantine and no action.

He noted that his one-time ex had caused him the biggest heartbreak, which triggered depression five years ago.

“My parents and friends would certainly disapprove of my decision to take her back, but I really love her. I am sure that they would discover it sooner or later, but there is only one reason that will justify my action: my love,” Jacob crooned.

Like Spring, Jacob’s hope is eternal.

“I believe that people change, and she has changed a lot,” he submitted. “When we started dating again, she has become more understanding and caring about me, and I know that I wouldn’t regret this decision.”

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