Fall is among us and while that means the leaves changing and dropping temperatures, for those of us that are single or non-monogamous, it can also mean the beginning of another type of season: cuffing season.
Cuffing season is the act of finding a partner before it gets too frigid and we forego socializing and being outside on a regular basis. The pandemic has shifted the idea of cuffing season with many people opting to hop on dating apps during quarantine to socialize and for community.
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With the emphasis on justice for Black lives and our country dealing with the dangers that Black and Brown people face here in the United States, it’s no surprise when looking for love, Black people may want to do it in a place that is designated specifically for them.
BLK App (pronounced B-L-K App) is an app founded by Match.com, has been around for three years, and is currently led by Jonathan Kirkland, the Head of Marketing and Brand. theGrio caught up with Kirkland who shared more about the app, changes in online dating due to COVID-19, and how they brought politics to the dating landscape.
“COVID has sucked for the world but in the world of online dating, it’s been amazing,” Kirkland chuckles and adds, “Even though people are socially distanced, they don’t want to be socially isolated. It’s kind of just turning into another social platform. Yes, the hopes of finding a boo is there, but you still want to find the human connection and someone that gets you.”
In the first two weeks of COVID-19, BLK App saw an 18% increase in the daily activity. Kirkland shares, “We are 7 months into the pandemic and have seen a 38% increase in activity month over month.” In a time where one has to socially distance for the betterment of our public health, online dating gives you an opportunity to connect when social gatherings are currently at a minimum.
Since launching in 2017, BLK App has had over 4 million people download the app. The app is 55% male and 45% female; however, they market directly toward Black women. In 2014, user data from OkCupid (owned by Match.com) discovered that most men on the site rated Black women as less attractive in comparison to women of other ethnicities.
BLK App took this information and is working to create a space where Black women feel opportunities for love, respect, and safety. In September, when the verdict regarding Breonna Taylor was publicized, BLK App made a statement. Kirkland shares, “Within 24 hours, we took out full page ads in the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and in the Louisville paper and it just said, ‘Black women deserve better.’”
Kirkland revealed it was a double meaning. It obviously was related to Taylor, but “also with the information about Black women are the least desirable and neglected on the mainstream apps, it was a response to that too.” They took another step by asking one simple question: “Black women, do you feel safe in America?” It was an open-ended question and Kirkland is currently working with his team to decipher the data and take action, particularly because out of the participants, only 3.5% of Black women said they feel safe.
Kirkland, who has worked with niche audience apps for most of his career, came to BLK App and 28 days later, the murder of George Floyd occurred. He immediately sprung into action. He said, “We look at things through three lenses — community, dating/relationships, and entertainment.”
Community has been the pulse for the app’s activations. Knowing the importance of Black voters, Kirkland took it a step further and got singles who were looking for a date to take that extra time and devote it to their community during election season with Power The Polls. Kirkland excitedly shares, “It was all about getting people to work the polls. Typically, this adversely affects communities of color. Knowing that our audience was under 35, we did a call out to our users to work the polls.” Over 1,250 BLK app users signed up to be poll workers in their communities.
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Beginning on Nov. 9 if you download BLK App, you have the opportunity to win an exclusive invite to a private meet and greet with rapper Mulatto. Even if you don’t win, you can submit questions to be asked during a livestream with Mulatto and her best friend, Lexi.
What’s next for BLK App? Kirkland and his team are working to add features to the app to make it feel more like a lifestyle destination vs. just a place to find a date. Be on the lookout for changes in spring of 2021 that will add entertainment features and more in depth ways to connect with your matches. If you are sick of downloading other apps and not seeing either enough Black people or you feel as if you are overlooked yourself, give BLK App a try. Happy swiping!
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