According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of American adults own a cell phone and 42% of them identify their cell phone as a smartphone. These numbers say a lot about the trajectory of technology and social media usage. As a grassroots organizer working with diasporic communities, it is smart to pay attention to these trends since the Pew Research Center goes on to say smartphone use is highest among the affluent, well-educated, those under the age of 45 and people of color. Not only can smartphone Apps be a great tool to reach your desired audience, it can also be a wonderful way to raise funds and recruit volunteers. In this series, I explore useful Apps for community organizers, scholars, teachers, artists and students who have a particular interest in the African diaspora. If you have any suggestions for Apps I should feature, let me know in the comments!
Paying homage to our ancestors is rooted in ancient traditions from Africa, where religions such as Yoruba and Lugbara called on those who came before us to help guide our path through our earthly existence. With the advent of the Internet and social media, people have been discovering ways to create digital time capsules and honoring our past. Dwayne Rodgers, a photographer and artist based in New York City has decided to draw on these traditions. This past Black History Month, he began The Black Vernacular, a communal ancestral shrine for people of African descent.
Happy Women’s History Month! Black women from throughout the diaspora have made significant contributions to Black Studies. Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a poet, essayist and activist who created a number of ground-breaking ideas about the relationship between race, class, gender and sexuality. Her most well-known quote comes from her classic collection of essays, Sister Outsider: “…the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” Lorde believed that activists of color needed to address all forms of oppression rather than seek inclusion into the elite for members of their particular group. She also advocated for radical political and cultural changes that would equalize power relations in our society.
Theory: (noun) a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.
Action: (noun) the process or state of acting or being active; something being done or performed, and act or deed; an act that one consciously wills that may be characterized by physical or mental activity
Yesterday morning, I woke up to a phenomenon. My entire twitter timeline was flooded with #KONY2012, which I initially thought meant King of New York. When I finally reached a desktop computer, I got the chance to see what all the fuss was about. Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – which was based in Uganda some years ago – is the subject of the latest documentary by Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children. Through genius viral social media marketing, the short video went from having 30 hits on Monday, to over 36 million views by Thursday afternoon. The point of the film, according to Russell, is to make Joseph Kony “famous” the same way celebrities are famous. He hopes that in doing this, he’ll garner the attention of the International Courts and bring Kony to justice. The video, which is roughly 30 minutes long and quite emotional, focuses on the story of Jacob. As a young Ugandan boy, Jacob was captured by the LRA and forced to fight for Joseph Kony’s vaguely Christian agenda to maintain control in Uganda. The Kony 2012 Campaign relies on our emotions to generate sympathy for these young children. It’s important to take a critical look at these tactics.
As a grassroots organizer, there are many opportunities we can take advantage of in the digital world but sometimes it’s easy to get confused, lost or irritated. As someone who has navigated aspects of this world, I’ve found a few strategies for using media as a tool for community organizing. Here are my top 6 suggestions for cultivating awareness and engagement in the digital sphere.
Stories live forever, storytellers don’t.
-Patricia Stephens Due
I was not familiar with Patricia Stephens Due until I recently stumbled across an old interview with her on NPR. Growing up, most of what I learned about the Civil Rights Movement was about the work of Dr. King and the March on Washington. In school I didn’t learn a lot about the everyday women who helped the movement that changed our country and resonated among Africans around the world.
A few days ago, an old friend from London came to New York for a visit. Cora’s trip was brief, but we managed to sneak in a dinner and catch up since our last lunch date 4 years ago. After chatting about the usual things–school, family, love–I asked her to fill me in on her experiences with the London Riots that swept the country for 4 days last August. She had much to say, but one thing stood out:
It was a really beautiful thing. This guy was shot by the police, and I mean, I know here in the US that type of thing happens all the time, it’s common. But in London, it started something.
I sat there quietly listening to the rest of her description of the riots, but I couldn’t move past her statement that state-sanctioned violence toward a person of color “is common” in the United States. Unfortunately she was right, and the past year has done nothing to suggest that this is changing.
On a recent, very brief trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, I was not surprised to experience the high quality of respect given to the memory of Bob Marley. Anything less would have been disappointing. However, as a lifetime follower of Marley, this trip highlighted a pattern much of the world is guilty of—pigeonholing Bob Marley as nothing more than a reggae artist and—thus losing sight of his revolutionary spirit.