Many years ago, my parents enrolled me in a camp near my childhood home. The children that attended the camp were mostly black with a sprinkling of Latinos. Besides the usual water gun fights, outdoor sports and movies – I learned something that summer. It was the goal of the camp organizers that every one of us campers learned the black national anthem. If you are African-American and you grew up in the states, you have probably heard or know by heart the black national anthem: Lift Every Voice. The camp counselors said it was important that we knew it because we come from greatness and should be proud of who we are.
All I knew back then was it was a beautiful song and it made me proud of my heritage. What I didn’t know is this song I hold dear is really a poem by James Weldon Johnson that was set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson in 1899. I, also learned that the very first performance was on Lincoln’s Birthday in 1900 sung by 500 children who attended the segregated Stanton School where James Weldon Johnson was Principal.
I found myself thinking of this song recently – as I took stock of the massacres of black men and cops that have marred almost every shred of optimism and hope I have for the people of the U.S. at the moment. It got me to thinking that while it is the official black national anthem; it is a song that every citizen of this country needs to hear and embrace.
The lyrics of the anthem goes as follows (note: this is the short version):
Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.
I won’t rehash what has gone on in this country in past two weeks, because I am not yet in an emotional place where it would be received well. Instead, I will draw everyone’s attention to the importance of speaking up when things have gone terribly wrong in the world. For as vocal as we have all become about everything from why the baristas at Starbucks can’t get your name right to the terrible service you’ve received at a restaurant – we are incredibly quiet and inconsistent on standing up for one another when injustice is plaguing one of our fellow citizens.
We raise hell if we sit on the tarmac for longer than five minutes during a flight takeoff. In some cases we take to airing our dirty, frivolous laundry out in hopes that onlookers will take pity and support us in our narcissistic moments of needing to be right in the court of “Facebook Friends” ( I really witnessed this recently). Insert hashtags, creative graphics and filters for an extra show of support for some of the world’s tragedies and you have in me a woman who is thoroughly fed up with the phenomenon of “social media activism”.
What is “Social Media Activism”?
It is when you meander from tragedy to tragedy (which often conveniently excludes tragic events that affect people of color) online with no real purpose. You will throw up a Facebook filter in support of a recent tragedy, because everyone else in your timeline did – yet you say nothing of value about the subject. It is creating a hashtag in outrage of a world event or tragedy, but the movement lives and dies on social media and never gets traction in real life. Moreover, it is when you lurk looking for opportunities online to force your political agenda, views and/or hatred for others, but you stand for nothing in real life.
None of this helps anyone if you don’t say something or even better do something when tragedy faces us as a society. I was asked in a recent interview if I worry about tackling controversial topics and whether or not it will impact business. I replied with a smile and said the following: “I am at a point in my business where I am happy to work with businesses with whom I have synergy. I don’t say anything that isn’t rooted in fact, so if they aren’t pleased with my approach they can always hire the next gal.”
While I have no desire to live in the pits of controversy day in and day out, I know that I have a following and influence. I also know that having influence puts you in a unique space to educate people and raise awareness. To be in that unique space, you need to have the courage to speak up for those who cannot or who would be otherwise ignored.
There are plenty other instances when we can laugh at absurd videos, marvel at babies and kittens and have fun while being social beings. 2016 is calling us to be more than the latest viral video or business tip we are discussing for the thousandth time. Speak up, add value, educate, collaborate with a social organization to raise awareness. Do something, but do not be silent.
Some more perspective…
I have two Caucasian friends who have been in communication with me since the killing ensued in early July and if I’m honest every killing of a black person prior to as well. Their words were kind, loving and supportive. When I say “lift every voice”, say something or do something, it doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor. It can be a simple text, email or phone call to show support or merely to listen and better understand why many of us are fed up. Just don’t be silent.
My way of doing something is to educate and speak out. I will be doing just that when I return to my Periscope.tv show Ask Czarina Live this Thursday night. I will be hosting “The Black Out” Show. It will be a show to educate and to have a civil conversation about what’s going on in this country. If you are up at 11pm EST and want to join in follow the instructions in my promo graphic. Let’s be better than what I see playing out online, in real life and in the news.