Social Media Activism


Meet the Woman Behind #BlackLivesMatter—The Hashtag That Became a Civil Rights Movement (

““When we began, #BlackLivesMatter was a series of social media platforms that connected people online to take action together offline,” says Garza. At the time, the three women were involved in Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD). Access to that national network helped their message spread quickly, and soon activist organizations across the country were using #BlackLivesMatter to shine light on underreported incidents of black people being attacked or killed by police.

“Now, more than three years after the death of Trayvon Martin, the phrase has become a rallying cry for a new wave of resistance in places like Ferguson; Staten Island, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland, after the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. And it’s more than a hashtag—it’s a civil rights movement.

A Herstory of #BlackLivesMatter


(some additional historical context and etc – optional further reading:


Twitter page:


Our new website will include comprehensive information about who our organization is and what we do.  Users will be able to search for local chapters, lend your voice to our national platform, find resources, writings, media, and more.  We look forward to hearing your voice about the work of the #BlackLivesMatter Organized Network.

Questions for Writing and Discussion:

BLM article + Twitter sites: how can we talk about voice, the personal story as socially relevant/instructive, the individual and society? What is the relationship between the individual Tweets, the Twitter site pages, and the larger civil rights movement in its various manifestations? How is writing, articulation, dissemination important here? What are some of the challenges and/or advantages of social media/online media?

What about genre? How can we talk about language (kinds used, tone, vocabulary, etc.), purpose, and audience on the Twitter sites? How are we to read and make sense of the millions of short posts that come in every shape and size of tone and perspective? How do the Twitter sites differ from the web site (and then in relation to Finch, below, in relation to blog posts or short articles for online publications?) Other examples of genre “conventions” in relation to purpose, audience, etc.?

Sam Dylan Finch

Amanda Bynes, Robin Williams, and the Spectacle of Mental Illness

“Yet the vast majority of press and articles surrounding Bynes’ mental state seems to ignore the stark reality of her struggle, and instead, opt to mock her erratic and unusual behavior. Rather than recognizing that she may have an illness, they have turned mental illness into a spectacle to watch, enjoy, and ridicule.

“Anyone who thinks an involuntary psychiatric hold is fun or amusing is horribly misguided. Anyone who thinks psychosis or paranoia is a walk in the park has clearly never been there. Anyone who thinks schizophrenia or bipolar is hilarious has never had their life devastated by these disorders.

“I have. And I can tell you – there’s no pain on earth quite like it.

“Anyone who has forgotten that Amanda Bynes is a human being first and foremost needs to step back, and do some serious soul-searching.

Visibility Matters: Why Sharing Our Stories Will Change the World

“As I write to you this week, I’m a writer with a blog that has readers from over 180 countries around the world, and 2.4 million page views this past week alone.

“Full-disclosure: I am just a weirdo, living in California, spending too much money at Trader Joe’s, adding too much sugar to my coffee, and hanging out with a pet chinchilla. Sometimes I microwave tortilla chips with shredded cheese and call it nachos. Sometimes I’m too lazy to untie my shoes and I slip them on instead. Sometimes I forget to return my library books.

“In other words, I am one person who in so many respects, is very ordinary, and probably a lot like you.

“But somehow, I managed to write something that touched people. When I posted the Amanda Bynes piece, your stories came pouring in, and I was set adrift in a sea of voices. Your courage, your strength, and your passion overwhelmed me. It became obvious that struggles with mental health truly reside in every community, in every corner of the world – and that there are so many powerful voices that are waiting to tell their stories, voices that are just as important as mine.

“And then I realized: If my voice could be heard around the world, just imagine for a moment what would happen if we ALL used our voices and shared our stories. Imagine the collective power we have when we choose to be vulnerable – when we take this narrative of shame and, standing in contradiction, we use our testimonies to rewrite the story.”

Questions for writing and discussion:

How can we talk about the personal story in relation to / or sparking discussion of contemporary issues, especially in terms of identity, ability, expression, recognition, respect…

Rhetorical Context: what is the importance or relevance of the historical moment?

      Content: Personal story as political action

      Form: Technology + language (resonance, tone, vocabulary etc.)

Audience?   Purpose?   *(original author intentions for these? And then what happens after it is out in the world?)

Reflection: after the original story goes viral, can we say more about purpose, audience, form, and content? What made this spread around the world? Why?

What about Finch’s follow-up article reflecting on the original? What points does he make? How is written reflection important to the process of thinking through some big issues here?

Finally… Does an article going viral create change? What kinds of effects can you see in the world from these above examples? How can we talk about the relation between social media activism and activism and change in the world?