Elaine Brown

#BringBackOurGirls, #DontShoot, and #BlackLives Matter are three hashtags that have meant a great deal to the Black community in recent years, bringing light to the injustices carried out against our people not just in the United States, but around the world. There’s a good chance you’ve shared at least one of these hashtags on Twitter or Instagram to support the various movements, but did doing so make you an activist?

Former Black Panther Leader Elaine Brown would say no. Though the use of hashtags on social media to draw attention to social causes has led to the coining of the phrase “hashtag activism,” Brown says tweeting does not an activist make. In a recent interview she said:

“In the 1970s people were actually doing things. When you say activist today, I can’t figure out who these activist are supposed to be. They’re activist because they put something out on Twitter or they’re activist because they wrote a blog post. No, people were actually doing things…it wasn’t just a spirit it was actual action. We weren’t talking about how we need better housing we were actually building houses….people were transforming society in significant ways.

“Everyone was actively doing something. We weren’t speaking about it. We weren’t proselytizing. We were actually putting things into place that were concrete and that served the interest of everyone. That was the other big thing, we were really talking about the interest  of all human beings. As pedestrian as that may sound today, we don’t have such a movement today. We don’t have people based in the community — very few community-based organizations — where they’re actually effectively doing some work to make some change. They’re talking, they’re rallying, they’re protesting, they’re writing, but they’re not acting.”

Do you agree or beg to differ?

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  • Chazz A

    I respect Ms Brown and her contributions with the BPP, but this is no time to discredit the BLM by comparing past and present activism. I certainly don’t believe that a blogger sitting behind a computer is an activist. The fact is, that young people across the country are getting involved at all levels of the movement.
    The BLM movement is multi-faceted and if it takes a tweet or a hashtag to get them to put down their smart devices, turn off the TV and get involved, then so be it. We, as black people, are in the midst of an ethnic cleansing plan that was set in motion after the so-called freeing of our enslaved African ancestors. There is no time for “in-fighting” and sitting on the couch.

  • I loved her book a taste of power. but as far as her comments, I understand but also think that twitter hash tags could inspire someone to get out and do something, she should help mentor some of these activists instead of judging JMO.

  • D1Mind

    I swear to god the internet has made people less smart.

    It isn’t the hastag it is the actions behind it. The organizations, the goals, the agendas, the “plan of action”, the platform, the bylaws, the board of directors and so forth. And fundamentally it is about concrete results on the ground. That is how you judge any movement. Black folks in America or the world have never really had a successful movement including the integration movement which was not a black movement.

    People should really learn and study more about the history of struggle in America of course starting with the black struggle but all other struggle and learn what is really going on.

    That is another reason I don’t like using internet memes as a stand in for activism. Activate your brain with knowledge and your behind will follow.

  • Objection

    Is hashtag activism real activism?

    “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” We will never be able to count the number of black lives saved or changed because of Hashtag activism. I’m sure there have been a few police officers who have thought twice about shooting an unarmed black person because of Hashtag activism.

    I wouldn’t be surprise if a woman got the courage to report a rape because of Hashtag activism. People need to stop letting perfection be the enemy of good.

  • ♎Lauren♎

    I agree with her when she said hashtag activism isn’t true activism. Hashtags raises awareness, but the real work is in the streets. However to say there are no community based organizations doing work is a lie. Perhaps she should go find them. Oh and everybody’s grandmother wasn’t no damn freedom fighter! So stop acting like people were so committed back then. Somebody correct me on the exact number but less 10% Black people participated in Civil Rights Movement. Not much different now.