Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News) – Black Lives Matter protests continue throughout the United States and the world. In Central New York, two Syracuse University graduates and one current student are taking what they learned in the classroom, to help the movement.
Caleb Obiagwu, Brandon Elliott and John Paul Besong created “Safe Loot,” a website mapping out black-owned businesses across the country.
“Right now it just feels like the black community is struggling the most, and the way this platform is set up is to protect the black community,” said Besong.
Obiagwu said the inspiration for the name “Safe Loot” came from a tweet President Donald Trump wrote saying, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen.”
“What shocked me was ‘thugs’ was in capital letters. So everyone knew who the thugs he was talking about was meant to be. So he’s calling all black people thugs,” said Obiagwu.
Obiagwu said President Trump’s assumption is wrong, and that many looters are not minorities. It was from that moment that he wanted to change the connotation surrounding the word “loot.”
“We tried to basically take the name and make it more positive. Especially for the black community because now everyone associates looting with negativity and against the black community,” said Obiagwu.
But despite the word “loot” being in the name, “Safe Loot” does not support looting of any businesses.
Obiagwu and Elliott graduated in 2020 from Syracuse University with a degree in computer engineering, and Besong is not far behind as a senior in computer science. For these three, “Safe Loot” combines the skills they learned in the classroom with a greater purpose.
“Taking all the knowledge I learned in four years and actually applying it. I feel like to something the world can use.. it just really feels amazing,” said Elliott.
Someone who feels supported by “Safe Loot” is Darren Chavis, the owner of Syracuse restaurant Creole Soul.
“I’m sort of honored, because being a black business owner and operator… no one knows how difficult that is. I mean, you fight every day,” said Chavis.
Chavis said “Safe Loot” makes that fight a little easier by putting him on the map for more to see.
“It’s gonna give me a platform to really demonstrate… will let me know if I’m the best,” said Chavis.
Every day “Safe Loot” continues to add more black-owned businesses across the United States to their website. They said their next step is to spread awareness of the website through social media.