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Movement's Media Activity
A look into the Black Lives Matter movement's social media presence.
For the #BLM movement, social media has been a platform that has given structure and a place of gaining interest for the movement’s cause. The hashtag grew on social media following events that animated the Black communities throughout America. The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who shot Brown, the deaths of Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray, the deaths of two police officers in New York in December of 2014, a church shooting in Charleston in 2015, and initially the death of Eric Garner that correlates with the first use of the hashtag, all have shown large “spikes” in hashtag usage across social media. As a general platform, social media is used by all to share personal moments and to connect with other people, however behind the Black Lives Matter movement is purpose. A goal set in stone along with leadership and organization made through social media, has produced the validity of the movement and is a new concept to take a look at.
Though this movement takes some notes from prior social media movements (i.e. the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street), it heavily differs in terms of organization and goal. The movement is a loosely organized one (in terms of true leadership), though contains social media-active leaders who help to organize events and play as beacons of the movement’s purpose. For instance, Deray Mckesson, a Baltimore-native and former school administrator, has become one of the forefront leaders of #BLM. Beginning by recording what he witnessed in nearby Ferguson during the riots that followed the death of Michael Brown, Mckesson began to grow a large social media following that focused on his posts about the events in Ferguson. Following more events that ignited the movement, Mckesson began to become exclusively active in #BLM posting reports from others, his own media, and announcements of gatherings and .
Like Deray Mckesson, there were many others who reported from Ferguson in the summer of 2014 from their phones. Johnetta Elzie is reffered to as a “Day 1” for her posts surrounding Ferguson on the day Michael Brown was shot. Her documentation of the events that unfolded are alike to many others in form of video, photo, textual reporting, and other media that has built #BLM on social networks. In the protests that followed the shooting in Ferguson, Elzie became a popular source of the events that took place between the police and the protesters, spreading images of protesters, burned buildings, and new, emerging hashtags used to describe what was taking place. At the core Twitter acts as the main platform for the Black Lives Matter cause, though Elzie has also talked on using other networks like Tumblr and Instagram to share her images and reporting to the thousands who follow her. Social media figures like Mckesson and Elzie have provided reporting that we’ve only seen in this century along with the invention of social media. Phone cameras in your pocket have replaced SLR cameras hanging around your neck, screen touch keyboards for typewriters, and Twitter for newspapers. This time of emerging technology has provided individuals ways to connect to others around the world, and these leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement has shown its potential in terms of social justice and politics.
Along with active members, the Black Lives Matter movement also has an official site in which the movement acts as an organized body. On the site you can find certain mission statements and what their purpose is, for example “…#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society” and “We have put our sweat equity and love for Black people into creating a political project- taking the hashtag off of social media and into the streets.” Unlike previous social media movements, #BLM has been made into a determined and united cause with directed goals in mind. On the website, Black Lives Matter chapters can be found across the country from Seattle to New York, along with contact information, event schedules and planning, and an about page where the quotes above were found. Events such as the death of Michael Brown not only initially brought #BlackLivesMatter to social media prominence, they also have used such platforms as opportunities to make an official organization that can be heard in the streets, on the web, and within the courts. The individual support of many voices is powerful enough, however a singular voice that connects a mass amount of people at once is what really powers a social movement into creating change.
At an individual level and at an organizational one as well, you can see how social media effects the building of a social movement. The ability to share harsh, explicit, and truthful events is now at our fingerprints, and through these examples can be seen how it is put into action. The Black Lives Matter movement is a new phenomenon in which a concrete cause has been created through uses of Twitter and Instagram, and can only showcase what is to come when the call for the next movement is made.