Black Lives DO Matter: The Important Voice of Young People

How social media has bolstered the black lives matter movement

by McKella Sylvester

What began as a simple hashtag by three black women frustrated by the killings of black men by white police officers has become a movement that has captured the attention of the 2016 presidential race.

It began with a Facebook posting in 2013 by Alicia Garza expressing anger about racial violence. It inspired Patrisse Cullors to create the Black Lives Matter hashtag and with help from Opal Tometi, the movement exploded on social media and attracted a new generation of young activists.


A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Iesha Evans, shown above, looks peacefully ahead of herself as two policeman in protest gear takes her into custody. (Credits to Jonathan Bachman)


“#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society,” according to the Black Lives Matter website. “It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”

The movement has been successful largely because online activism has become popular among a growing number of young people. Millennials and Generation Z have become spokespeople for their generation and have people listen to them.

Even the Presidential candidates are responding to that Black Lives Matter call to action. During the Democratic primary, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made it part of their campaign platforms. Republican candidate Donald Trump has given the ‘All Lives Matter’ response to protesters who showed up to his rallies.

The current popular movement has similarities to the civil rights movement. In the 1950s, a grass-roots movement was sparked in part by the death of Emmett Till in the Jim Crow South. The 14-year-old was killed and mutilated after allegedly flirting with a white woman.

The movement by young men and women of Till’s generation aimed to acquire basic human rights for black people. This is similar to what young people today in Black Lives Matter are doing in response to institutional racism and police brutality.

Today’s are generally more accepting of people, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. However, statistics show that teenagers believe there is a race problem in this country.

According to a 2015 study by Newsweek, 82 percent of American teenagers view racial discrimination as a problem for their generation. This is nearly double the findings in a 1966 Newsweek poll that found that 44 percent of American teens felt that way about race relations   at the height of the civil rights movement.

Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the country after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of the man charged with killing him, George Zimmerman.

After seeing the unjust court decision of Zimmerman being found innocent, I was completely disgusted and outraged,” said BLM member Kenyela Horn, an incoming senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and president of the Black Student Union.  “I was especially outraged at the fact that Trayvon Martin was only 17 years old when he was shot and killed after being racially profiled.”

Like the multiple waves of black liberation throughout history, Black Lives Matter has amassed a large following, primarily comprised of young people. What is so significant this time around, is the effect social media has on activism.

Social media, which is commonly used amongst young people, has also played a large role in how the media and the public engage with the reality of police violence. This has helped to  change the conversation surrounding race in America.



A group of white protesters stand up for black lives at a protest rally. (Credits to Nubian Planet)


Tumblr, for example, is a blogging platform popular amongst young people and has a prevalent activist community. Kamri Grose, 17, of Philadelphia, has a Tumblr blog that has recently become popular due to her acclaimed poem, ‘Not His Type.’

‘Not His Type’ discusses the harsh realities young black girls experience in the dating world. It explores the Eurocentric standards of beauty and stereotypes about black women.

“When I wrote my poem “Not His Type”, I honestly did not expect for it to get that big. I thought it would get around 10 notes and then it would just float around the internet. But when I got 13K notes on that poem along with 1.5K tumblr followers, I really realized that I was doing something right,” said Grose in an email interview.

With the success on social media, Grose’s online activism has found a way to appear in her day-to-day life.  “Any time we are given projects or essays I try to incorporate anything about black culture in it. I want my white classmates to know that I’m aware and conscious of their prejudice and racism every chance I get,” she said.

The reality of race relations for black American teenagers is harsh. A 2015 Newsweek study  reported that a staggering 91 percent of black youth said that racial discrimination is a problem for their generation. Approximately four in ten black adults strongly supported Black Lives Matter and were more inclined to do so than whites and Hispanics, according to a Gallup survey.

“Most people know me from my viral poem ‘Not His Type’, so I used the success from that poem as a platform to encourage black people,” Grose said.

Whatever side of the issue people find themselves, social media has likely played a part in forming their opinion.

Teenagers, says Horn, can “be the voice and bring up situations of injustice in other school clubs, voice opinions on social media and more. I believe these are the first steps, and they are important to becoming involved in the community and working to make a change in the world.”

Note: Thank you for reading this article. Unfortunately, since wordpress wants me to pay to upload video files, I’ve figured that it would be more worthwhile to post it on Youtube and give you the link for free. Enjoy!


Hugh Workshop Blog: Day 3 & 4

The past two days of the workshop were rather work-heavy and eventful. We had started on our digital projects in the computer lab and I gotta say, that video editing is more difficult than I thought it would be.

At first, I had trouble with the program available on the university computers, which was Windows Movie Maker. My prior experience in film editing included minor videos on iMovie for language and history classes.

But I persevered and managed to splice video and overlay transitions with audio with at least four minutes of footage. Of course, it isn’t completed yet and I would need edits on the footage and there is a lot of work to be done, but for now, I am proud with what I have so far.

I hope it saves. (crosses fingers and pray to the Lord)

On day 4 of the Boyd Workshop, we’d first visited this historical site in Red Bank, New Jersey and Asbury Park Press at around the same area.

All of the students and I met Roger Mumford, who was the real estate developer involved in the restoration of the T. Thomas Fortune House. T. Thomas Fortune was an influential black journalist who was incredibly progressive for his time. Fortune was born in 1856 and died in 1928 due to a tragic accident.


Pictured above is the T. Thomas Fortune House located in Red Bank, New Jersey. The restoration project has been approved by the council will start construction in 16 months.



Anyways, Fortune had set up the first black newspaper called the New York Age, and within this publication, he gave African-Americans a voice. This whole outing was very informative and I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of charismatic individuals about race relations in America and journalism.

Additionally we’d also taken a visit to Asbury Park Press and had dinner with the founder and CEO of Unheard Voices. The former having really good growth in online traffic in central Jersey on the local level and the latter growing an international following.

Touring Asbury and seeing a real life newsroom and production team was enlightening. And here, I was proud of how at my high school newspaper, The Fanscotian, would produce one issue a month and have an effective team of editors and staff writers.

Apparently Asbury has a separate design team for layout, separate layout editors, reporters, photographers, advertisement; and all of this is not for one publication but for numerous publications all around the Atlantic region.




All in all, I was impressed and I can see myself completing an internship there at either one of those places. Also, the advice I received from one of the executive editors at Asbury is priceless.


Check out the workshop’s official website!