How Young People and Celebrities Have Become Digital Protesters
by Lexi King-Shaw, Community Engagement Manager at LookUp LookUp’s Black Youth Matter campaign is about highlighting and amplifying the voices of black youth who are doing great work for the Black Lives Matter movement. One of LookUp’s key principles is that a movement affecting young people should be led by young people. The Black Lives Matter movement is no exception. As a millennial myself, watching the events of police brutality and senseless killings against black folks unfold on my timeline felt extremely personal. Initially, the pain felt overwhelming yet unfortunately familiar. This pain hits me every single time another black person is slain in such a horrific way by those who should be protecting and serving. In the wake of COVID and my personal situation, I felt I was grasping at a way to be able to protest while maintaining physical distance from others. I found comfort by the support of my own communities online, namely K-pop Twitter. I found an abundance of love and support online within the fandoms I follow. Inspired by other black youth who are organizing, marching, and protesting, I felt compelled to use what voice I had through my personal fan account as well as my professional role as Community Engagement Manager here at LookUp. In essence, I merged my two worlds. The political became the personal and professional. I moved beyond a retweet to make a tangible difference. This is the reality for many young people right now: if they don’t feel comfortable going out to live protests whether due to health concerns or immunocompromised family members, there’s still a way to protest online. Digital protest is a revolution in itself. Using my voice online proved to be quite powerful. Fandoms came together to drive out hateful hashtags such as #WhiteLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter from harmful and problematic areas on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and other platforms. We banded together digitally to make a real-life difference. I am proud that I was able to digitally protest. I gave tips to protesters while they were being rounded up. Other digital protestors and I also provided live updates and videos to warn protestors when ICE raids were happening several states away. I was one of millions to spread information and promote awareness, through both educating the masses about the problem, and aiding fellow protestors in their endeavors to keep them safe. This movement is a testament to the power of the collective. Using social media as a tool for social change is really about finding and using the voice you have. It’s about amplifying others and organizing digitally and around a specific cause. In the case of Black Lives Matter, youth have been sharing and compiling resources to help spread awareness, knowledge, and opportunities to donate. These lists and threads included donation links, podcasts explaining the black experience in America, and YouTube videos whose ads donate to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m amazed by fans from all over the world working tirelessly to drown out hate. Fans of the group BTS, otherwise known as ARMY, supported black fans with the trend #WeLoveYouBlackARMY. The support overcame language barriers as fans translated and shared their support in multiple languages. It felt like receiving a hug from millions of people from all over the world. Although I’m extremely touched, I should not be surprised since advocacy is one of the unique characteristics of this fandom. The artists themselves advocate for youth, even going so far as to speak at The UN in partnership with UNICEF to end violence against youth. BTS is one of many famous artists speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, because they understand the influence of black culture on their music. They also know that it’s time to use their voice as youth allies since their fan base includes black and marginalized peoples. One statement from someone with millions of followers can make a huge difference. As I’ve merged my personal and digital worlds, I’ve found a sense of purpose and strength in a time where it would be understandable to be swallowed by grief and fear. Instead of defeated, I feel hopeful. My hope stems from the power of youth activism, youth voices, and youth’s use of social media for social change. It’s more than just K-pop, and it’s more than just digital activism: it's a part of being a member of a digital community that has impact far beyond a retweet.