Virtual Communities

African American Websites are hooking people up in more ways than one

Over the past couple of years, the Web has become a powerful medium for bringing about a greater sense of community online and off. With the proliferation of such dotcoms as NetNoir, BlackVoices, and BlackPlanet, there are plenty of opportunities for African Americans to invest, shop, get jobs, network, and even find Mr. or Mrs. Right online.

While African Americans still lag in terms of computer ownership, they are going online at a rate twice that of the general population. According to Forrester Research in Framingham, Massachusetts, the number of African American households online is expected to increase to 4.9 million this year, up more than 21%.

African Americans will represent 40% of the total U.S. Internet population by the end of this year, compared with 23% in 1999. According to Target Market News, a Chicago-based research firm that monitors consumer habits, African Americans spent $181 million for Internet access in 1999, up from $89 million in 1989.

It comes as no surprise, then, that there are dozens of community portals and destination sites trying to meet this growing demand and tap into a total African American population of 35 million. Community and strong online content have become central to motivating African Americans to get wired. “The African American population online is large and loyal in terms of supporting black sites,” says Barry Cooper, CEO of Chicago-based BlackVoices.com. “We’re seeing significant traffic growth every month on our site. For now, blacks are a niche audience on the Web, but there is great potential for growing that audience.” So far, the site has drawn 500,000 registered users.

There’s no question that the Internet has democratized information in a way that’s unparalleled in human history. From investing to family planning, you have a healthier number of Websites from which to choose. It is paramount that you harness all the information the Net has to offer from every possible avenue to improve your ability to make or save money, to advance your career, or improve your business in a meaningful way.

Black Enterprise did some soul-searching to compile a list of some of the best black-oriented (not necessarily black-owned) Websites spanning several categories. Note that this list does not include general, urban-oriented sites or those most recently featured in b.e., such as Afronet.com (“Net Alliance,” Techwatch, July 2000) and Cushcity.com (“Are You Web Ready?” September 2000).

While you may already be familiar with some of these sites, it’s important that you visit them regularly. Many add new features frequently. Besides, most of them have some community elements that allow you to exchange information, provide feedback, and form relationships with others who share your interests. Whether you are Net savvy or wet behind the ears, the following sites are worth consideration as part of your African American-focused virtual destination list:

Business/News/Finance
Blackenterprise.com features six forums ranging in topic from news and views to technology and consumer affairs affecting the black community. The small business forum lets business owners share their hits and misses with other entrepreneurs. New and seasoned investors can

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