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Blavity CEO & Co-Founder Morgan DeBaun Is Making Million-Dollar Moves

BOSS UP

Blavity CEO and co-founder Morgan DeBaun is your girl boss' favorite girl boss.


And I'm not just saying that because she impressively pivoted from her corporate tech job in Silicon Valley to running a successful media company at just 28 years old. I'm also not just saying that because she was able to secure $6.5 million dollars in new funding this past summer from GV (formerly known as Google Ventures).

Morgan DeBaun is worthy of that title because she's managed to do all of that while keeping one main thing in mind: This is all bigger than her.

Morgan DeBaun/Blavity

She took the time to chat with xoNecole in the midst of a busy workday and explained that the goal from the very beginning was to create a news source for the current and future generations. More specifically, a news source that accurately shared stories and spoke to issues that those in the Black community cared about, to highlight different categories of Black life both locally and abroad. "It's about pushing politicians, policy-makers, and thought leaders to consider the real-life impact of things happening in our world and how it affects the Black young community," she says.

The St. Louis native realized in 2014, along with her co-founders, that part of the beauty of being Black in America was the diversity of experiences and cultural things that go into our identity. And in an effort to not take on a linear perspective of blackness, they all joined heads to create and host spaces where different discussions and stories could be told. As a result of that, Blavity now covers multiple subsets including travel and food via Travel Noire, television and film via Shadow and Act, beauty and wellness via 21Ninety, and technology and entrepreneurship via AfroTech.

And yet, with all that going on Morgan has managed to stay grounded and focused on the present without succumbing to the pressures of her future goals and plans. It's something she credits partially to the amazing tribe of women she surrounds herself with on a continual basis. She tells me that being around women who are in the same vein of work helps her to not get ahead of or overwhelm herself. It's the women who are pursuing a life of creativity, entrepreneurship, and hustling that help keep her going. The women who are all pressing towards the mark of attaining both personal and professional success. And perhaps it's because of that power of connection and finding her tribe that she's been able to not only level up in her professional development but in her personal development as well.

Facing times in her career where she was sometimes the only woman in the room and the only Black person in the room, Morgan quickly realized that if entrepreneurship was the path she was headed down, she had to be present, perceptive, and persistent. She had to figure out a way to ignore the statistics and figures. To focus on the things that were in her control and not be negatively impacted by the things that were outside of it. "I try to ask myself: how can I be better today? Do I know my information? Am I performing at a level that's in alignment with my peers? And if the answer is 'yes,' and all those things are true, then that's the best I can do. I focus on just being my best self and let the results be the results."

Afrotech

"I focus on just being my best self and let the results be the results."

She's learned that it's okay to ask for help and to not be scared of the things she doesn't know. And she's also learned not to internalize the rejection, which is especially true when it comes to the area of entrepreneurship. For her, the journey is about surviving through difficult losses as much as it is thriving through exciting wins. It's about re-evaluating where you possibly went wrong and picking up where you left off. She explains, "Entrepreneurship is something that looks at not how many times you fall, but how quickly you can get back up and not fall in that same way again. It's difficult for sure, but if it wasn't, everybody would be doing it, right?"

"Entrepreneurship is something that looks at not how many times you fall, but how quickly you can get back up and not fall in that same way again."

Morgan DeBaun/Blavity

As we wrap, there is still one thing left unspoken: The future and what's coming up next. For Blavity, the future looks like investing more resources into the stories that are being published on their site and building up the news part of it. And after telling me how she dedicated her entire 20s to building and creating something for others, the next major phase in life for Morgan will be focused on maintaining what she's built for others while also creating something for herself. Though it seems she's already gotten a head start of that with the creation of M. Roze Essentials, her skincare and lifestyle brand dedicated to the modern Black woman.

In two years, she'll be 30 and undoubtedly well on her way to knocking off more phenomenal things on her goal list. And while her ambitions may arguably be lofty, we're both confident that if anybody can achieve them, she can. "At the end of the day, I always know that the one person I can always count on is myself. And I will always show up for myself."

How's that for a girl boss?

To keep up with Morgan, follow her on Instagram.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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