On February 26, 2012, a young African American teenager by the name of Trayvon Martin was murdered in Sanford, Florida. This ignited a social movement in America to reconsider how our society discards black bodies and values black lives. A stream of high profile cases of police brutality that resulted in the deaths of unarmed black citizens fueled activists and concerned citizens to use digital media platforms to organize a call to action. Community activists protested in cities across the country in many ways. They physically marched the streets of their neighborhoods, picketed signs in front of their local municipalities, stopped traffic on bustling highways, but arguably the most impactful protest came from a placeless space, social media.
Though the statistical and historical evidence revolving police brutality, shows this is far from a novel issue, what brought the feet to the pavement and international demand for social justice? What is the difference from the era of Emmett Till, George Stinney, or Fred Hampton? What made millions care more than ever to proclaim, “Enough is enough!”. Simple, what is here now that was not around during the murders of Black Americans decades ago? Two words, social media. Twitter and Instagram, two of some of the top social media platforms in the world, played a major role in the new age of social media activism. Their platforms provided space for dialogue and organization surrounding the epidemic of murders and the disposal of black lives across the country. Scholars, activists, and the general public were able to exchange ideas, information, and historical context for real-time problems facing their communities.
It was in this space, that the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter created a network that grew into a force that demanded the attention of lawmakers to acknowledge their collective voice. This hashtag, this movement created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013, made history. It presented a new blueprint for social movements to share their message and content for the masses in real-time. Even the controversy and disapproval of the nonviolent social activist network that is shared on Twitter and Instagram creates further dialogue and attention to the matter.
Twitter and Instagram propelled the organization of the Black Lives Matter network. It will be interesting to dive deeper into the dialogue, organization, and historical context on these social media platforms during the network’s early years. For this semester’s print project, I propose analyzing the significance of the organization and dialogue surrounding the Black Lives Matter network on Twitter and Instagram. In turn, this project will connect the network’s presence on these social media platforms in the development of social media activism and datasets.