BMoje Creates Diverse Emojis for Diverse Lifestyles

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Thursday August 13, 2015

Necessity is the mother of invention. So when a late-night text session hit a snag due to limited emojis, three Chicago women took matters into their own hands, and created emoticons that expressed their cultural experiences. Enter Byou.Bmoje, the diverse emojis for diverse lifestyles.

"One of our members, Taylar, was texting with a friend late one night, sending emoticons back and forth, and they realized they were limited in expressing themselves, due to the lack of emojis relevant to their lifestyles and cultural experiences," said The Bm?j? Fam in an interview. "Taylar then mentioned how limiting this conversation was to Mary and Elle. Mary jumped on the idea and said that they should create icons that people feel are missing, and release them to the public."

Elle immediately started suggesting icon ideas, which lead to a hilarious group conversation through text until 2 a.m. The women didn't even realize how late it had become, having so much fun coming up the ideas for Bmojes. They said they were so energized by the idea and the communication possibilities, that they knew they had to make this a reality.

By May 4, Mary Wilson, Taylar Pompey and Elle Munroe had founded Bmoje Communications LLC, a hybrid tech/communication firm with big goals. People who don't fit the mainstream are often thought of as the "other," but the media is just beginning to recognize the diversity of the human experience. Bmoje reflects this change.

"After the initial virtual brainstorming session, we met to discuss what images we would like to use. We wanted the images to be reflective of many different cultures and types of lifestyles, mainly ones that are not considered to be 'mainstream' or acceptable," they said.

Not being graphic artists, the trio utilized Elance and were lucky to make a great connection with a designer that they will work with again on their next update, with new emojis to be released in September.

The women said this has been an ever evolving process, with hundreds of image ideas tucked away to release throughout the year. Ultimately, with each release they want all of their images to celebrate and acknowledge many different people, cultures, and lifestyles that are often not recognized in "mainstream" media.

"As black women growing up, we received messages of being 'different,'" they said. "We never saw our truth reflected in an authentic way. As we got older we realized we were not alone: the LGBTQ community, Non Judeo-Christian religious communities, gender fluidity... the list goes on and on. The world needs to hear our stories, from us, and we need to be able to express ourselves as the unique beings we are." 

Although iOS created the feature to change to skin tones of pre-existing emoticons in an attempt to be more inclusive, the cultural component that makes us who we are was not included. We need to be able to express ourselves as the unique beings we are, with images that reflect more than just the tint of our skin. We need images that reflect our cultural experiences, they explained.

"Emojis are ubiquitous and let's be honest, we live in a world addicted to our phones and connecting virtually. Why not give people options in how they express themselves through this online virtual reality?" they said. "Emojis are something that enhance communication and give you a fun and unique way to express yourself. We believe that it's important to see images that validate who you are and where you come from. So often that is not the case for people outside of a certain demographic. We want to fix that issue. There really is room for all of us."  

"So far, we have received positive comments from the community," they said. "Even our more traditional and conservative parents and loved ones are rooting for us! They all have said that we have something big on our hands."

They will be releasing new icons throughout the year, along with merchandise and other goods. They see Bm?j? Communications as a tool with which they can inspire people to have a conversation about what is traditional and what is acceptable for society, and to question that. They want to challenge the normal, and create a new sense of normalcy that really is just more realistic and representative.

Byou.Bmoje, their new emoticon board, is more reflective of the multicultural and diverse lifestyles we actually live. Byou.Bmoje is available on the Google Play Store now. A percentage of the funds will be used to establish a non-profit to empower the over 22,000 black and brown children who are currently homeless in the Chicagoland area.

"After the word gets out about Byou.Bmoje, we would like to use a percentage of proceeds towards establishing an NPO in the Chicagoland area that endeavors to help combat the striking homelessness in this city," said the team.

Help them reach that goal by purchasing diverse emojis at www.bmoje.com

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.