Little was known about Kumi Rauf’s ‘I love being black’ initiative that was launched in the late 90s. But thanks to Social Media, ILBB page was labeled the first “World’s biggest Black Facebook Page” to reach one million fans in 2010 and has over the past five years sky-rocketed to a 6.6 million fan base, retaining its title.
“We’ve had an enormous impact on social media. We don’t just collect fans,” notes Kumi the CEO of the initiative, “we use this worldwide network to get the word out about a lot of things surrounding our three cornerstones: positivity, awareness and action.”
With its label, “I Love Being Black” initiative is popular for selling apparel and accessories online. It was not initially a movement but began once Kumi began designing T-shirts with the label in a bid to spark positive sentiments amongst the Black community in the US. When ILBB began to gain fruit by instilling a sense of self-worth amongst the Blacks through social media, Kumi a Computer Scientist quit his job as a programmer in 2008 to focus on the initiative that has spread to other couuntries.
“In 2003 I was making shirts for many different groups and individuals. I parted ways with my cushy programming job in 2008 and iLBB really began to take off,” recalls Kumi. “This was also about the same time I started the Facebook page, knowing that one day these free pages with a connection to readers would be normal for many businesses to have.”
However, Kumi asserts that the interest of creating positivity amongst the Black community began long ago. At a tender age Rauf Kumi was brought up in an environment that emphasized on the importance of Black history, inventions and innovations.
“Halfway through my Computer Science degree at University of California Santa Barbara something clicked,” recalls Kumi, “I realize that if we continue to wait for other people to represent us in a correct and positive light we will be waiting indefinitely.”
Years later, backed with support from his family, Kumi did not look back after quitting his job as a programmer, thanks to Facebook that was launched in 2004 a year after he began designing T-shirts with his label. The label sparked curiosity on social media thus becoming the world’s largest Black Facebook page generally attracting the youth.
“When I do seminars on social media strategy they (youth) are the most attentive and creative,” said Kumi, “The youth respect outlets that are truthful and they yearn for information even more than adults do.”
Moreover, through social media, Brazil, the United Kingdom and of late Kenya have become the leading followers and active participants of the initiative. Kumi notes that South Africa would be the next big thing through the launch of AfroTourism starting from May 2015 this year.
“It would encourage Black people to travel to other areas to connect with each other and learn more about other Black culture,” he said.
But during a brief visit to Kenya this month, Kumi and his team will be focused on learning as much as possible about the country backed with the possibility of introducing yet another site through media.
“We have connected with several media outlets in Kenya and other parts of East Africa. Kenyan people are a kind but strong people so hopefully our message will continue to resonate here,” he said.
And as a way to celebrate February’s Black History month through social media, the ILBB Facebook Page is set to highlight past achievements, current affairs and focus on the future offering a 20 per cent discount on sales of products worth at least $20USD.
“We are actually celebrating Black Consciousness Month. In addition to celebrating our ancestors and our living elders we want to shed light on what our current situation is, and also where we want to be in the future,” he said, adding that his team is set to introduce #BlackMaleMondays and #BlackFemaleFridays as a platform that would highlight and generate more interest on his initiative.