When Your Tweet About A Gospel Preacher’s Homophobic Rant Gets Famous

When tweets go viral — by getting picked up by media outlets or becoming memes — the content creators often go unnamed, and don’t receive any exposure for their broader work, or glory for the brilliance that landed them so much attention in the first place. “As Seen On Social Media” is a new interview series by the Establishment that gives a platform to the people behind the tweets.

Last week, freelance graphic designer Mark Taitt, aka @ithinkmark, snapped off a quick tweet in response to gospel preacher and radio host Kim Burrell’s homophobic tirade — excuse me, “sermon” — about how queer people are “perverted.”

Joining a growing fray of angry dissent, he tweeted:

Little did he know that the tweet would soon gain notoriety, after being dropped into a video by Page Six about Twitter’s “rage” in response to the sermon. Taitt’s tweet was lifted without his knowledge or permission. In fact, he was completely unaware of the Page Six video until another Twitter user brought it to his attention. In lieu of compensation for his words, Mark tweeted at Page Six requesting an opportunity to work on their social media team.

He has yet to receive a response.

I caught up with Taitt to discuss the Burrell rant, why he doesn’t want to give up on Twitter despite its perils, and the enduring issue of mainstream outlets appropriating the work of people of color.

Give us a quick bit of background about yourself.

Professionally, I’m a Brooklyn-born graphic designer who works with different businesses to create or revamp their brand identity. I think of myself as a developer of ideas, pulling concepts from thin air into reality. I find a lot of joy in working with people to develop their ideas into profitable businesses. It’s incredible. In my down time, I tweet, eat, play video games, and make Spotify playlists [he has good taste, check them out].

Another Twitter user brought it to your attention that Page Six used your tweet for their video. What was your initial reaction?

Can’t lie, my initial reaction (on the inside) is always “OOOUUU,” but after a moment I started thinking about the fact that something that I’ve said was used in a publication that helped get someone else paid. Now, I’m not someone who’s money hungry or out for attention, but I was always taught that you should at least ask for something before you use it for your benefit.

I feel strongly about intellectual property and know that there are appropriate ways to go about using thoughts and ideas that may not belong to you to illustrate your point. Additionally, it’s time online publications take the extra step of ASKING people before they just use something someone said.

‘It’s time online publications take the extra step of ASKING people before they just use something someone said.’

Do you have anything else you’d like to say about the Kim Burrell situation (140 characters can be so limiting!)?

I think Kim Burrell has said everything she needs to say about herself with her raggedy, flat-footed behavior. Anyone who would record music with LGBTQ artists, perform on one of their shows, and accept money for it while ministering hate and intolerance in their own space (while being paid for that too) is a thief, a liar, and a bigot.

I noticed you also tweeted about there being a typo in the tweet Page Six pulled. Do you feel like it jeopardizes your brand when outlets re-distribute a tweet with a typo?

Eh, I don’t think it’s a big deal because it didn’t stop people from understanding what I was trying to say. I just hate looking back at something I wrote and seeing a word misspelled or the incorrect usage of punctuation because I know better than that. It just means I was typing too fast.

Mark Taitt

You said Page Six was not the first to use a tweet of yours without permission. When was the first time? Have you ever benefited, or maybe even been harmed, by an outlet using your tweet?

I don’t remember the first time, but it has happened to me a lot in my seven or eight years on Twitter. At this point, I’m used to it happening to me and a lot of my friends. Like I said before, I just wish people would ask before they take something I’ve said for their site.

I’ve benefitted A LOT from Twitter over the years. Funny story, my first year in grad school, I tweeted something funny about Rihanna — not even TO her — and she laughed and followed me and my account picked up at least 2K followers over the course of a few days.

This was before filtering, so it was kind of overwhelming, but from that I was able to connect with lots of new people on Twitter and Tumblr. To that end, I’ve gotten a lot of work, made connections with people I’ve admired FOREVER, and built some friendships with people that I treasure dearly. So it hasn’t been all bad.

There’s been a lot of discussion around young people of color (POC) content creators on social media having their content exploited by larger brands and being unable to benefit directly from their own work. What are your thoughts around that? What changes would you like to see happen? Is it even possible to protect your content in these situations?

This is why I love people like Freshalina from Crunk & Disorderly and the “Neck of the Woods” podcast. She talks a lot about creatives taking control of their content by cultivating their own voice through site and brand development. No one can say what you say the way you can say it. That is SO important.

While I don’t think you can stop something you created from being used by someone else online, I certainly do think you can try your best to hold them accountable by tweeting, DM’ing, and emailing them your thoughts.

It’s important to remember that as young POC creatives, we are the wave.

It’s also important to remember that as young POC creatives, we are the wave (cc: Future). We make the culture. Anything they take from us, we can always come up with something even more creative, funny, inventive, and powerful than we did before. So anytime someone “takes” from me, I know I can come up with something even better, AND I can find ways to make sure that people know it’s coming from me (i.e., by locking my tweets).

I know one suggestion was to stop creating on Twitter and use your own personal site. But it seems like you’ve got many supporters on Twitter and are a part of a community. Would it be difficult for you to leave that behind?

This is where the conundrum lies for me. It would be difficult because I love the interaction between myself and other people. Twitter is a great place to exchange ideas and have great conversations with people you may not be able to interact with offline. Like I said before, I’ve made some INCREDIBLE connections with people through that platform, so to leave that behind would be hard. I think a good alternative is locking your tweets. That’s been a great way in the past to keep my thoughts protected.

What are you working on right now? Any projects you’d like to promote?

Well, I’m a designer, so I’m always developing an idea or working on something. Right now, I’m developing a few things with a media company called Respect the Pound that’s focused on highlighting up-and-coming hip-hop artists. I’m helping them develop their brand strategy and with video editing and merchandise. It’s really great working with them!

Where can folks find you online (besides Twitter)?

For any prospective clients, they can get in contact with me at mark@thinkmark.net, and if they want to check out some of my work and credentials, they can visit my site: marktaitt.myportfolio.com.

If you’ve experienced social media appropriation personally or know someone who has, email getestablished@theestablishment.co with the subject line “As Seen on Social Media.”

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