Virtual Communities

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

don’t want to push information on to our members. Instead, we want to focus on audience participation,” stresses Omar Wasow, BlackPlanet’s executive director.

BlackPlanet features online channels covering a wide range of topics, including health/spirituality, money, careers, news, politics, music, technology, beauty, sex, and love. Along with tantalizing forums, members can also read book reviews and share opinions through the “Black Expressions” book club. In the works are professional development tools, and seminars.

Entertainment/News
Bet.com has become one of the stickiest black Websites since its February debut. It wouldn’t be BET without its mind numbingly complete music section, which allows visitors to listen to hip-hop, R&B and jazz selections from African America’s favorite artists on BET radio. But the site offers more than entertainment, news, and sports. It has thousands of job postings at its career center in conjunction with Monster.com. If food is your flavor, the site also posts mouth-watering recipes with step-by-step preparation tips. Its “Money” section is full of helpful and anecdotal tips on most matters from investing to managing credit and debt. It also provides sensible advice on making large-item purchases. “The Home Center” includes a calcu
lator to help first-time buyers determine if they qualify for a mortgage. For those with a love jones, the “Loveline” section can quell some fires with everything from relationship advice to a personals section. Add all this to sections on professionals, urban life, women, and family, you have a site with a lot to offer.

UBO.com (Urban Box Office) was created over a year ago to target the urban mind-set, which is a multicultural global group (ages13 to 34) that shares common interests, music, lifestyle, and culture, according to Adam Kidron, who co-founded the site along with Fran Cooper and the late George Jackson, former Motown CEO and movie producer. UBO has a network of sites covering music, news, fashion, animation, and entertainment. Its flagship site is Indieplanet.com, which empowers cultural innovators by showcasing independent musicians, artists, and writers, as well as featuring community, commerce, and member-created content. Soulpurpose.com is a weekly e-zine dedicated to entertainment insiders. Sohh.com (Support Online Hip-Hop) is a virtual clearinghouse and community where hip-hop enthusiasts gather (see “Internetworking,” Techwatch, September 2000). HairWeb offers styling tips and other haircare advice. Adding celebrities to the mix, UBO has sites in the works ranging from one dedicated to rapper Snoop Doggy Dog to another for tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams.

Hookt.com is among a growing number of sites that recognize that the hip-hop community is large and in charge. Launched this past December, Hookt.com is one of the premier online destinations for worldwide consumers of hip-hop music, news, reviews, personalized e-mail, fashion, and culture. Hookt uses the latest technologies for Webcasting concerts, downloading music, creating video programming, and hosting chats. Interactive tools include graffiti games and the “Beat Bomb”-which lets users create their own music beats. Hookt’s up-to-the-minute news service is also syndicated on other sites, including Yahoo! As of press time, only 25% of the site was officially up and

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