We are a Black nonprofit community media platform employing innovative digital and community-building strategies to engage Gen Z and Millennials across the midwest. In just our first year, we have reached over 10 million people and grown our social media audience to over 25,000 followers across platforms (over 65% between the ages of 13-30), creating a new and innovative model for reaching some of the most difficult to reach and often neglected demographics for news (Gen Z and Black folks).
We have built an unprecedented trust amongst Black folks and Gen Z by returning to the largely forgotten roots of the Black Press, a legacy in which the Press was the second most influential institution in our communities behind the Black church. To build trust we know that we must not only report on and provide information to folks in our communities, but that we must also be actively engaged in supporting and organizing events alongside our community members (especially cultural events).
For this reason, we hosted a historic Basketball Park Takeover at the Ryan Stokes Memorial Park, a park recently named after an unarmed Black man who was killed by Kansas City Police Department in 2013. The event attracted well over 200 Black youth between the ages of 15-24 and took place on a Friday and Saturday evening. This was particularly important given these days are often when the most gun-violence occurs in our city (which is ranked as a city most deeply plagued by gun-violence in the country).
The event not only curbed any potential violence that could have occurred that weekend, but it also provided a space for “Black Boy Joy,” a phrase used to describe the radical, and unfortunately rare phenomenon where Black boys and men can simply be happy, laugh, joke, play and be in community together without having to have our guard up or feel endangered. There are truly few places in an anti-Black society for such beautiful moments to take place.
The event also served as an opportunity for The Defender to build trust and awareness with this often-neglected demographic. Young Black folks are among perhaps the least reached as it relates to news and journalism. Following our event, numerous of the attendees told us how much they appreciated our organization and they have since been highly engaged with our news content on our social media platforms.