Social media can either be a tool for abuse or a place for connecting. On March 6th, the latter took place, spreading across Tumblr, Instagram and twitter as a simple hashtag, #BlackOutDay, sparked positivity and encouragement.
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about race and race relations in the media and not much of it has been positive. Images of violence and abuse have come to the forefront of the conversation, with media and news outlets fueling the flames of ignorance and division through sensationalized racially charged headlines, not so cleverly disguised as “political discussions on race.” The news outlets are not doing anyone a favor by constantly shoveling out stories meant to enrage and further ignorance. And quite frankly, I’m sick of logging onto my Twitter page and seeing yet another story about the negative consequences of being black in America. There are so many positive ways we can look at our differences, without making it look like a game of chess.
Enter #BlackOutDay. On Friday, March 6th when I logged onto my Twitter, my timeline was flooded with images of self-love. What looked like just another batch of selfies to some, was a time of celebration to me. #BlackOutDay was a day to showcase the many different faces of black people. All too often, the media stereotypes black men, black women, black children and black families, forgetting that we are much more than what they show on TV. We are business people, educators, artists, intellectuals, students and so much more. And #BlackOutDay provided a platform to showcase just how amazing being black truly is. If you believe there’s no reason for such a thing, open a new tab and search the phrases “beautiful woman”, “beautiful man” and you will see what I see every single day. Images that tell me what is beautiful. I am so happy to have taken part in such a movement because I made some new friends in the process.
I wanted to know more about the movement, so I reached out to the people behind one of the most popular hashtags of March 6th (which was also covered by multiple news outlets including NBC, BuzzFeed, ABC and the Washington Post, just to name a few) to ask them about how this all began. Here’s what Marissa Rei, NuKirk and T’Von, the masterminds behind #BlackOutDay, had to say about it.
Jasmine: What is #BlackOutDay?
#BlackOutDay is the first of many days meant to uplift and showcase all the wonderful ways in which blackness manifests itself. We don’t get a lot of representation in the media and often times, what we do get is a uni-dimensional idea of what it means to be black. We wanted to encourage and uplift each other and display the nuances of blackness like never before.
Jasmine: Where did the inspiration come from?
I got inspired to propose Blackout day after thinking ‘Damn, I’m not seeing enough Black people on my dash’. When I proposed it, I thought people would think it was a good idea, but not actually go through with implementing it. -T’von
Jasmine: What social media platform did you start on?
We started on Tumblr because our primary audience was the Tumblr’s black user base, affectionately called “Black Tumblr”. We thought we could put the word out and get the movement going on Tumblr pretty easily. We never imagined it would grow so quickly.
Jasmine: How do you feel about the controversy surrounding #BlackOutDay? What would you say to those who say the movement is racist?
We expected the push back. From the moment the movement started taking off on Tumblr, there were counter-movements being organized. Many non-black Tumblr users misconstrued the purpose of the movement and understood self-love as automatic hatred for anyone not in the group. To those that say that the movement is racist, we would say that black people celebrating themselves and their uniqueness is not “racist” because in no way, shape, or form are we perpetrating oppression. In fact, a movement like this promotes liberation and positivity.
Jasmine: Why social media?
People tend to underestimate the power of social media and it’s role in activism. We started this through social media because that was how we were connected. Social media also has the power to connect people from all around the world very quickly and in real time.
Jasmine: What is the goal of #BlackOutDay?
Our goal is to continue celebrating the many different manifestations and nuances of blackness. Through monthly themes, open dialogue, and a selfie or two, we hope our participants showcase themselves and their talents and build a strong network of encouragement and support. We’ll also be working on how to best showcase the art and talents of our participants on our website.
Jasmine: Will every Friday be #BlackOutDay?
We actually plan to make the first Friday of every month a Blackout Day. Each month will have it’s own theme and we will seeking to open up dialogue about pertinent issues affecting our communities. The next Blackout is happening April 3rd and the theme is spring and Rebirth. We are currently working on themes for each month and want to make them as fun and inclusive as possible.
Jasmine: Did you expect it to catch on this quickly?
We had no clue that it would grow this big! When we discovered we were trending on all platforms, we were honored and excited to see what people were sharing.
Jasmine: What has been the most surprising part about the movement?
We’d have to say that the impact that it has had on people is the most surprising. We’re receiving messages in which black people from all walks of life have expressed their gratitude for such a positive and uplifting movement.
Jasmine: Is there anything you would like to add?
We’d like to give everyone encouragement. No matter how many retweets or re-blogs your BlackOut posts get, we care about you. If you struggled with, or continue to struggle with building enough confidence to participate, you are still important to us.
For more information about #Blackout you can follow them on the following social networks:
- Twitter: @theblackout2015
- Marissa: @MarissaRei1
- NuKirk: @nukirk
- T’von: @d_tvon
- Tumblr: theblackoutofficial
- Website: theblackout.org