Adam Taylor said the 2016 election cycle forever changed the way he looked at life because of the divisive perspectives perpetuated in the news every day.
He’d just started working at MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston as an IT engineer and often found himself feeling like an outsider while navigating a tense political landscape as a young Black man.
“It was really hard from a mental health perspective and also from just, I guess, a basic human rights perspective,” Taylor said. “Everything was so polarizing. And then working in Boston with the culture being predominantly white there, once Donald Trump was elected, I didn’t want to go to work because that meant I had to ride the train into town. It’s all white in there. I’m the last person to get sat next to, like, literally, people will stand instead of sitting next to me despite the fact that I’m clearly headed somewhere professional and always dressed nicely.”
Over time, Taylor said he grew weary of the microaggressions, and realized he needed an outlet.
“I needed somewhere to put my feelings” he said. “I don’t want to say it was frustration—it was more of a disappointment because, I’m American. This is our country. I live here. Black people pay taxes. We deserve all the benefits of that. And at the end of the day, I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you or anyone else.”
Soon after this revelation, Taylor said he decided to build his own platform that told the kind of stories about Black people he knew existed, but weren’t being shown. It wasn’t an easy feat. Although he worked in IT, he wasn’t an app developer. However, this didn’t deter him.
“I watched tons of YouTube videos on coding and app development, and just locked in because it was something I really wanted to do,” he said.
After several months, he taught himself how to code, and came up with the idea for Black: News + Culture, his news app that centered African-American coverage. He officially describes it as a news aggregation service that provides users with relevant news based on their interests and past searches. Powered by AI, Black is the only app that finds and collects stories from Black news outlets at the touch of a button.
Released in September 2017, he said it has since evolved into more than just a news app, but a mental health advocacy platform as well.
“I started out developing it in response to the terrible opinions I kept hearing about Black people in the news,” he said. “Now, fast forward to the pandemic and Black people are being filmed getting killed and it’s getting replayed all day on TV. It’s incredibly traumatic.”
Taylor said he’s spent time further developing the app to keep users informed of current events while prioritizing wellness also.
“My company Langston LLC uses machine learning and language processing technologies to track the emotional tone of articles and aggregate content that pertains to people who identify as Black,” Taylor explained.
The app has been supported by his community at MIT as well as Apple.
In 2019, his startup was selected to participate in Apple’s inaugural cohort of the Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Developers, an immersive tech lab for app-driven companies run by developers from underrepresented communities.
“Apple has been incredibly supportive through this entire journey from end-to-end,” Taylor said, even sharing that the tech giant has helped him navigate hateful comments he’s received in the review section of the app store from opposers of the application.
“People are angry because the app focuses on Black people only and say that’s racist,” Taylor said. It’s not, he explained. “It’s a form of healing…it’s a love letter to my community.”