By Parker Diakite – (Source: www.travelnoire.com) – Black travelers could probably tell you about that time when.
That time when you were mistaken as a celebrity. Or that time when people rushed to take a picture like you’re a prop, touch your skin and hair without your permission because they’ve never seen a person of color.
There are times when people nearly fall over with their blatant stares. Or that time when you were delayed or even refused service in a country because of the color of your skin.
For Stefan Grant, he would tell you about the time when neighbors from an Airbnb he was renting in Atlanta called the police on him and his housemates.
“One of the homies came and woke me up, and I’m thinking he wants to ask me about breakfast or something, but he tells me, ‘the cops are here,’” said Grant to Travel Noire. “I go outside and see these two police officers with their guns drawn, and they’re aiming them at us. They were trying to figure out what we’re doing there.”
This happened in 2015 – one year after police officers killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Grant says he was struggling with that, but his whole mindset was deescalating the situation. He and his housemates had to prove to the cops they were occupying the house legally.
Grant posted the situation on his social media with the caption: “Yo! The Airbnb we’re staying at is so nice, the neighbors thought we were robbing the place & called the cops!”
His next post on Twitter was from an audacious neighbor.
“After that happened, one of the neighbors knocked on the door asking what we were doing there, and he tries to walk in the house,” Grant added.
The posts went viral, and soon after, Grant started getting messages from people around the world sharing their similar experiences of discrimination while using Airbnb or other platforms.
“People were saying how they would try to rent a spot but get denied so, would have to change their profile photo to a white person to get approved. I heard stories about how people would book a place, show up, and when the host saw they were Black, would close the door on guests,” he stated.
These stories made him realize there was a problem needing solving.
Following the incident in Atlanta, Grant said he first pitched his idea of Noirbnb to Airbnb.
“I remember telling the people at Airbnb that there is clearly a racism issue and at the same time there’s a booming Black travel movement, so let’s do something about it.”
Airbnb flew him to San Francisco, where he met with the team to talk about his concept of building the Black travel community through renting and experiences.
Grant said nothing took off after the discussion with Airbnb, so he decided to do it himself after a Harvard study was released explaining how Black hosts also have challenges with using Airbnb – not just guests. The study explained that Black hosts made 12 to 15% less than White hosts.
“Noirbnb is two-faceted. The first side of it is home-sharing for someone who wants to become a host, and then there are the guests. Guests can go on the site, type how many they are staying with, and our platform will return the results from our database,” said Torrence Reed, the chief technology officer.
The platform has more than 1,000 hosts and are currently looking for more.
As for what’s next for the Noirbnb team, they are looking into venture capital opportunities to expand their services.