The COVID-19 pandemic and seeing the demise of many Black news professionals inspired Cary Wheelous to launch Hayti, a mobile app that supplies users with access to content from over 200 Black publishers. (Courtesy photo)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member

When Cary Wheelous heard that the Carolina Times would close as a result of publisher’s Kenneth Edmonds’ untimely death in May 2020, he was astounded that yet another Black newspaper was going out of business. Wheelous, who lives near the publication’s location in Durham, North Carolina, discerned that he needed to do something to protect members of the Black press.

“I said to myself, ‘Somebody has to help these Black publishers and these Black newspapers,” said Wheelous. The result was Hayti, a mobile app for Apple and Android that aggregates articles, videos and podcasts from Black publishers both nationally and internationally.

The app, pronounced “hay-tie,” derives its name from the Hayti community in Durham where Black-owned businesses and Black wealth flourished during the early 1900s. The district was a Black Wall Street in North Carolina, and its name honored the country of Haiti, the first free Black republic in the world.

Wheelous said the only reason Hayti was able to come into fruition was because of COVID-19. He is the president of College Health TV, a leading streaming channel that provides health and wellness programming at colleges and universities across the country. When the pandemic hit, campuses stopped playing his channels, which severely affected his business. He found himself with free time on his hands so he dedicated himself to creating the app, and after eight months of work, it was ready to launch in May 2021.

“Nobody has aggregated all of the Black press and all of the Black media,” said Wheelous. “It was my goal to do that as a company.”

The app has compiled news content from over 200 publishers in the United States, Africa and Caribbean. It covers topics that include entertainment, food, sports, politics, business and HBCU news. Hayti is also the first black-owned mobile app to enable users to store content in custom folders and to offer videos, articles and podcasts on one platform.

One of the prime features is its “Today in Black History” section, in which Wheelous documented 365 days of unique facts ranging in subjects from Black inventions to the Civil Rights Movement.

“Black history has always been important to me,” said Wheelous. It’s been, basically, a sort of support system to me knowing what my ancestors did to be able to bring me this far.”

Because he developed the app with the intention of helping Black publishers maintain their businesses, users are taken directly to the news site when they click on content rather than having the content available to them inside of Hayti. This allows publishers to generate more advertising revenue.

Wheelous hopes that Hayti makes it easier for people to find and consume news and information directly from the Black press, and he also hopes that he can help prevent established Black publications from collapsing.

“The app is for everybody because everybody wants to know what’s going on in the Black community,” said Wheelous. “For the very first time, everybody can find out what’s happening and what’s taking place in the Black community.”

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