As with any fledgling startup – there are distinct challenges keeping the team up at night. For instance, there are persistent rumblings from members related to people joining the group who aren’t actually #singlesingle (i.e. not married, separated, in a FWB or situationship, it’s complicated, etc), but have heard about the rapidly growing group from their circle of friends and want to get in on the fun.
And the group’s male-female ratio favor the men by quite a bit: The membership is about 70% women vs 30% men. The founders are aware of the lop-sided gender balance but said “we could stop admitting women for 5 years, and we still wouldn’t be able to effectively even out that balance.”
The observation is consistent with trends for Facebook groups overall. While Facebook’s user demographics are pretty evenly split — 53% of Facebook users are women, and 47% are men — women are 40% more likely to create groups that become meaningful to people, and are more likely to use the platform to seek and build community. According to Social Media Today, women tend to have 8% more friends than men, which is seen as an indication of their willingness and ability to connect and engage with others from across the Web. When looking at African-American forums in particular, one realizes the trends skew much more in favor of the men.
But for both men and women, it’s the high levels of engagement that keep them in BLT — and make them not want to report whether they’ve entered into a relationship, which, while encouraged, will get one booted out of the group.
Phillip Bledsoe, a 46-year-old divorced Dallas area moderator in the group, says he is a member of a number of similar groups but finds BLT the most interactive, by far. “The other groups are more for discussing relationship issues, but there isn’t the emphasis on, they don’t really encourage us to get out and interact with each other or actually date within the groups,” Bledsoe says.
It is the group’s emphasis on “getting out from behind the screen” via formal and informal group events — from house parties to Sunday Funday brunch meet-ups to the upcoming Waterpark Takeover Labor Day weekend — that sets it apart from other online groups and takes the interaction among members up a level.
“Meeting people online is fine, but to get to know each other, we must get from behind the screens,” says Karla Frazier, the group’s co-founder and owner of Frazier Dentistry. “We lose so many skills when we don’t get out. And it cripples us socially. So we are creating interactive adult events that allow us to have a social experience without many of the dating pressures.”
The group has evolved from being purely a regional matchmaking forum into a dynamic social group for singles; both men and women have reported they’ve made genuine friends of the same sex while pursuing romantic interests in the group.
Tonnell Thomas, a 39-year-old single mother, says she moved to Austin three years ago from Indiana and has had a difficult time meeting and befriending other African-Americans — let alone dating. She says when she joined the group in April, she found herself in amazement over the realization that there actually were a lot of Black people in the Austin area. “It changed my world because I saw more Black people than I have seen since I’ve been here,” she says.
35-year-old Houston-based member James Crockerham (father of three) says while he isn’t in the group looking for friends, he appreciates the number of “cool, positive dudes” he’s met at the gatherings, in addition to the women he may be interested in pursuing.
“Most of the people are willing to openly admit that they’re [just] there to extend their social life,” he says, but adds, he’s been actively dating within the group as well. Crockerham has no problem driving to San Antonio or Austin or Dallas to join events in hopes of finding someone he connects with. Still, the primary goal for Crockerham and many others is to find love in the group, while meeting cool like-minded singles to hang out with along the way.
“I’ve had a lot of interactions. Everything from a quick five to ten-minute phone conversation with somebody, to a weeks-long getting to know somebody. I’ve been on a few dates,” he says. And despite the fact that many turn out to be just cool people to hang with, Crockerham is convinced the chances of finding a romantic match are better within the group than outside of it.
Some are in fact-finding romantic love. So far, the group has borne witness to two genuine love connections unfolding from flirting in the comments to the formal announcement that a couple has decided to be exclusive. Countless others have reported they’ve gone on dates with other members from the group.
Tommy Faison, a 54-year-old Austin resident, and Kenya Peterson, a 44-year-old in Dallas, are the group’s most recent love connection. Peterson said when she got the “hello beautiful” message from Faison, she was just about ready to tap out on the group. It was entertaining but little more than that to her at that point, and she had already stopped attending the events and hoping to meet people. But there was something about Faison that made her respond.
“Normally when someone comes at me like that, I wouldn’t respond, because it’s just so generic,” she says. “Women want originality and someone that’s authentic, and if you’re coming with a prepaid line, you’re not going to get anywhere with that. … You’re giving them a representative of who you are.”
magic couldn’t hold a candle to the way I feel about her…
Faison says Peterson’s presence in the group had left him unhinged and searching for the right words. Group members ooed and awed when he publicly posted asking the Lord for favor in pursuing her. When he finally talked himself into reaching out, all he could muster was “hello, beautiful,” and when she replied “good morning” the next day, he scrambled to come up with a response from there. But once he did, the couple says they took off from there. The conversation was natural, and nonstop.
The two connected almost instantly. Faison says it was almost like magic, except “magic couldn’t hold a candle to the way I feel about her,” and he describes himself as “all-in.”
While the meet-ups and events are nice, this is what the group is all about, Faison says. “I want us to find relationships that will build us up and allow us to be the best we can be in this thing called life,” she says. “I don’t want any of us to feel like we are out here in this world alone.”
Faison and Peterson are proof that real connections can be made, and others remain optimistic.
“I think people have to take a chance,” says Thomas. “We’re all afraid of rejection — I get it. [But] you make out of it what you want to make out of it. If you’re looking for love, it probably is there.”For more information about the upcoming water park takeover, or if you’re just curious about Black Love Texas (and if you are #singlesingle) and looking to meet other singles in Texas, check the group out on Facebook.
Editor’s Note: griotmedia, the publisher of SoulCiti, has a co-founding stake in Black Love Texas, but it in no way influenced the editorial content of this article.