Three Black women who started the popular Oh No They Didn’t gossip site when they were teens are now accusing two white adults of locking them out of their own site and stealing it from them.
Oh No They Didn’t has a cult-like following. Users submit all the content on the website (or copy and paste material from other publications, including this one) to the moderators, who then decide whether to publish it. Despite the lowercase headlines, typos, and dated purple-and-white layout, more than 22,000 people follow the website on Twitter, and according to a source at LiveJournal, the site remains the network’s most popular online “community” in the US.
If the site sounds like any other gossip rag online, that’s precisely what makes it unique: It was started, in 2004, by three black teenagers—Erin Lang, Bri Draffen, and Breniecia Reuben—who were looking for a place where “Black ‘indie’ kids who felt out of place [could] talk about music (and life) with other Black kids.” Youth of color contributed the majority of the comment threads. The site’s mission, according to its founders, was to create a safe space where members could discuss pop culture with an authentically black voice without being exclusively black. Because users of the site both created and read the content, site members believed they were reading gossip “by the people, for the people.”
“They locked us out of our own site,” Lang, who is now an aspiring actress and writer, wrote on her LiveJournal earlier this year. “i have tons of witnesses and screen caps. tons. but we cant take legal action. just spread the word that they are liars. im coming for their asses now.”
“i used to be one of the original mods at ontd. yesternight [Lang’s username] started the community,” the comment began. “yesternight added brenden and ecctv [Carter’s username] to the community as mods. BIGGEST MISTAKE!”
The user described how Lang had taken time away from the site because her mother had died of brain cancer. She explained how Lang made Brenden Delzer and Elizabeth Carter moderators and then took a temporary leave of absence from the community. When Lang returned to the site after a year she discovered she had been removed as moderator.
Of course Delzer denies things went down this way and is accusing Lang of exaggerating the story to discredit the site’s success.
It’s a sad state of affairs and is the true definition of appropriation, but in real and living color. When people talk about white people “Columbusing” this is basically the epitome of it. Stealing something that works and taking all the credit. There are lessons that can be learned from this experience so other people don’t fall victim and lose their creative content and work.
Get more of the story at Vice.