“I didn’t even know what I was doing was considered organizing until someone told me,” Johnetta “Netta” Elzie, a key Ferguson organizer, told the Atlantic.
On August 9, Johnetta Elzie (“Netta” for short) was on Twitter scrolling through her timeline when a friend tweeted her to tell her that a black teen, Michael Brown, had been killed near where she lived in St. Louis, and that his body was still lying on the ground.
There wasn’t much news about the shooting at first. “None of the local media stations were tweeting or talking about it,” Elzie says. So she began to look into it herself. Soon she was on the streets in Ferguson, near where she grew up. “I used to live right behind Canfield Green [where Michael Brown lived], and that street, I walked down it before when I was 11 or 12, in the middle of the street, because the sidewalks were raggedy then, and they’re raggedy now,” she said. “And we were able to make it home. And it just really hurt my feelings that on this day, this boy could not make it back to his Grandma’s house … His blood was so vivid on that road. The blood was just that deep.” She joined protests outside the police station, helped to organize donations and volunteers coming in from outside the city, and tweeted news and information from the growing marches.
Later she began to co-edit the newsletter Words Into Action with DeRay Mckesson, chronicling information about Michael Brown’s death, and then about other instances of police brutality across the country. They now have more than 14,000 subscribers. “I didn’t even know what I was doing was considered organizing until someone told me,” she said. “I didn’t know I was an activist until someone told me.”
Like many of those in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Elzie came into activism not through an organization or institution, but through Twitter. Many of those new activists and organizers, like Elzie, have been women. As a result, the visible leadership of Ferguson protest, in comparison to that of past civil-rights struggles, has been much less male. I talked to Elzie by phone about how women have been involved in the protests, and what that means for the movement.
Read more at the Atlantic
Photo: Black Lives Matter/Facebook