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Twitter, Power, Respect

August 15, 2013

Yesterday, Russell Simmons tweeted a parody video of Harriett Tubman having sex with a slave master, saying it was one of the funniest things he’s seen. The video was a launch for one of Simmons’ new media ventures. Shortly after midnight this morning the video was taken down. What caused the video to come down less than 24 hours after it was posted?


The twitterverse erupted in response to video. Rebuke of Russell Simmons (Twitter handle: @UncleRUSH) was swift and harsh. Black women led the way. People like Blair Kelley (@profblmkelley), April Davis (@April_Davis), Loryn Wilson (@elle_dub1920), and Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) went IN and made sure people knew that video was unacceptable and why. They pointed out how the video trivializes the anguish and suffering that black women went through during slavery and today. Not only was the video a booster of rape culture, but it degraded one of greatest heroes in history, someone who literally risked her life and her body time and again for the liberation of black people.

The brothers were sparse but not entirely absent. Davey D (@mrdaveyd) and T. Brown (@TheBlackVoice) represented in calling out Russell Simmons.

And then Roland Martin (@rolandsmartin) and Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) showed up.

From then on it was an all-out barrage on the destructiveness of this video. Tweeters didn’t just comment, they took action in voting down the video on YouTube, posting contact information for Simmons’ company that created the video, and even contacting actors from the film on Twitter and holding them accountable.

The power of #BlackTwitter has been on full display this week, from the now-infamous Simmons’ video to the conversations #solidarityisforwhitewomen and #blackpowerisforblackmen.

We are only just beginning to see the power of social media in our lives. We do not know what impact it will have in the future. What we do know is that #BlackTwitter is a force to be reckoned with.


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