A click away from social activism

Social media makes causes more visible than ever

The University held the first Global Black Girlhood Conference last Friday and Saturday, bringing together students and scholars in a series of panels, lectures and a film screening. This conference was inspired by the History of Black Girlhood Network, a forum for the discussion and promotion of black girl history. One of the panels featured four political organizers, each of whom stressed the importance of permanent, structured movements in political change. In an age of social media and information technology, this type of structuring has become easier than ever.

Denise Oliver-Velez, a political organizer active in the 1960s with the Black Panthers, the Young Lords Party and other radical movements, said permanent change in the United States “comes through judicial and legal action. It’s very difficult to do that without organization.” For every cause, there must be a driving force. Social media creates a collective voice, making it an ideal space for organizing activism.

The University has recently witnessed students and members of the greater Charlottesville community come together. One such occasion was the rally against Trump’s immigration ban, in which students, local immigration activists and Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy all took part. The rally’s high turnout was all the more impressive given how quickly it was organized. Only hours after the immigration ban was passed, students received notice of the event. The efficiency of the event’s organization demonstrates the utility of social media in expanding a movement’s reach.

Oliver-Velez also said she was impressed by the Black Lives Matter movement, a decentralized cause which has gained traction largely through the use of social media platforms. BLM stemmed from one area and has now become a widespread and supported movement, and social media has contributed to that. The movement’s use of social media has made activism more accessible and visible.

Social media is valuable for activists because it expediently disseminates information and effectively unites people for a single cause. With a click of a button or a swipe of a finger, local news can become global news. Students who wish to actively engage in these movements should be aware of and utilize the tools at their literal fingertips. 

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