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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