This summer, Black Americans have faced heightened levels of stress as they fight a pandemic that has ravaged communities of color, while racial injustices have sparked mass protests nationwide.
The creators of the Bed-Stuy-based tech start-up Digital Park are hoping their new app will help ease some of that stress.
Digital Park, co-founded by Jeffery Antwi, Oyin Antwi and Steven Antwi, has launched an app called Drift-wellness + sleep that supports mindfulness, focus and sleep anytime and anywhere. The company also creates branding and advertising for websites.
Digital Park was founded after product designer Jeffery was left feeling excluded in the tech space, so he got his wife Oyin, an engineer, and brother Steven together to create their own.
With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement during the global pandemic, the trio held off on the launch of another app they had planned, and moved forward with Drift instead.
“With the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic being at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it made us realize that this was something we needed to do,” Jeffery said.
Oyin said the other projects got stalled with quarantine and by the fact her and her husband were diagnosed with COVID-19. “We were sick all of April and then the protests happened in June, plus the fireworks—it was a crazy summer,” she said. “Suddenly the other idea we had planned just didn’t make sense for what was happening.”
Digital Park doesn’t consider Drift to be focused on meditation. The app creates a relaxing and calming viewing experience for users, who can choose from a variety of different sounds and videos, including nature sounds, rain sounds, the rustling of trees, water against rocks and crackling fire.
Each video provides an Ultra HD experience to put listeners in a calming state that supports focus, lifts moods and can induce a state of sleep. There is even a vocal coach that encourages users to take deep breaths and center themselves.
A portion of the proceeds from each download is donated to Black-owned mental health organization Africa’s Health Matters. Founded by Vanessa Adebayo, the organization’s mission is to “make an impact on middle-low-income countries, enhancing the lives of people that lack access to healthcare, proper resources, and/or education to live healthy fulfilling lives.”
“We could have partnered with those big Black organizations, but it was important to us to partner with the ones that are on the ground, the grassroots organizations that are doing the work but not getting the recognition,” Oyin said.
“They speak a lot about the root of healing in our mental health and how a lot of that is from the fact that we can’t identify where we’re from.”
The team said they experienced a lot of sleepless nights themselves going through the countless verification steps with Apple before Drift could become a reality. And they said it was even more stressful to do it all in the midst of a pandemic.
But the trio has high hopes for Drift, which is currently available on the Apple Store and will be available to Andriod users soon–and for the future of their company. They said they would be adding more sounds, working with other organizations within their community and even collaborating with tech-centered schools in Brooklyn.
“A lot of people get funding and then their idea is derailed by venture capitalists. But our culture is unique and it’s something we have to be mindful of, so we’re going to continue crowdfunding within our community for now,” Jeffery said. “We’re taking this approach so we can leverage the right partnerships in the future.”