Celebrities and scholars, best-selling authors and everyday people are using their social media presence to lead the conversation on racial justice. Here are just a few of them spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and other platforms.
TikTok culture changer
With more than 562,000 followers and nearly 40 million likes, Erynn Chambers has become one of the most popular creators raising awareness of the Black experience and anti-Black racism on TikTok.Provided
In June, Erynn Chamberswatched a TikTok video from drag queen Online Kyne, talking about how statistics are manipulated to make it appear that Black Americans are more violent.
So the 28-year-old elementary school music teacher from North Carolina opened up TikTok and addedher own commentary, in song form.
Black neighborhoods are overpoliced, so of course they have higher rates of crime. And white perpetrators are undercharged, so of course they have lower rates of crime, she sang. And all those stupid stats that you keep using are operating offa small sample size. So shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up.
The video, labeled About yalls favorite statistics, blew up overnight. It was reposted again and again and has 2 million views.
It wasnt her only hit. Why is Rosa Parks the only black activist we learn about? also brought her attention as she examined how Parks came to be the face of the 1955-56 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott.
With more than 600,000 followers and 48million likes, Chambers has become one of the most important creators raising awareness of the Black experience and racism on TikTok, which has been criticized for promoting white voices over Black voices.
Chambers says shed been on TikTok for five years but spent more time watching videos than making them until the pandemic. The death of George Floyd got her to do more research into racial equity.
I never really set out for it to be this big thing, Chambers told USA TODAY. I certainly didnt expect to have a half million followers at any point in time.
Anti-racism activist Rachel CargleRachel Cargle
In 2017 at the Womens March in Washington, Rachel Cargle posed holdingprotest signs with friend and activist Dana Suchow in front of the U.S. Capitol. Cargles read: If You Dont Fight for All Women You Fight for No Women.
The photo went viral and so did Cargle.
An anti-racism activist and author of the upcoming book on feminism through the lens of race, I Dont Want Your Love and Light with The Dial, Cargle works outside academia as a public academic." Shetours the nation to give sold-outlectures. "The Start," for example, is a three-hour workshop on how to be an anti-racist.
"I teach from a platform from a frame of knowledge plus empathy plus action," Cargle told Cleveland 19'sSia Nyorkor."You have to have each of these things to be actively anti-racist."
Cargle also educates her followers, many of them white, on structural racism from a virtual public classroom on Instagram. Coursework includes understanding the intersecting inequalities of race, gender, class and other identities. In heronline learning collective, The Great Unlearn, supported through Patreon, students learn about race and history from historians and academicsof color.
"It's not enough to say, 'Oh, I know it's happening and I hope it gets better,'"Cargle told InStyle. "It's saying, 'I see you and I feel you and I understand, and I'm going to hold myself accountable.' That is what will move someone into action to say, 'I can no longer be complacent. I can no longer be silent. It's not enough to be not racist. I have to be actively anti-racist.'"
In her hometown of Akron, Ohio, Cargle is making a difference in the physical world witha pop-up,Elizabeths Bookshop & Writing Centre, to amplify literature"that has been written away from the pen of the white, cis, hetero man and gives us a new way to understand the world. And she's founderof the Loveland Foundation which offers free therapy to Black women and girls.
A voice ofsocial justice
John Legend plays the piano during a drive-in get out the vote rally in Philadelphia on Nov. 2.MICHAEL PEREZ, AP
Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of law enforcement, singer-songwriter and longtime social activist John Legend lent his soulful voice to the anti-racist struggle, offering a Twitter primer on the defund the police movement and campaigning for Florida voting rights with Camila Cabello.
And Legends Oscar-winning civil rights anthem Glory from the 2014 film Selma became part of the 2020 soundtrack when he performed it with Common in August at the virtual Democratic National Convention. For the inauguration of President Joe Biden, he gave his rendition of the Nina Simone classic"Feeling Good"in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
These killings made clear to the general public what Black folks already knew: Racism is real, it is ugly, and it is woven into the systems that govern our everyday lives, Legend said at the virtual FN Achievement Awards the Shoe Oscars in December.
With his organization #FreeAmerica, Legend is working to reform the criminal justice system and end mass incarceration.
As a teenager growing up in Ohio, I watched my mother deal with depression and drug abuse after my maternal grandmother a person who filled our whole family with lovepassed away, Legend told PEOPLE in 2016. My mothers addiction didnt just tear her life apart. It tore me and the rest of our family apart, too.
By amplifying the voices of those affected by the criminal justice system and those working to change it, #FreeAmerica is working to build thriving, just, and equitable communities, Legend says.
Artists have a rich tradition of activism. We have a unique opportunity to reach people where they are, beyond political divisions, borders, and silos, Legend said in a video recently after being recognized by the United Nations human rights agency for his social justice advocacy work. Its been my privilege to use my voice and my platform to advance the cause of equity and justice.
Actress, singer, trans lives activist
Peppermint emerged in 2020 as one of the most important voices in the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.
Tapping her following on social media, she brought greater awareness to violence against Black trans women and the broader Black trans community and to the relentless toll of racism, homophobia, misogyny and transphobia.
I think were on the precipice of some really great change, Peppermint told Entertainment Tonight. Were able to speak about race and misogyny and sexuality in a mainstream way that weve not been able to do in years past without being shunned or canceled.
Peppermint attending the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards in Newark, New Jersey.JEFF KRAVITZ, FILMMAGIC
The first trans woman to originate a leading role on Broadway in Head Over Heels, Peppermint rose to fame on RuPauls Drag Race, followed by performances on Pose, God Friended Me and Deputy.
She recently joined the national board of directors of advocacy group GLAAD and was nominated as outstanding music artist for"A Girl Like Me: Letters to My Lovers" inthe GLAAD Media Awards, which honors LGBTQ representation in media.
Im so thankful that the Black Lives Matter movement began after the murder of Trayvon Martin and continued with George Floyd, but what were not seeing is the same sort of energy when it comes to the women who have been killed: Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and many others, Peppermint told the Guardian.
Author, activist, internet yeller
Writer Ijeoma Oluo attends the 2018 The Root 100 gala at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on November 8, 2018, in New York City.JIM SPELLMAN, GETTY IMAGES
Ijeoma Oluo, who for years has been writing and speaking on race, saw interest in her work soar after Floyds death.Her 2018 book, So You Want to Talk about Race, catapulted her onto must-read lists.
The latest from this Seattle-based author, activist and self-described Internet yeller is a sign ofthe nations growing racial consciousness. "Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America" is about white male supremacy, which Oluocalls one of the most evil and insidious social constructs in Western history, from the violent takeover of indigenous lands and the genocide of native people to generations of trauma and loss from anti-Black racism.
The book title refers to the plea by writer Sarah Hagi in 2015: "Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.
This book illustrates clearly how this country must sustain the exploitation and oppression of Black people in order to protect white male power and white male mediocrity, Oluo told NBC News.
I want everyone who reads this book to see that we aren't just talking about a few bad dudes, we are talking about deliberately constructed identities and systems of power, she said. I want everyone to see what this costs us and to investigate how we each support these harmful norms and systems.
Writer, editor, cultural critic
Roxane Gay speaks onstage during the Hammer Museum's 17th Annual Gala In The Garden on October 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.PRESLEY ANN, GETTY IMAGES FOR HAMMER MUSEUM
Im a writer, editor, cultural critic, and sometimes podcaster, Roxane Gaytells USA TODAY.
And then some. Her trenchant insights on feminism, gender, race, sexuality and sexual violence have won her a large and loyal social media audience.
This year she launched a Substack newsletter, The Audacity, as well as The Audacious Book Club. Among the book clubs first picks from underrepresented American writers: Black Futures, edited by Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew; Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters; and The Removed by Brandon Hobson.
What makes her so popular is not just her searing memoir Hunger, or her best-selling nonfiction collection of essays, Bad Feminist, or her podcast, Hear to Slay. Or even that she was the first Black woman to write for Marvel Comicswith the Black Panther spinoff comic series World of Wakanda.
Shes an irresistible social media personality who also thinks and writes about fun things, as she puts it. Lighter fare includes her pop-culture likes and dislikes and adorable photos of her puppy in tiny clothing.
Then theres her inimitably good-natured shredding of critics. When one person tweeted at her Who cares what you think? she replied sweetly, You seem to care, dear heart.
Racial and economic justice activist
In June 2015, Bree Newsome Bass climbed a flagpole to remove the Confederate battle flag at a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C.BRUCE SMITH, AP
In June 2015, long before today's protests toppled monuments to Confederates, Bree Newsome Bassscaled a30-foot pole on the grounds of theSouth Carolina State House and removed the Confederate flag.
This nonviolent act of protest followed the massacreat Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, North Carolina. Eight Black parishioners and their pastor were killed by a white supremacist who posed with the Confederate flag.
When police ordered her down, she replied: "You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God."
In the following weeks, South Carolina removed the flag from the statehouse grounds andsome Southern states began taking down other symbols of racial oppression and terror.
Today Newsome Bass is a major figure in the struggle for racial and economic justice as an activist who organizes for housing rights. And her Twitter account is a one-woman racial injustice megaphone.
Everybody who didn't know is seeing America as it truly is right now. Can't provide resources for the pandemic but has all the resources at the ready to murder civilians in the street and teargas anyone who objects, she tweeted in May.
Anti-police brutality activist, writer, educator
Brittany Packnett Cunningham speaks onstage as Audible presents: "In Love and Struggle" at Audible's Minetta Lane Theater on February 29, 2020 in New York City.CRAIG BARRITT, GETTY IMAGES FOR AUDIBLE
In March 2015, President Barack Obama told Brittany Packnett Cunningham in a handwritten note that her voice would make a difference for years to come.
The elementary school teacher became a Ferguson Uprising activist and a member of Obamas policing task force after a white police officer killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, outside her hometown of St. Louis, in 2014.
Packnett Cunningham went on to co-found the anti-police-brutality platform Campaign Zero and the feminist media platform The Meteor and co-hosted the Pod Save The People podcast.
Whats your biggest flex of 2020? she recently asked her followers.
She had many of her own. Shes a cable news contributor, host of a new podcast, Undistracted, and a 2020 Fellow at Harvards Institute of Politics. Shes also writing a book and was on the cover of Vogue.
We want to build a group of people who are relentlessly undistracted who are focused on matters of intersectional justice, who are focused on leveraging all of their power toward that end, and who are committed to doing the work necessary, even when its difficult, Packnett Cunninghamtold W Magazine about her podcast.
Scholar, racist systems dismantler
Ibram X. Kendi visits Build to discuss the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You at Build Studio on March 10, 2020 in New York City.MICHAEL LOCCISANO, GETTY IMAGES
Less than a week after the 2016 election, Ibram X.Kendi,a 34-year-old assistant professor at the University of Florida, became the youngest author to win the National Book Award in nonfiction for Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.
Fast forward and today hes talked antiracism with Oprah Winfrey on her Apple TV+ show The Oprah Conversation and is considered one of the foremost anti-racism scholars.
The author of three New York Times bestsellers including 2019s How to be an Antiracist is not just writing about racism. As a Boston University humanities professor and founding director of that universitys Center for Antiracist Research, hes developing programs to dismantle it.
Coming out in February is Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, which he co-edited with historian Keisha Blain.
The heartbeat of racism itself has always been denial, and the sound of that heartbeat has always been Im not racist, Kendi, a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor, said in a recent TED interview. What I am trying to do with my work is to really get Americans to eliminate the concept of not racist from their vocabulary and realize, were either being racist or antiracist.
Best-selling author andProject Runway judge
Elaine Welteroth speaking at the Ms. Foundation 30th Annual Gloria Awards in 2018.MONICA SCHIPPER
George Floyd died 15 days after Elaine Welteroths wedding. She married musician Jonathan Singletary on their Brooklyn stoop, then threw a virtual block party.
It felt like one week we were dancing in the streets with our neighbors, many of whom are Black families that have been on our block for decades, and the next we were in the streets protesting, the bestselling author, Project Runway producer and judge andhost of "The Talk" on CBSsaid in People magazine.
When the first protest broke out in Brooklyn I remember saying immediately, I have to be out there. There wasn't even a question, said Welteroth, author of More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are No Matter What They Say. I needed to channel my outrage and my anger and my sadness with a community of people who were in mourning and ready to fight.
A former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, the youngest ever appointed at a Cond Nast publication in 2017, Welterothused her fashion industry influence to create "The 15 Percent Pledge." It calls on major retailers to devote a minimum of 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses and to increase representation in their workforces.
"Right now, we are at an inflection point in this country, shewrote on Instagram. What you say and do in this moment will be remembered as a reflection of the value you place on human life. Let the energy and focus of your fight be directed at a system that has enabled terrorism against Black people on our soil for generations. Times Up. This is a war for human life. Which side are you on?"
Published11:37 am UTC Feb. 2, 2021Updated7:23 pm UTC Feb. 2, 2021
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