Monday Notes: Social Media Activism &…

Trayvon Martin was shot on February 26, 2012. Over a year later, Jamie Foxx appeared at the BET Awards in a red t-shirt with the slain teenager’s hooded face. I thought his silent statement was brilliant, so I ordered one and wore it around Jacksonville, hoping to raise awareness and concern about the case. Two weeks later, his murderer was found not guilty of any charges. I tucked my folded t-shirt away and deemed wearing it ineffectual.

Then, Mike Brown was killed by a police officer and left to rot in the street on August 9, 2014. #BlackLivesMatter was active and I’d begun using it, in addition to #MichaelBrown. But the grand jury decided not to indict the officer.

A little over a year passed and Tamir Rice was gunned down by a police officer in a Cleveland park. I created a social media posts and included #BlackLivesMatter and #TamirRice. Later, I found out that Laquan McDonald was killed by a Chicago police officer around the same time, but the video wasn’t released. More posts. More hashtags.

The murders and associated hashtags rolled out quicker than I could grieve: #SayHerName, #JusticeForSandraBland, #BaltimoreUprising, #FreddieGray, #JamarClark, #PhilandoCastile occurred faster than I could post. And I began to wonder if hashtagging was enough. I mean, unarmed black people continued to be murdered whether I tweeted my anger or not.

So, I stopped.

Last month, a video of two white Georgia men seemingly hunting down a black, male jogger surfaced three months after the incident. #AhmaudArbery became popular, and because his birthday was May 8th, supporters ran 2.23 miles and posted #IRunWithAhmaudArbery. 

Similar to when I wore my red t-shirt to raise awareness about Trayvon Martin eight years ago, I scrolled and wondered if this was enough to effect change. *Wouldn’t it be just a matter of time before another defenseless black person was killed?

But, what more could I do?

That’s when I asked my sister, Celeste Smith, co-founder of 1Hood Media and social justice activist to help me understand what would be impactful beyond posting a pithy saying and a hashtag.

Smith is an advocate of social media activism, but she agreed to provide additional ways that we can all be more active in our communities.

Vote, especially in local elections. Smith says voting is important. I mean we all saw what happened when African Americans rallied around one candidate for the 2008 and 2012 presidential election but voting for president isn’t the only office that’s imperative for our livelihood. Every aspect of American life is, in some way, shaped and governed by who represents us senatorially, congressionally, statewide, and locally. Who becomes sheriff and who is elected judge is important, especially when they are racist, anti-black, or represent racist ideals and can dictate how black citizens are policed.

Unify. Organize with likeminded individuals. Smith says, “Our greatest strength is our unity.” Organizations can be international, like Black Lives Matter, national, like the Players Coalition, or locally affiliated, such as the Color of Change in your city. Check the organization’s About page to see if it is aligned with your own core values. Organizations such as the ones listed are constantly and consistently supporting issues important for communities of black people. If this is where your interests lie, then there’s a place for you to help.

Support local activists. “You don’t have to be on the front line,” says Smith. “That ain’t everybody’s mission.” If you’re aware of an activist group in your area, then reach out to them online. Many times, their website lists ways that you can help. For example, Color of Change in my city is hosting an event to help “women returning to society from incarceration.” They are soliciting people who’d like to be a part of the host committee and all I have to do is complete a form. Perhaps, you don’t have time to devote in person. Smith says we should consider donating money or supplies or watching activists’ children. Connect with them and see what the activist needs.

While social media activism has its merits, such as garnering widespread awareness in a short amount of time, it is also important to be active in the in-between spaces. Voting, unifying, and supporting local activists are three ways to be involved before there’s an issue.

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*I wrote this and planned to submit it to another platform a week before George Floyd was killed but held off and wrote Fire, instead. These days, I literally cannot write fast enough to inspire change.

#Justice for Tamir Rice

IMG_3486Whenever I wear this shirt, you should see the looks that I get. People gaze in amazement as if my name is George Zimmerman and I stood my ground against Trayvon Martin. They stare, eyes fixated on the word.

Justice.

My dad saw me in this shirt and he just laughed. He understood.

“They probably look at you and say Justice, What?” He was right. That’s exactly what my father-in-law asked.

“Justice?” He questioned with his hands outstretched and face bewildered.

It’s justice for anyone. Justice for everyone. But no one else has asked. Instead, people glance and do double-takes, as if my name is Michael Dunn and I just murdered Jordan Davis, an unarmed Black boy who wouldn’t turn his music down.

Justice.

People peer at the shirt as if the letters will change before their eyes. Maybe it reads Just ice, I imagine they’re thinking. But they never ask. Mostly, they gawk, like I was the cop who gunned down 12 year-old Tamir Rice on that cold Cleveland day. They whisper to their significant others as if I was the officer who shot Laquan McDonald 16 times in the middle of a Chicago street. Their glances speak volumes, as if it was me who kneeled on Eric Garner’s back and choked him to death on a New York city sidewalk. They glare at me as if I know what happened to Freddie Gray or Sandra Bland, two citizens found dead in police custody in Baltimore and Texas, respectively.

Justice.

Accusatory eyes wonder if I assassinated John Crawford in the middle of WalMart as he shopped. Maybe they believe I know why Michael Brown was not only executed, but also left to rot in the sweltering Ferguson heat.

And I want to say, don’t look at me. I’m just wearing a T-shirt that shows what we all want. A T-shirt that reminds everyone what every American citizen is supposed to have.

Justice for Jamar Clark.

Justice.