A Revolutionary in the fight for Black Lives Matter online
Opal Tometi is a very inspiring woman of Nigerian descent and a major catalyst that led to the creation and formation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Her work in these past years has led and allowed for a rise of empowerment for African Americans never before seen since the 1960s despite everything seemingly against them. What she has done for the Black Lives Matter Movement has been indispensable and made a massive contribution to form BLM into what it is today – a nationwide movement with voices from every corner of the United States.
Up until recently, I was not that well acquainted with the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. That is, until I listened in to Opal Tometi’s NYU speech earlier this month. Shortly after, I desired to dig deeper and learn more about her. For all she has done for African Americans and her quest for true, racial and social equality, Opal Tometi, to say the least, deserves the respect as a co-founder to a movement that has directly changed an entire generation of Americans. Not just African-Americans, but also Latinos/Latinas, Asian Americans, and even Caucasians have been directly affected by the movement with many now joining in open arms in support or direct involvement (Day).
As said by Opal Tometi herself in an interview conducted by Oxford Union, the name for the movement, “Black Lives Matter” was all by chance, a complete contrast of what her goals were, which have proven to be planned to bring this country to a new age of open discourse and discussion that she had always dreamt of while as a young child growing up in Arizona (OxfordUnion). Upon deeper reading, it is true that Opal Tometi is not the sole founder, but one of three alongside Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors in response to the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his perpetrator, George Zimmerman back in 2013 (Black Lives Matter). Since then, thanks to Opal Tometi’s work in the social media aspects of the Black Lives Matter Movement by dubbing the use of #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM has allowed for the spread of the movement across the internet to all major platforms from Facebook to Instagram and even Tik Tok of all places.
Despite the large criticisms in the 21st century regarding the overuse of social media, it must be weighed in that the internet has become a prime source for not just information, but also fact checking and reference to source material, event dates, political discourse, and more. Ever since the 2012 election between then candidate Barack Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney, the internet had begun to take its form and shape when it came to politics (Wihbey). This is highly reminiscent of when televised presidential debates became a whole new trend in the United States when John F. Kennedy ran in the 1960 presidential election. As technology develops, we must find ways for our news sources and ways of obtaining information to evolve likewise and Black Lives Matter took this major opportunity to carry on what began as an online sensation that brought light to events and reports people may not have remotely heard of back in 2013. Since its inception 7 years ago, Black Lives Matter has managed to outlast other movements like Kony 2012 and the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement of 2014.
We should not only acknowledge what the Black Lives Matter movement has done as a group, but also how people like Opal Tometi not only make it possible, but to keep the movement more than just alive. BLM remaining alive is a mere understatement, but rather, it has strengthened and grown in a way that has allowed the movement to outlast the aforementioned movements and become larger than ever. Millions of people like myself have made their fair share of contributions by spreading news locally within our communities and sharing it abroad to across the country and beyond. Social media nowadays has become a major prime for news and has been vital to spread news that a conventional news outlet may not necessarily decide to report on. It has reached a point where we, the people, not need to be responsible for spreading information, but have been literally handed that capability. Black Lives Matter and the work of Opal Tometi have been a major part of revolutionizing social movements through the internet and social media and to not just realize, but also understand how far this has allowed the movement to reach the eyes and ears of any person with WiFi or mobile data and access to popular social media platforms.
Petitions are now signed via online, speeches viewable on YouTube, discussions on Instagram, information on Tik Tok, recent news from your area on someone’s Snapchat. BLM did what no other movement in the past 10 years could do – outlasting the Internet’s blackhole of “slacktivism” (Marton). Understanding how Black Lives Matter has managed to uphold and continue its capability to mobilize mass amounts of protestors and support in the upcoming years for social change and justice will be key to not only ensure its survivability and unity, but to reach a long desired and long term goal to take equality as a dream and make it a reality. The path we take will affect future generations for better or for worse based on what we do now. It will take many more years before justice may see the light, but it is a fight worth fighting for and one worth supporting in the time we live in. Only can continual support, an avoidance of slacktivism, and to keep remembering what it was that brought fellow supporters together to keep going can the goals of this movement become a dream of the past and transform into a reality of the present day.
“We created #BlackLivesMatter. We created a platform. We used our social media presence online in order to forward a conversation about what is taking place in black communities.”– Opal Tometi
Banks Carl. “Man holds up a Black Lives Matter flag”, unknown date, unsplash.com . Accessed 13 Oct. 2020
Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter, 2013-2020, blacklivesmatter.com/ . Accessed 15 Oct. 2020
Day, Elizabeth. “#BlackLivesMatter: the birth of a new civil rights movement”, News, 19 Jul. 2015, theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/19/blacklivesmatter-birth-civil-rights-movement . Accessed 13 Oct. 2020
Marton, Dorothy. “Do Online Movements Have Staying Power?”, Blog Posts, 13 Aug. 2019, whowhatwhy.org/2019/08/13/do-online-movements-have-staying-power/ . Accessed 16 Oct. 2020
OxfordUnion. BLM Founder, Opal Tometi | Full Q&A | Oxford Union Web Series. YouTube, 19 Sept. 2020, youtu.be/rEOK3VFGVoI . Accessed 9 Oct. 2020
Wihbey, John. “Effect of the Internet on politics: Research roundup” Politics, 15 Mar. 2013, journalistsresource.org/studies/politics/citizen-action/research-internet-effects-politics-key-studies/ . Accessed 16 Oct. 2020