A Love Letter to Black Twitter

by Brittany Dawson

2014 has been the year of Black Twitter. At first glance, Black Twitter is a refreshing comedic escape from a nation known for its racial inequality. Snarky comments, memes, and an impressive use of colloquiums routinely appropriated by an avaricious media are some of Black Twitter’s most prized treasures.

We’ve laughed together while live tweeting during VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta”, snickered at Lifetime’s horrendous Aaliyah biopic, and flooded the mentions of poor uninformed souls brave enough to attack Black Twitter. But in all seriousness, there is no denying Black Twitter is a bona fide, unfiltered voice of the African American community. Sure, viral hashtags like the revolutionary #BlackLivesMatter to the tongue and cheek #LifetimeBeLike have been proof of its prominence within and beyond cyberspace. However, at its core, Black Twitter is a welcoming public arena Black folks are allowed to be unapologetic about how we survive and cope in the United States and beyond, sparking worldwide action and conversation on and offline.

Without Black Twitter as a platform, where else can one engage with and share their perspectives of our community on such a large scale? And considering the current shape of mainstream media, who can we really trust to nurture and protect the fragile stories of our kin? The fear of narrative misappropriation drives the engine of mistrust between those who have an insider perspective to folks who seek to capitalize on our oppression. In any case, Black Twitter is a platform to flesh out—and subvert—these concerns.

Black Twitter vocalizes our stories, decentralizing Eurocentric underpinnings found in how our narratives are retold. Let me be clear: Black Twitter is not a monolith, for we all contribute to its malleable shape. While it seems to outsiders that Black Twitter is exclusive, take a look around popular culture: Society uses the voices of Black Twitter to gain insight into our experiences and what we find significant.

In celebration of what we’ve accomplished as a collective with multifaceted identities—and as 2014 morphs into 2015—let’s recapture Black Twitter’s finest moments, hashtags, and unquestionable impact.


Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Mike Brown. Tanesha Anderson. Mia Henderson. These are just some of the names of our slain kin. #BlackLivesMatter is more than a hashtag, it’s a revolutionary political, psychological, and physical movement deeply rooted in holding America accountable for treating Black lives as disposable bodies undeserving of life. #BlackLivesMatter: disjointing oppressive ideologies one protest at a time.

Azealia Banks vs. Iggy Azalea

Aside from expletive ridden tweets by both parties, there is something to be learned from the battle between Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea: an ongoing conversation on cultural appropriation and gimmicky artists who take a smothering affinity to Black culture. As seen in the music industry, White artists who’ve adopted so called “edgy” or “urban” personas (ex. Justin Bieber or Robin Thicke) blot out artists of color. Needless to say, Azealia Banks’ remarks are representative of Black Twitter’s amazing ability to read America to filth.


Hailing from Houston, Texas, 16 year old Jada survived a tragic assault which later turned viral after teens mocked her allegations when images of her naked and assaulted body were shared online. Thousands of users created their own posts, with the hashtags #IStandWithJada and #IAmJada to stand in solidarity. With the help of an online and real world community vested in seeking justice for Jada, two men were arrested in connection to the case.


VH1’s “Sorority Sisters” chronicles Atlanta based women from the well-known “Divine Nine” Black Greek Letter Organizations. Black Twitter barked against the negative portrayal of these sororities, prompting Carmex and Hallmark Cards to retract advertisements from the show. To Black Twitter’s dismay, “Sorority Sisters” isn’t expected to disappear anytime soon. In addition to calling out how the show mocks the influence and legacies of these organizations, Black Twitter addressed the elitist mindset some sororities project on non-lettered folk. Again, while “Sorority Sisters” is not emblematic of all BGLOs, a much-needed dialogue finally surfaced.


In spite of Lifetime’s purportedly horrendous casting for Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B and #LifetimeBeLike memes, Black Twitter’s response sparked a biting analysis on how Lifetime romanticized the relationship between R. Kelly and Aaliyah. As expected, Black Twitter gave Lifetime a must needed lesson on the dangers of normalizing R. Kelly’s predatory and abusive behavior. Whether you enjoyed Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B or chipped in for the social commentary, Black Twitter sparked a conversation on how mainstream media fetishizes older men’s obsession with young Black women.

Lincoln University President Takes Several Seats

Lincoln University President Robert R. Jennings made headlines in November after a misguided speech on telling female students how to prevent being raped went viral. Mr. Jennings’ comments ignited a flurry of rage, with many pointing out his blisteringly draconian beliefs that perpetuate rape culture’s survival. Robert R. Jennings issued an apology after resigning.


With the support of First Lady Michelle Obama, Diddy, Alicia Keys, and other recognizable figures, the twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls garnered an overwhelming response of positivity and urgency, capturing the significance of returning the 200+ kidnapped girls of Nigeria home from militant group Boko Haram. #BringBackOurGirls effortlessly shifted the focus from White missing and exploited children to people of color. Although the hashtag never claimed to bring our girls home overnight, at the very least, it sculpted an unavoidable exigency for Black lives locally and globally.


Remember when Vogue extolled 2014 as “The Era of Big Booty”, crediting Iggy Azalea for inciting such a shift? Or Marie Claire’s virtual ovation for Kendall Jenner’s “bold” cornrows? *sigh* Black Twitter fumed at Vogue’s ignorance. #VogueArticles uncovered how finicky mainstream media can be, drawing attention to its infatuation with Black culture. Exhaustive? Absolutely. But as long as Vogue and other eager appropriators follow in Columbus’ footsteps, these hashtags show no trace of slowing down.

GOP Staffer Silenced, Apologizes for Rude Remarks

*sigh part deux* I repeat: never underestimate the power of Black Twitter. When Elizabeth Lauten’s baseless comments scolding Malia and Sasha Obama on Facebook for supposedly wearing scantily clad attire at an event in the White House backfired, Lauten issued an apology: “After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents and re-reading my words online, I can see more clearly how hurtful my words were. Please know that these judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart. Furthermore, I'd like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience”. Lauten later resigned.

It has been a successful year for Black Twitter. There are a myriad of diverse, unapologetic voices from the vaults of Black Twitter deserving of recognition. Consider twitter users @JennMJack, @ProfessorCrunk, @FeministaJones, @JamilahLemieux, and @prisonculture who shamelessly provide poignant reflections on the state of Black America. Black Twitter remains an authoritative voice of the community.

Black Twitter, we thank you! 

Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Brittany Dawson is a regular contributor at For Harriet. She is a senior at the University of South Carolina who is passionate about equality, social justice, and education. You may follow her on Twitter: @BrittanyJDawson.

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