The founders of the extremely popular gossip site and community, Oh No They Didn't, are three young Black women: Erin Lang, Bri Draffen, and Breniecia Reuben. They started the site on LiveJournal in 2004, when they were still teenagers.
However, you probably didn't know that, because the site is currently run by Brenden Delzer and Elizabeth Carter, who are white.
The site's creator and original moderator, Erin Lang, has come forward recently explaining that Delzer and Carter stole the site after locking her, Draffen, and Reuben out.
Mitchell Sunderland and Emalie Marthe of Vice write:
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.”Continue reading at Vice.
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,” blogger Rafi Dangelo has written about the teens. 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.”
This spirit resonated with fans, and Oh No They Didn’t soon surpassed its niche audience. O, the Oprah Magazine, named Oh No They Didn’t one of Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2007, and when Anna Nicole Smith died, that same year, so many users visited Oh No They Didn’t that the community’s server crashed.
But on the way to infamy, some believe, the community lost its original mission, becoming infamous more for its trolls than for its vision of a celebrity-gossip utopia. Today, few users even know three black girls founded the site.
What’s more, according to Lang, Brenden Delzer and Elizabeth Carter, the two white adults who currently run the community, stole Oh No They Didn’t from her and the other founders.
“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.
Photo credit: VICE/Bri Draffen
Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or Follow @KimberlyNFoster