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Blowing up on social media, news regarding the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM for short) has probably made its way to you already. Due to recent events involving police brutality, the BLM movement has been growing rapidly. Activism on social media is at an all-time high, with millions around the globe showing support in any way they can. The way we are now using social media for activism is really setting new precedents for how we act in times like these and react to what we’re both seeing and/or experiencing. In this article, we will take a deeper dive into the history of the Black Lives Matter movement, current events, and how those of us are utilizing social media to fight for justice.
Download our BLM Resource Guide to educate yourself.
1. What is Black Lives Matter?
While the BLM movement is growing and becoming more and more known nowadays, the movement has its own history and is nowhere near new. The Black Lives Matter movement began when the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was created in 2013 by three women – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. It was a result of the police officer who fatally shot African-American teen Trayvon Martin was ruled to be not guilty.
The movement in itself is mostly a collection of smaller movements, too, including movements such as the Black Youth Project 100 or the Dream Defenders. The BLM movement is known for its protests, such as the 2014 protests in Ferguson, which was somewhat of a catalyst to the movement. Although the movement and protests are largely based in America, other countries, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, have been taking a stand as well.
Thousands of people out to say #BlackLivesMatter in Geneva, Switzerland today.pic.twitter.com/AakdU3sxTJ
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) June 9, 2020
The BLM movement stands for racial equality and African-American citizens’ human rights. They believe in freedom and justice, wanting to end systematic racism. The movement has been powerful and constantly growing, but there was a huge surge in its popularity and growth recently. This directly followed the death of George Floyd, which caused public outrage and a demand for justice.
Ever since then, tons and tons of major protests have been taking place in big U.S. cities as well as other countries. The impact was incredible, as the Black Lives Matter movement made powerful waves. Not only did it dominate the media and news, but social media as well.
2. The BLM Movement’s Effects on Social Media
Although activism through the BLM movement has trended on social media sites in the past, it hasn’t been nearly as notable as it is now. Since June 3rd, the search results for the term “black lives matter” had a dramatic upward spike. Not only that, but #BlackLivesMatter and other related hashtags have been taking over the trending tab on Twitter for nearly a full week.
It also has been included in around 20 million Instagram posts and has gained over 8 billion views on TikTok videos that use the hashtag. In fact, many users of all three apps have seemed to postpone their regular posting, using the apps to spread important information, raise awareness, and gather together in support.
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Atatiana Jefferson. 28 years old, 28 minutes of color. Stolen on October 12th, 2019 in Forth Worth, TX. She was up late with her 8-year-old nephew playing video games. The officer was responding to a neighbor calling about her front door being open. I feel rushed as I create these pieces. I want to complete their portraits so badly. To be able to see all the layers of colors in their face come to life. I feel a strong sense of panic during the process, which is a feeling Black people experience far too often when engaging with police. The timer (which I cannot see) is always in the back of my mind. How much time is left? When will this be over? I need more time… They deserve more time. #stolenseriesbyab #atatianajefferson #justiceforatatiana #sayhername #sayhisname #saytheirnames #breonnataylor ##justiceforbre #georgefloyd #justiceforfloyd #ahmaudarbery #justiceforahmaud #blacklivesmatter #stopkillingus #nojusticenopeace #handsupdontshoot
An important part of gaining traction on social media is using hashtags, and there are many hashtags surrounding the BLM movement. This is very important in this case, as in-depth information in any form can be found by using one. Here are some of the most used Black Lives Matter hashtags.
Another popular hashtag/event was Blackout Tuesday, which involved social media users posting black squares as a moment of silence. However, this event came under fire, as it was drowning out information being spread in the main Black Lives Matter hashtags. #TheShowMustBePaused was actually the original hashtag/event, created by Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, meant to be more of a reflective moment to really think and converse about the true way to support the movement.
3. Activism on Social Media
There are many ways that we are seeing activism on social media come alive during recent events. People are banding together like never before to help out with the movement – and that’s why it has gotten so big. There are many different ways that others are taking action. Below are some ways how they are doing just that.
- Spreading information. This can take a variety of forms, such as sharing or creating videos, posts, or websites (such as Carrd) that contain facts and updates about the movement, live reports about protests, etc.
- Organizing protests. Social media users not only give insight into where the protests are taking place but also letting others know what to expect and tips for protesting.
- Signing petitions and circulating them. There are various petitions out there that call for action.
- Donating to BLM causes. Whether it’s to the victims’ families or to specific organizations, many donations have been hitting above the amount requested because of activists.
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-Just learned from @museummammy that in the US, up to 50% of people killed by the police are disabled. Source: @disabilityisdiversity -This is where defunding the police, or ‘moving the money,’ is of such importance. Police should not be first responders to calls that they are not experts in: mental health crisis, addiction-related issues, the homeless, the disabled, etc. -A great example @cleowade shared with me this week, 1 of 5 calls to 911 are for mental health crises; therefore, 1/5 of the funding for the police force should be transferred towards community mental-health support. Some noteworthy numbers via @campaignzero @iamderay @samswey: -There were only TWENTY SEVEN DAYS in 2019 where police DIDN’T KILL SOMEONE. (see graph) -Meanwhile, for the past 20 years, only 5% of arrests made are for violent crime. -levels of violent crime in US cities does NOT determine rate of police violence. (see graph) -Police violence resulting in death that does not include a gun is NOT included in regular press databases. — image via @jtknoxroxs — — data graphs via mappingpoliceviolence.org @samswey @iamderay @campaignzero —
As there are tons of people getting involved in activism through social media, celebrities and influencers have been advocating for it as well. Some have been attending protests, such as Ariana Grande and Halsey, while many others have been providing information and links, donating to BLM causes, and speaking out against the injustice.
There are even celebrities from other countries standing up as well. Some examples are British actor John Boyega, who gave a passionate speech in a protest in London, and Korean boy group BTS, who donated one million dollars to Black Lives Matter, inspiring their fans to do the same.
Black Lives Matter is a constantly changing movement. There’s intense significance in the way people are taking action at this moment, and things are changing because of it. People are fighting for that change to continue on and end the oppression that the black community has been facing. Updates and information are always circulating, so if you’re following the movement, continue to search for it.