Out in Tech & the National Black Justice Coalition Launch App to Map Safe Spaces for Black LGBTQ+ Folks

The Lavender Book: a crowd-sourced web app which lists businesses and facilities across the U.S. that are safe and inclusive spaces for Black queer, trans, and non-binary people.

Decades ago, the Green Book allowed Black Americans to safely navigate spaces during the Jim Crow era. On Monday, that concept was reimagined with the launch of the Lavender Book.

The Lavender Book, is a crowd-sourced web app created by Out in Tech and the National Black Justice Coalition, with a mission to record spaces across the U.S. that are safe and inclusive spaces for Black queer, trans, and non-binary people.

In early June 2020, in the midst of the racial reckoning around the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, Out in Tech’s Senior Program Director, Gary Goldman, reached out to David Johns, the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, to see if the Out in Tech impact program, Digital Corps, could help provide tech services in support of his remarkable organization.

David shared his idea of “Developing an app for local resources for Black queer, trans, and non-binary people. This safe space app would allow us to catalogue and invite recommendations for safe places for Black queer, Black trans, and Black non-binary people to gather (in public places/accommodations).” In order to make the vision of Lavender Book a reality, Out in Tech assembled a team of all-star OIT volunteers that included folks from multiple chapters and committees: The Heads of the DC and NYC Chapters, folks from our Digital Corps committee, our Youth committee and more.

Alex Kostura who served as Co-Project Lead, comments on his experience in getting involved with Lavender Book:

Last Spring, like a lot of concerned citizens, I was feeling frustrated, angry, and helpless as we witnessed a number of high profile and unjust killings of Black people in America. I wanted to do something. I wanted to draw on my own privilege and access to resources to support the Black Lives Matter movement in a sustained way.

Peter Redmond, Out in Tech’s New York City chapter head said the app is “for us, by us,” because of the diverse team of engineers, product designers and UX designers behind the project.

This team spent 9 months working on the project via Slack and virtual meetings on a weekly basis. After understanding the initial product requirements, they conducted user research with members of the NBJC community who were target users the app was intended to help. From this user research they created design wireframes and developed a beta version of the Lavender Book that Out In Tech and NBJC volunteers tested over the course of a few weeks. The launch of Version 1.0 of the Lavender Book was a success and garnered major press coverage news outlets including CNNNBC, and TIME. The team wants to see the app live and breath for awhile, but fully intends to start gathering feedback and developing requirements for Version 2.0.

Alex said, “To help us understand the need for the Lavender Book, David used the example of a Black trans woman who has to expend an enormous amount of energy to find a hair stylist who will treat them with respect and provide great service. This level of effort and consideration is something many of us take for granted. I hope that with the Lavender Book we’ve created a tool that can help the Black LGBTQ+/SGL community spend less of that energy finding safe spaces, and as a second order effect, help business owners be more aware of how to create inclusive environments for all.

The hope is for the app to grow beyond service providers like coffee shops, barbers, and restaurants, but also to include essential services like health care and legal aid.

“I have found myself traveling to cities where I’m not exactly sure will I be welcomed in certain establishments, so I’ve definitely had to lean on services like this in the past, so to have the Lavender Book now join all of these other services out there, I think it’s only going to just create a better experience for anybody that’s looking for services where they know they won’t be discriminated against.” – Peter Redmond

Congratulations to the entire Out in Tech Lavender Book Development Team:

We’re kicking off Pride month by celebrating troublemakers and building equity in tech through courage + conviction. Don’t miss out on the all-star Out in Tech Pride panel where you’ll learn what’s happening behind the scenes in the Zoom rooms where execs are making decisions that affect billions of people around the world, including queer and trans customers and audiences.

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