Get up, 2012-2016
Following death from Trayvon Martin, Black Twitter has launched an online campaign to support Martin and his family. As the outcry grew, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Martin, was arrested, laying the groundwork for what would become the biggest social justice movement of our time.
André Brock, author of Distributed Blackness: African-American Cybercultures: Many of the early black tech users were genuinely skeptical of what Twitter could do. Even black people were like, it’s not a serious place.
Tracy Clayton, podcast host Strong black legends: Once the novelty of the platform wears off, I think it was more like, OK, what do we do with our voices 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 + corresponding: My first tweet on Trayvon Martin read, “Until a 17-year-old black boy can walk into any store in America to buy Skittles without being shot, we can’t stop talking about race.” It was one of those first instances where I got used to the idea that I could say things and these posts could find like-minded people to participate in this dialogue that was bigger than me.
Jamilah Lemieux, Slate columnist: Without Black Twitter, George Zimmerman would not have been arrested.
Clayton: I remember watching the trial on Twitter. I remember seeing Rachel Jeantel testify and my heart broken by the situation she found herself in. It was a great vehicle not only for social change, but also for healing – being able to grieve and grieve and deal with people. This is what really made me change my mind about the usefulness of Twitter. I guess for me it was entertainment before.
Naima Cochrane, music and culture journalist: It was probably the start of what we now think of as hashtag activism, if you want to call it that.
A year later, on August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown, who had graduated from high school the previous week, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. He was shot six times.
Sarah J. Jackson, co-author of #Hashtag Activism: Racial and Gender Justice Networks: One of the very first tweets to use “Ferguson” – people hadn’t even started using the hashtag #Ferguson, they were just using the word – was from a young woman who was one of Michael Brown’s neighbors. . She walked out on her doorstep, took a picture, and basically described what she saw. She didn’t have a lot of followers. She was not an influencer. She was not an activist. She was just a member of the community.
Johnetta Elzie, activist from Saint-Louis: I was shopping and I remember being on Twitter to make jokes. Then a woman sends me a DM. She was like, “Netta, I just saw this image floating around in my timeline. I think you should see it.
April Reign, Diversity and Inclusion Advocate: I saw someone posting something like, Damn, I think they just shot someone in front of my window. And he posted a photo of Mike Brown’s lifeless body on the floor. He had taken the picture, I guess, of the interior of his apartment.