Daring Origins: Morgan DeBaun, Digital Activist
As America’s affinity for online communities grows, one young woman has identified the need for a gathering place of African American millennials. 26-year-old Morgan DeBaun dares to fill this gap with a platform that empowers young African Americans and uplifts the collective voices of color.
Morgan discovered her entrepreneurial tendencies at a very young age after her brother asked her for a small loan. Empathetic yet calculated, she complied, but not without asking for interest. At 13 years old, Morgan began investing with the help of her father and was drawn to the idea of turning insight into growth. Morgan also had dreams of opening an art gallery. Her passion for curating the art of others and showcasing it to the world would later manifest in her founding of Blavity—a digital community for young multicultural creators and influencers.
In 2008, Morgan entered college and quickly became the youngest student body president in the school’s history. There, she identified an unequal representation of the school’s varying student groups and dared to do something about it. Tasked with the responsibility of managing a $2.5 million budget, Morgan increased the funding and exposure of multicultural groups that were seemingly ignored by the school’s administration.
The idea that would inspire Morgan’s ambitious career surfaced at her school’s lunchroom. “There’s this one moment when you’re going to the cafeteria. We have rectangular tables throughout the space but only one big round table,” she recalls. “That’s where the black people sit and it’s awesome. One person would sit, […] then seven people, and suddenly you have fifteen people talking about their ideas and opinions.”
The lunch table served as a gathering place where students of different classes and ethnicities could discuss critical race theories. Morgan could only describe the phenomenon in one way—“black gravity,” or Blavity.
After graduating college, Morgan left her hometown of St. Louis for Silicon Valley. She kept in contact with her friends but missed the sense of community she experienced at the round table. That’s when she decided to turn the concept of Blavity into a platform that would connect and amplify the voices of African American millennials.
Morgan and her team decided to launch Blavity without any venture funding, relying on their own resources to give it the foundation it would need to succeed. Blavity began as a series of carefully curated newsletters, followed by a website that would serve as its hub, and evolved into a popular source of news and information for notable influencers in the black community. The turning point for Blavity occurred when readers began tagging and mentioning the platform alongside some of the Internet’s most notable pop culture-content sites. Now 2 years old, Blavity exists as a new media company for black millennials. It establishes a community and draws attention to the stories that may otherwise go untold.
While a lot of its editorial content is created in-house, Blavity sources user-submitted content as well. Morgan explains that her biggest challenge is keeping up with Blavity’s rapidly increasing following. “There are so many ideas in the world, and it’s hard to find time to uplift each one.” Morgan believes that people around the world have stories to tell as well. She plans to make Blavity a global presence in the near future. “The future of Blavity is an integrated network of multicultural creators across the world that support each other financially, emotionally, and physically.” Morgan hopes her success can inspire others to speak up. “The best thing someone can do is just start.”