After Ferguson: using social media for social justice

Social media was buzzing with tweets and posts about the shooting of Michael Brown, the problems with police and the overall feeling of injustice for black people in America.

Capitalizing on that angst, about a dozen young leaders from a handful of organizations in the Atlanta area spawned a movement – hashtag included— that culminated with a massive rally and march in front of the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta. Organizers expected a few hundred people to participate; more than a thousand showed up.

“People were angry and frustrated and wanted to do something,” said Aurielle Lucier, 19, one of the organizers. “So many people in Atlanta were looking for action and there was none.”

Five days after Brown was killed in Ferguson, the small group of young Atlantans-turned-activists had organized a town hall meeting to discuss the issues. That was last Thursday. Four days and countless tweets, retweets, Facebook and Instagram posts later, it was time to march.

“Social media is a thing unto itself,” said Janetta Hill, another march organizer. Using the hashtag, #ItsBiggerThanU, the movement spread like wildfire. It’s been picked up and localized by a number of other cities and states, and Lucier has even been contacted by media in Turkey about the group’s work.

These days young adults like Hill and Lucier turn first to social media for their news – and not just about what’s happening in Ferguson.

“With Ferguson when the national media would report something one way, you could go on Twitter and Instagram and see pictures and video of what was really going on,” Lucier said. “Instead of getting filtered information from traditional news sources, social media shows you what’s going on in real time.”

But social media is fleeting. So before this outrage fizzles, Hill, Lucier and the other organizers are working to sustain the movement and translate the tweets and posts into meaningful action.