This March, we entered an era of physical distance. For many Black Americans in urban city centers, proximity ensures a sense of comfort, solace, and sanctuary.
Because of Covid-19, closeness became impossible, a hug became unheard of, and staying apart from one another became a necessity.
We were confined to our homes, and the outside world became socially unrecognizable. What happens, however, when in a time of isolation, our safety is threatened by White dominant institutions of power?
What happens when in a time of separation, we must come together? As an activist, I turned to the tool in our back pockets: the internet.
The Digital Age allows us to communicate in ways that were previously unheard of in generations before us.
Forums, threads, instant messaging, and on social media are all modes of correspondence.
When the Black Lives Matter movement regained traction in late May, after the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, a friend, Lexi Brown and I, were brainstorming solutions to get everyone involved in the movement despite the pandemic.
The key revealed itself within The Digital Age: using online platforms of media to send information for people to connect with in the physical world. Out of this thought process came the Sign of Justice Project - an agency and force of change which spread to over 45 states and 6 countries, completely organized online.
The Sign of Justice Project’s mission is to spread awareness and information about current social inequalities throughout different neighborhoods where the necessary conversations that spark change, conversations
about racism, anti-blackness, homophobia, voting, etc, can be an afterthought and not a primary concern.
To participate in the project, a person receives a Google drive full of signs containing short messages that draw attention and call to action. Other signs have QR codes under the messages that instruct one to hang signs on public property around their neighborhood.
Through social media, people who requested signs uploaded photos they took of the signs once they hung them in their neighborhood, and told others to go visit the page to check out how to get involved.
This instant access and rapid spreading allowed the project to grow quickly - this is the beauty of organizing for change in the 21st century - something that Gen-Z leaders, artists, and changemakers have the power to do.
Beforehand, in social movements of the past, it was harder to get information out quickly and to mass audiences of people. Now, however, information about marches, protests, mutual aid, and so on, can be received at the tips of our fingers.
Click photo to visit @SignOfJustice on Instagram
Organizing online, seeing people’s reactions to the movement, and understanding the internet has taught me alot about ignorance in 2020. To be ignorant about issues surrounding race, gender, class, and sexuality during a time where information is so accessible is to make the choice to actively not want to learn, better yourself, or find out how to help out with societal injustices.
To be ignorant in a place of privilege whilst many are unhelped, unserved, and suffering is to deny yourself the duty of Americanism that many who do not support the movement for Black/Queer lives that claim to adhere to.
There was an incident surrounding the Sign of Justice project that made national news, including Fox, CNN, The New York Times, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and more. A man, Anthony Brennan III, chased down 3 teenagers who were hanging up Signs. He assaulted them with his bike, leaving them physically and emotionally harmed.
I thought to myself -
“How can signs make anyone this upset?”
I found the answer in the same place that I found people skipping my posts, ignoring the signs, and not wanting to spread information about social issues in a way so easy as a simple repost. Some people would rather tear down, destroy, and harm those who spread justice than seek out to change the institutions that uphold their humanity whilst deconstructing others.
Tearing down signs as an angry conservative and skipping posts/refusing to learn as a privileged liberal are not the same action, but in fact, share a similar principal: that people who are blind to the realities of injustice would rather pretend that the injustices simply don’t exist, either by removing signs or removing posts from their feeds rather than get up, get active, and do the work.
Organizing on the internet has taught me many invaluable lessons about the power of unity which can be generated online. It has also taught me that in 2020, ignorance for
many is a choice. I am more inspired than ever to do the work, send emails, hang signs, and even outrun angry bikers if it comes down to it, with the internet by my side ready to be utilized. This is the power of The Digital Age: through our connectivity, we will make change.