After death Trayvon Martin, Black Twitter launched an online campaign in support of Martin and his family. As protests escalated, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood security volunteer who fatally shot Martin, was arrested, setting the stage for what will become the largest social justice movement of our time.
André Brock, author Distributed Blacks: African American Cyber Cultures: Many early adopters of Black technology were skeptical about Twitter’s capabilities. Even black people thought it was a frivolous place.
Tracy Clayton, podcast host Strong black legends: When the newness of the platform faded away, I think it was more like: okay, what do we do with our voices now that we have found them? The murder of Trayvon Martin happened when I first saw the potential of Black Twitter and the potential of Twitter to create real change offline.
Wesley Lowry, 60 minutes + correspondent: My first tweet about Trayvon Martin said, “Until a 17-year-old black boy can walk into any store in America to buy Skittles without getting shot, we can’t stop talking about racing.” This was one of the first times when I got used to the idea that I can say different things, and these messages can find like-minded people to participate in this dialogue, which was bigger than me.
Jamila Lemieux, Slate columnist: If not for Black Twitter, George Zimmerman would not have been arrested.
Clayton: I remember watching the trial on Twitter. I remember Rachel Jantelle testifying and my heart broke over the situation she was in. It was a great vehicle not only for social change, but also for healing – the ability to grieve, grieve and connect with people. Here’s what really changed my mind about what Twitter was created for. I think it used to be fun for me.
Naima Cochrane, music and culture journalist: This was probably the beginning of what we now call hashtag activism, if you want to call it that.
A year later, on August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown, who had graduated from high school a week earlier, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. He was shot six times.
Sarah J. Jackson, co-author #Hashtag Activism: Race and Gender Justice Networks: One of the very first tweets to use the word “Ferguson” – people didn’t even start using the hashtag #Ferguson, they just used that word – was from a young woman who was one of Michael Brown’s neighbors. She went to the doorstep, photographed and described what she saw. She didn’t have many followers. She was not an influencer. She was not an activist. She was just a member of the community.
Jonetta Elsie, St. Louis activist: I was running errands and I remember joking on Twitter. Then the woman writes to me. She said, “Netta, I just saw this photo float along my timeline. I think you should see this. “
April Reign, proponent of diversity and inclusion: I saw someone write something like, Damn, I think they just shot someone outside my window. And he posted a photo of Mike Brown’s lifeless body on the ground. I think he took a picture from the inside of his apartment.