Brittany Gilzene wants to connect Black people with Black experiences.
In August of 2022, Gilzene found herself frustrated while looking for nightlife options in New York City. “Every weekend my friends and I would be like, ‘What are we going to do this weekend?’ And it became this research project,” the 29-year-old told ESSENCE. “Black events are never pushed to the forefront and it’s very difficult to find them.” Aside from not being able to find the parties, the founder was discerning in regards to who she partied with. Gilzene wanted to be in the company of people who look like her, and have an affinity for Black culture, like her. People who also shared similar interests and tastes in music.
“The best way to build a brand is to solve a problem that you have in your personal life,” proclaims Gilzene.
With that, Brittany Gilzene created a digital platform that seeks to solve this problem—a problem which isn’t unique to her. It’s called The Black Link Up—a company that launched with the intention of providing curated lists of Black experiences for Black people, and more broadly for people who are appreciative of Black culture. Its lists vary: One specifically focusing on events during the weekend (“Weekend Links”); one list detailing events throughout the week (“Weekly Links”); and another focusing on forthcoming events for the entire month (“Upcoming Links”). All “links” are posted to the platform’s Instagram page, which is updated regularly. The founder says that Instagram is key to the burgeoning platform’s success.
“I use Instagram every single day of my life.” And Glizene understands that there is a huge cadre of people who do the same. “I’m meeting people where they are with the content that I create,” she says. Social media moves super quickly and the brand’s agility and ability to keep pace is one of its strong suits.
Though Gilzene is technically a “late millennial,” she is able to tap into the Get Z audience—a highly sought after market. The eldest Gen Zers are in their mid twenties. Others of the same generation are recent college graduates who are looking to be “outside” (read: sociable and in these streets), but are fairly new to the nightlife scene. Afterall, they previously weren’t old enough to get into clubs. “At least for Gen Zs, they’re like ‘We’ve never done this before. It’s a whole new world and we need to know a place to start.’ And I think the page acts as a place to start for people who are just graduating.” Gilzene says of Gen Zers.
While the Black Link Up started by providing a weekly list of vetted events in and around New York City, its scope has since grown. Now, in addition to its “links,” the digital platform also offers ticket giveaways and it hosts a monthly in-person event series called Mixology—an after work mixer held every third Friday of the month. It’s basically, the turn-up before the turn-up. Mixology is hosted at the legendary 40/40 Club in New York City. Gilzene has been able to make partnerships (which have helped to make the ticket giveaways and the in-person events possible), by aligning herself with people who are “Creating experiences that I think are dope,” she said.
In nearly a year since The Black Link Up launched, the platform’s team has grown, too. “Very early on, people were able to see my vision, she says.” Now, Gilzene leads a small but mighty team of six (including herself). When she’s not heading The Black Link Up, Gilzene has a fulltime job working in audience strategy. Somehow, she’s found a way to balance her many responsibilities. “It’s difficult for sure to manage time, but I love what I do for my day job and I love that I can apply the parts of what I love in my day job into the business that I’m growing,” the founder tells ESSENCE. Gilzene also freelances doing graphic design work—a skill that has, no doubt, prepared her to pursue the budding media platform. For example, due to Gilzene’s background in graphic design, she was able to create The Black Link Up’s logo and brand assets, as well.
While the Black Link Up is currently NY-specific, Gilzene has found that there’s a demand for her brand to expand into other markets. This form of growth is one of her aims. “Before I was just like, ‘Hey, we should make this list and maybe we can throw a few of our own events.’ And now there’s been some demand for us to take it elsewhere. And I think that’s become a goal of mine as well, to expand and to bring what we’re doing to other cities. And to bring people together wherever we can.”
Of the brand’s goals, perhaps most important is its intention to create a safe space for Black people to experience joy. No negativity. No baggage. Just vibes. Gilzene reflects, finally, “I want to give Black people the opportunity to meet up with other Black people and experience real happiness together.”