Twitter Power Volume II
I certainly hope that this year you have enjoyed one of the many movies that star black men and women as leading characters and no I do not mean a Will Smith movie. I am referring to movies like Moonlight, Fences, and Get Out. Movies about real life…with real characters. My fiancé and I could not wait to see another of these movies, Hidden Figures when it came out in theaters this past January. After the tumultuous election and all that it meant for race relations in this country I looked forward to learning about Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary. It was an incredible story about the brains behind getting to the moon…and the powerful black women who made it happen. What impacted me the most after watching that movie was how much work is still left to be done. A striking interaction took place between Kevin Costner’s character Al Harrison and Taraji P. Henson’s Katherine after she breaks down under the weight of the blatant racism she faced on a daily basis. In this moment she was standing in the center of a work room at NASA HQ drenched from the pouring rain outside. Al Harrison begins to chastise Katherine for her absence and is clearly frustrated. It is lost on Costner’s character that the reason for her absence is because at the time there’s only one bathroom designated for black people on the other side of NASA’s campus. I could not help but see this as today’s debate around #BlackLivesMatter. You have Taraji’s character representing the present day black woman pleading with white society, represented by the all white staff she’s surrounded by, to listen. To empathize with her, to notice her, to notice them. In a perfect world White America would react to the pleas of #BlackLivesMatter humanely instead of trying to label them as equivalent to the KKK. An idea so absurd it actually serves as another example of the inherent racism that plagues this country’s society still today. Costner’s Harrison reacts the way any person with a heart would and if you’ve not seen this movie yet, you’ll have to, I won’t spoil if for you. Let’s just hope that White America begins to take the stance Costner’s character does. At this point you’re probably wondering who I am discussing in this article. My desire to see the above described movie(s) began when I learned of the creator of #OscarsSoWhite. April’s (@reignofapril) timeline is a living testimony of what it’s like to harness your wisdom, passion, and energy and turn that into a cultural movement. Let me tell you how April is teaching, challenging, and empowering her followers with every tweet.
The hashtag created by April in 2015 after the nominees for the acting category were announced and not a single person of color was nominated. In an industry that is predominantly white it was not a surprise to see this scenario unfold. That’s sort of a problem considering the world’s demographic makeup. Black people made up only 3% of the academy’s membership. April proceeded to school her followers and any chauvinist who attempted to mansplain or whitesplain the issue to her. I’ve not witnessed April ever be anything but right. She was backed by hard facts packed with a punch as she provided information regarding the lopsided culture within the Academy. Her hashtag garnered wide praise for sparking the conversation that I would argue is why movies like the ones mentioned above received a shot at the mainstream success they received. I don’t mean to discount the hard work of those involved with the actual films, I only mean to shine a light on the thankless work April performs for the betterment of those around her. Her efforts laid the foundation of a debate that paved the way to actual changes and a concerted effort to make the Academy more representative. She also dispels this notion that black movies don’t sell…the not so distant history on this begs to differ. Like Propane Jane whom I discussed in Vol. 1 of this series, April has an ability to communicate to the masses, in particular to her younger followers like an adoring auntie. She even occasionally will entertain the bro who finds himself in the embarrassing situation of challenging her knowledge on certain issues. My favorite is the occasional law “expert” who stumbles into her mentions to find themselves debating with someone who has actually practiced law. It is always a learning experience and I enjoy every minute of it.
One thing I can say April has challenged me to do is be true to myself and to manifest my dreams and aspirations, regardless of ridicule. She often speaks to her followers and testifies to the times in her life where she made the decision, despite criticism, to go out and achieve her goals and worked diligently to make it happen. It was actually the tweet below that got me journalizing again, she tweeted while at the Nomadness Conference in September of last year.
It should be noted that I am well aware of the fact that April is communicating primarily to a black audience. My point in writing this series is to describe how people like April have shown their ability to help frame the conversation around racial anxieties in America. Her and others have taken to their social media accounts to tweet truth to power. This benefits all of us black, brown, and white. I stand as a testament to how her tweets can have a lasting impact on those who follow her and for those seeking justice and freedom for all of us.
April is also responsible for another hashtag #ReignyDayJobs. In an attempt to network people looking for work or employers looking for workers, the hashtag puts you in front of 80k users. This brings me to my final point about April and her ability to empower users who follow her. She backs up her challenge to her followers to reach for their dreams by also giving her followers a glimpse into her own journey. By following her own advice her followers have witnessed April’s message reach mainstream media outlets and she was recently profiled among other black women in Essence Magazine’s recent list of “100 Woke Women.” An empowering experience to see someone create a debate on twitter and from that become an inspiring role model for millions of people. I’m reminded daily the power that Twitter has to bring people together, either for the common good or the deplorably bad. April is a force for good and we are all better people because she shares her journey with us.
April started a movement to bring awareness to the misrepresentation experienced by black artist within the Hollywood film community just a couple of years ago. Since that time she has moved forward with an uplifting message of harnessing your passion, reaching for your dreams and creating possibilities for your fellow human. She provides factual analysis in a culture that is steeped in mistruths all while sharing her own journey of self-empowerment. Lastly and most importantly April uses her platform to raise others up, always sincere in her efforts, it’s no surprise she continues to be recognized for her activism. We have a lot of work to do White America, taking advice and guidance from people like April will empower us to fight the battle we for too long have been willfully blind to. Make efforts to change, to become better humans, and to help lift up the most vulnerable. Harness the power of twitter and other social media and seek out the truth, in today’s world that takes effort, don’t get caught being lazy, April will notice.