The Black History of Black Twitter, Part II


Rising Up, 2012–2016

After death Trayvon Martin, Black Twitter has launched an online campaign in support of Martin and his family. As the outcry grew, George Zimmerman, a volunteer from the neighborhood guard who fatally shot Martin, was arrested – laying the groundwork for what would become the largest social justice movement of our time.

André Brock, author of the book Distributed Blackness: African American Cyberculture: Many early adopters of Black technology were really skeptical of what Twitter could do. Even blacks were, this is not a serious place.

Tracy Clayton, podcast presenter Strong black legends: Once the platform novelty ran out, I think it was more like, OK, what are we going to do with our votes now that we’ve found them? The murder of Trayvon Martin is when I first saw the potential of Black Twitter and the potential of Twitter to create real change offline.

Wesley Lowery, 60 minutes + correspondent: My first tweet about Trayvon Martin said, “As long as a 17-year-old black boy can’t walk into any store in America to buy Skittles without murder, we can’t stop talking about race.” It was one of the first cases of getting used to the idea that I could say things and those messages could find like-minded people to participate in this dialogue that was bigger than myself.

Jamilah Lemieux, Slate columnist: Had it not been for Black Twitter, George Zimmerman would not have been arrested.

Clayton: I remember watching the trial with Twitter. I remember watching Rachel Jeantel testify and my heart breaking because of the situation she was in. It was a great tool not only for social change but also for healing – when I could grieve and grieve and process with people. That’s what really changed my mind about what Twitter served. I guess for me it used to be fun.

Naima Cochrane, music and cultural journalist: That was probably the beginning of what we now consider hashtag activism, if you want to call it that.

A year later, on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, 18-year-old Michael Brown, who had finished high school in the previous weeks, was killed. He was shot six times.

Sarah J. Jackson, co-author #Hashtag activism: networks of race and gender justice: One of the first tweets used by “Ferguson” – people didn’t even start using the hashtag #Ferguson, they just used the word – was from a young woman who was one of Michael Brown’s neighbors. She stepped out on her doorstep, took a picture, and basically described what she saw. She did not have many followers. She was not an influencer. She was not an activist. She was just a member of the community.

Johnetta Elzie, an activist from St. I didn’t have a job, and I remember cracking jokes on Twitter. Then a woman with DM. She was like, “Netta, I just saw this picture floating along my timeline. I think you should see that. ”

April Reign, Advocate for Diversity and Inclusion: I saw someone post something like, Damn, I think they just shot someone in front of my window. And on the ground he posted a picture of Mike Brown’s lifeless body. He filmed, I guess, from inside his apartment.

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