The People’s History of Black Twitter, Part Two


Rise, 2012-2016

After death At Trayvon Martin, Black Twitter launched an online campaign to support Martin and his family. With the rising protests, the neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman who shot Martin was arrested-laying the foundation for the largest social justice movement of our time.

Andre Brock, author Distributed Darkness: The Internet Culture of African Americans: Many early adopters of black technology are really skeptical of Twitter’s functions. Even black people like it. This is not a serious place.

Tracy Clayton, podcast host Powerful black legend: Once the freshness of the platform is gone, I think it’s more like, well, now that we have found the voice, what should we do? The murder of Trayvon Martin was the first time I saw the potential of Black Twitter and Twitter’s potential to create actual offline change.

Wesley Lowry 60 minutes+ Correspondent: My first tweet about Trayvon Martin said: “Until a 17-year-old black boy can walk into any store in the United States to buy skittles without being shot, we can’t stop talking about race.” This is the first habit. One example of such an idea: I can talk, and these messages can find like-minded people to participate in this larger conversation than me.

Jamilah Lemieux, Slate columnist: If it weren’t for Black Twitter, George Zimmerman would not have been arrested.

Clayton: I remember watching the trial on Twitter. I remember watching Rachel Jeantel testify, and I was heartbroken by the situation she was in. This is not only a good tool for social change, but also a good tool for healing—to be able to mourn and grieve with others. This is what really changed my view of the purpose of Twitter. I think, for me, it used to be entertainment.

Naima Cochrane, music and culture reporter: If you want to call it that, it may be the beginning of what we think of as label activism.

A year later, on August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown, who graduated from high school a week ago, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. He was shot six times.

Sarah J. Jackson, co-author #Hashtag Activism: Race and Gender Justice Network: One of the first tweets to use “Ferguson”-people have not even started using the hashtag #Ferguson, they are just using the word-from a young woman who is one of Michael Brown’s neighbors. She walked out of the house and took a picture, basically describing what she saw. She doesn’t have many followers. She is not an influential person. She is not an activist. She is just a community member.

Johnetta Elzie, St. Louis activist: I went out to run errands, I remember I was joking on Twitter. Then a woman sent me a DM. She was like, “Netta, I just saw this picture floating on my timeline. I think you should take a look.”

April Reign, Diversity and Inclusion Advocate: I saw someone posting saying Damn, I think they just shot someone out of my window. He posted a photo of Mike Brown’s lifeless body on the ground. I guess he took this photo from his apartment.


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