The History of the People in Black Twitter, Part Two

Rise, 2012-2016

after death From Trayvon Martin, Black Twitter launched an online campaign to support Martin and his family. As outrage mounts, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who murdered Martin, is arrested, laying the groundwork for what would become the largest social justice movement of our time.

Andre Brook, author of Distributor Black: African American Electronic Cultures: A lot of early Black technology users were really skeptical of what Twitter could do. Even the blacks were like, this isn’t a serious place.

Tracy Clayton, podcast host Strong black legends: Once the novelty of the platform wore off, I think it was more like, OK, what are we going to do with our votes now that we’ve found them? Trayvon Martin was killed when I first saw the potential of Black Twitter and the potential of Twitter to truly make a difference offline.

Wesley Lowry, 60 minutes + Reporter: My first tweet about Trayvon Martin said: “Until a 17-year-old black boy can walk into any store in America to buy Skittles without getting 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 those messages could find like-minded people to engage in this dialogue who was older than me.

Jamila Lemieux, Slate columnist: Without Black Twitter, George Zimmerman would not have been arrested.

Clayton: I remember watching the trial via Twitter. I remember watching Rachel Gantel’s testimony and my heart broke because of the situation she was in. It was a wonderful vehicle not only for social change but also for healing – the ability to mourn, grieve, and relate to people. This really changed my mind about the purpose of Twitter. I guess, for me, it was entertainment before.

Naima Cochran, music and culture journalist: This may have been the beginning of what we now consider hashtag activity, 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 murdered in Ferguson, Missouri. He was shot six times.

Sarah J Jackson, co-author of # Hashtag activity: Racial and Gender Justice Networks: One of the first tweets that used “Ferguson” – people didn’t even start using the hashtag #Ferguson, they were just using the word – was from a young woman who was one of Michael Brown’s neighbors. She went out on her doorstep, took a picture, and described what she saw. She didn’t have many followers. It was not impressive. She was not active. She was just a member of the community.

Junita Elsie, St. Louis activist: I was off errands, and I remember being on Twitter making jokes. Then a woman DMs me. She was like, “Nita, I just saw this picture floating in my timeline. I think you should see it.”

April Reign, advocate of diversity and inclusion: I saw someone post something like, Damn, I think they shot someone outside my window. And he posted a picture of Mike Brown’s lifeless body on the floor. I think he took the photo from inside his apartment.

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