In summer 2020, cities around the U.S. — and even the world — erupted in protests denouncing racial injustice after the killing of George Floyd. Among the demonstrators in Brooklyn, New York, was local comedian Jon Laster. Though the amplified support of the Black Lives Matter movement may have been encouraging to some, Laster knew that more had to be done.
"I was out marching during the BLM protests and realized that the marches were going to end and we as a people were going to end up back in the same place," Laster told Travel + Leisure. "So, I went home and decided that my contribution needed to be something that would create lasting change."
And with that epiphany, plus hard work and the help of a few tech-savvy friends, Blapp was born about a year later.
Blapp is a marketplace app that makes it easy to find and patronize Black-owned businesses in cities around the U.S., as well as select destinations globally. Laster founded the app as a way to drive long-term financial growth and spending power to the Black community.
The map function allows users to view a list of Black-owned businesses near them and filter by categories such as restaurants, bookstores, hair salons, therapists, accountants, and more. Blapp also features online businesses that sell products ranging from women's clothing to artwork to home decor.
"My goal for the future of Blapp is that it will be part of the thought process of the consumer. If people consider checking Blapp in the future, then Black-owned businesses will do better than ever before in the history of this country," Laster said.
For those who don't understand the importance of an app like Blapp, Laster is not concerned. He knows the right people will find it useful.
"There will always be those out there looking to justify the unjustifiable. That's not the focus of Blapp," he said. "The focus is to get the word out to those who do understand that the Black community has faced some unique headwinds in gaining a financial foothold in this country, from slavery to not having relationships at banks, causing Black-owned businesses to fail during the pandemic."
And for those who do understand the value of Blapp, Laster said the key to its success is not only for shoppers to download and use the app, but also for them to share it far and wide.
Next month, Blapp will host a share-a-thon, asking people to share the app with as many people as possible heading into "Blapp Friday" — a rebranding of Black Friday.
Blapp is available for download on both Apple and Android devices. For more details and to install the app on your own smart device, head to blappapp.com.
Jessica Poitevien is a Travel Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.