Thinking back, it really started with #OscarsSoWhite.
CBS Reports’ documentary “Black Twitter: The Twitterverse That Changed a Generation” streams live on Thursday (February 23) and explores the undeniable cultural significance and impact of those who are a part of this collective.
Cultural commentator and journalist Jemele Hill appears in the film and explains:
“I think Black Twitter started as more of a feeling, a communal feeling, whenever it was an issue that Black people cared about, whether it be something that was lighthearted or something that was more serious. We just decided to have a conversation, and we were having a conversation in front of every manner of person in this world on social media. So it became its own thing.”
In addition to discussing how Black Twitter fostered a vital sense of community, the documentary also shares how Black people pioneered hashtags that would become global movements. Comedian Kevin Fredericks, known on Twitter as @KevOnStage, recalls how #BlackLivesMatter went viral on Twitter in 2013 shortly after the killing of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman.
“Nah man, this kid was just going home. He had a hoodie on. And I remember when George Zimmerman was found not guilty, I was shocked. And my whole timeline was shocked,” he says. “It felt like almost a collective grieving period. … And then that grief turned into anger, sadness. Like, it was like being able to experience those emotions with like-minded people across the globe.”
In addition, April Reign appears in the film share how in 2015 #OscarsSoWhite was born out of the overwhelming whiteness of that year’s award nominations. “I was then late for work, so I went on to work. I checked in on Twitter around lunchtime, and based on that one tweet, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was trending around the world,” she remembers.
After the viral outrage, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made efforts to increase its diversity. In 2017, #MuteRKelly went viral and led to an outcry over the fallen R&B singer’s sex crimes and helped get his discography removed from various platforms.
These social movements are strong examples of not only how Black folks are endlessly creative, but6 also relentless when it comes to getting justice for causes that are important to them.