What happens when activism becomes cool? Profitable? In a world driven by consumerism it seems almost necessary to integrate something like Black Liberation into the culture – as something that can be accessed, understood, bought, and enjoyed by most- to create sustainable change.

In some form or fashion, activism – and more specifically conversation and emphasis on the Movement for Black Lives – is making its way into popular culture, but at what cost? Will this create the necessary space for equity to become a possibility and thrive or are we at risk at watering down, and ultimately drowning out, the importance behind conversations and actions combatting racism?

From t-shirts to TV shows, there are more visible statements being made about racism against Black people in America. Social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr have made the sharing of positive messages around Blackness more prevalent and accessible, creating communities of Black people loving each other and spreading that love. Blackness is becoming a fixture in arts and entertainment as our culture pushes forward the necessity of this arena reflecting the world that influences it.

Outside of the mediums that express the sentiments and experiences around Blackness, there are people influenced by those expressions, opening up lanes in which it could actually be considered “cool” to be socially aware.

I remember when my generation was referred to as apathetic, yet here we are insisting that being “woke” is an important and integral part of our lifestyles and identities. Now we admire and encourage celebrities when they use their platforms to speak on injustices and publicly chastise the celebrities that don’t.

My generation has the power to push values that will shape the world we will be living in 10-20 years from now. We see it every time someone fires off a racist Tweet or Facebook post and is subsequently fired from their job. If your brand or project isn’t promoting diversity, we won’t support it financially and we’ll make sure that others also refrain from supporting as well.

This doesn’t mean that all expressions of activism are real or genuine. Since the rise of the Movement for Black Lives I’ve been skeptical of who, how, and why we talk about Black Liberation especially when it comes to media coverage and inclusion in programming. Similar questions are raised by me when it comes to activism’s fold into popular culture: is this moving an agenda forward that will ultimately improve society and culture or is it all just click bait?

A look at how activism by generations before us in the 1960’s and 1970’s shows that there were definitely some political victories, relatively speaking given the time periods, but those generations didn’t have the same resources or technology we have now. With the ability to spread messages and build community around similar ideologies, it is only a matter of time that the voice of the “minority” is loud enough to proclaim and be recognized as that of the true majority.

Is it realistic to think that all we need are more Black people on TV and being widely integrated into every aspect of society and our American Utopia will emerge? Probably not. But it does leave me somewhat optimistic to think things can indeed change for the better.

I might not be around to see it, but that doesn’t mean the change won’t be felt. On the flip side, we’ve seen how cyclical it seems activism can be; culture and society amplify what’s popular at a given moment and what’s popular then becomes a regular facet of society resulting in the message behind a movement becoming dull to a people that have become desensitized to something they are so familiar with.

I don’t know what the next 5 years of conversation and work look like around Black Liberation, but I see how uplifted my community is right now and I believe that can only do more good on a large scale.


Photo: Flickr/Johnny Silvercloud

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