South I is widely known as the first Black owned and operated community Sim in Second Life. It opened its doors in December of 2004, just two months after Shaft and his friends made the transition from TSO (The Sims Online) to Second Life.
The first business that the Sim opened was a club they carried over from TSO.
"We started on an 8,192 square meter lot. That is where we opened, Da Hot Spot. I'm not sure if we were the first to build a Black community here, but we tried to create an environment for everyone," Shaft says.
The premise behind creating the community was to provide a place for everyone to hang out, make money and avoid the drama. As his organization grew it became a fraternity of sorts, which Shaft affectionately refers to as his family.
South I’s family is represented by the greek letters Sigma Iota Sigma and its members are more commonly known as the South I Souljaz. If a resident is interested in becoming a member of the South I Souljaz, they first must go through an intake process.
Cherise Benavente, a new recruit, became interested in the South I community after she heard about the positive message behind its organization.
“I think its a great organization. It empowers the women in SL and teaches them new things, how to run a business, how to host and be approachable. We help each other with any talents we have,” Cherise says.
New recruits are introduced to the existing members and interviewed about their goals and issues in Second Life. If any problems are existing as far as housing, lack of knowledge or relationship issues, South I’s management becomes involved and helps the new recruit to solve the issue.
Each recruit is taught a skill or a trade and trained to open and operate their own business. If a member of South I has successfully operated a particular business, from a clothing store to a television studio to learning how to be a photographer, any new recruit who is interested in that business is offered the opportunity to learn from the skilled business person and then receive help with starting their own business.
After the intake process is completed, the new South I family members are asked to continue to be a part of the South I community by sharing their knowledge with any future recruits and they are offered the opportunity to house their business on the family Sim.
This fascinating community involvement defeats the ‘crabs in a bucket’ mentality that has plagued the real life Black community for centuries. Because of this progressive movement, participation in this official community has remained consistent over the years. Currently there are between 15 and 20 members who actively participate in family meetings, strategic planning and helping new recruits to adjust and prosper as residents of SL.