Civil rights legend and long-serving Rep. John Lewis once said that he wished they had social media back in his day, because it would have made organizing a lot easier. Hes not far from the truth. While social media is often criticized for sucking up time, a new Pew Research Center poll shows that many African-Americans see social media as a tool for activism.
According to Pew, more than 50 percent of Black people surveyed said they saw social media as both a way to find like-minded individuals and a venue to express their political views.
Pew also pointed out that the Twitter hashtag #blacklivesmatter recently turn five years old. It was inspired by the exoneration of George Zimmerman, who was charged with shooting Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Since its inception, the hashtag has been shared 30 million times, an average of about 17,000 times a day.
Today the Black Lives Matter movement is still active and organizing on social media.
Jade Daniels, Black Lives Matter LA, organizer on Communications and Arts and Culture Committees, said social media has been invaluable for organizing and telling their story. According to Daniels, Facebook is their favorite platform.
“Social media has provided a helpful platform for organizers and activists from across this country and throughout the diaspora to connect with one another,” said Daniels. “On social media, the black community has created a space for dialogue, a place for healing, a place to cultivate joy, and to build power among one another. Social media, arguably, has become a strong vehicle of liberation and radical resistance and base building in this time of such crises in the United States.”
The group uses social media to post information about monthly general meetings, events, updates and calls to action.
Talitha V. Anyabwele, a social justice advocate based in Tallahassee, Fla., also uses various social media platforms for activism.
“I use social media daily to push a platform and agenda of the protection of black girls, black economic empowerment, and black community restoration,” said Anyabwele. “Unashamedly and unapologetically, I speak to bring awareness to the plight of the black community-at-large and the disenfranchised, which in many cases is one in the same. By using my blog, www.blackgirlspeaks.me, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, Im able to reach a large audience of people who share my concerns and who are looking for an outlet to express themselves, or a reflection of their own thoughts.”
Anyabwele recently created a blog post to highlight 10 black-owned businesses in Tallahassee.
However, Daniels said that social media is not only a platform for young people. Many older black people are using social media for political activism.
But there is a downside to social media activism. Just like in the 1960s, many black activist groups have reported that police organizations have monitored their online activity.
“Social media sites make it extremely easy for state and police surveillance of organizers, activists and our communities and work overtime to disrupt organizing efforts. It is used as a tool to monitor, disrupt, and incriminate us,” said Daniels.
She said this requires activist groups to be careful about how much they share online.
“In this day and age of normalized state surveillance and the newly coined termed black identity extremist being used by the FBI to target and track racial justice activists; we must be diligent in being aware of the information we are sharing in public digital spaces and keeping one another other safe,” Daniels said.