I study a speech that Julian Bond gave at Bowling Green, in 1968:
“What will be needed, in addition to an experienced and agitating group of young activists, will be more than just the confluence of people of mutual interest and mutual concern coming together. What will be needed is what the great black man, Frederick Douglass, called for in another speech about 116 years ago. “It is not the light that is needed,” Douglass said. “but fire. It is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened, the conscience of the nation must be startled, the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed, its crimes against God and man must be denounced.”
If Bond wasn’t prophesying the Black Lives Matter movement, he came close. They are a group of agitating young activists, gaining experience by the moment. They have improved upon the mistakes of their predecessors, something Reynolds acknowledges by noting how BLM is offering more space for women and members of the LGBTQ spectrum.
Commentary: This is an excellent, well-rounded, thoughtful piece on the correlations between the original Civil Right Movement and today’s Black Lives Matter Movement. Capital-m-Movements in these cases with a bit of the varnish of time removed from the former, and perhaps a little hagiography on the current situation. This entire summer has seen me ruminating, starting in the spring about what Social Media Metrics and Social Justice Movements could learn from one another. That using simple optics, without complex understandings of how online work is intrinsically linked to tracking the analytics and data behind it, is dangerous.
The current piece being researched and about to be published in September is about many of the movement’s current trends, failings, and despite a “decentralized” leadership philosophy it is failing in exactly the same way the previous ones have. We didn’t have Big Data measurement tools in the sixties, you had to rely on oral histories, entrenched racist institutions, and the media to record it or validate it. If as Deray has said this is about telling our stories, then I wish there was a little more behind that statement than a few tweets, pictures, or live feeds. The erasure is happening right now, and it has an alacrity equal to Snapchat/Periscope and strangely these latest initiatives show me that the “leaders” of the BLM, their boards, and others are being swayed by vanity metrics of their social media posts, the media darling status, and are obscuring that for real movement-building work. They are not consulting the analytics, and that is a condemnation in and of itself. Because you best believe the people & news outlets behind the opposition are.
Wishing Vann R. Newkirk II all the success with this article getting seen by loads of people, and his new venture Seven Scribes as this article in itself embodies the promise, both he as a writer, and his platform holds. Let’s also hope that this conversation can be facilitated in a way that bridges both past & present into a future that actually uses the technology at hand. If Telephone Trees were the prime locus to the original CRM, then Twitter is that at present. Putting bodies in the street, getting legislation passed, not just more rhetoric from candidates and talking points, but actual policy changes is a vastly different animal.
They better not only follow the money, but follow the data if they want this to be a true 21st Century Revolution that makes it into the history books as more than a footnote.