By Team Hashtag • 23 min read
Athletes’ use of social media for social awareness is no secret in today’s digital-savvy society. Digital media has served a crucial role in athlete activism, providing a megaphone for Carmelo Anthony and Colin Kaepernick that Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar never had.
In this session from Hashtag Sports 2017, The Undefeated dives beyond the typical influencer discussion and into the unique ways athletes are leveraging their brands and platforms to drive social change as well as the price they pay to do so.
Check out the full video and transcript below!
Jason Reid: Hi everybody, my name is Jason Reid. I am a senior NFL writer at The Undefeated, and our panel today is about the price of activism, and what’s next in activism, and we have some great members up here on this panel to talk about this.
To my immediate left Michael Thomas, safety with the Miami Dolphins. It goes without saying both Michael and Malcolm Jenkins (who is to the left of Michael) are both elite players in the NFL, so I am not going to talk about all the things they do from a football standpoint. They are elite players let’s just get that out of the way right now. But the reason they are here is that they are also extremely socially active. Michael has been involved in a project called Food For the Hungry. He’s involved with bringing water to a small town in Haiti, he’s very socially active in the South Florida community. So he’s somebody who definitely can speak to what we are going to talk about here today.
And Malcolm Jenkins, there is a long list here. He’s involved in teaching others about Black Lives Matter. He’s been to speak to Congress about community-police relations. He’s been involved in a ride-along with the Philly police department. In terms of guys who are active and who are out there in the community, both of these individuals are really at the forefront of it, and Malcolm is somebody who is really very dedicated to doing what we’re talking about here.
And my man to my far left here is Kevin Merida, he is the Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated. He is my boss so please be very kind to him, okay? And I think we are just going to get into it because we don’t have a ton of time. What we’re talking about here is very important today. You know when people think about activism in the NFL, and players, obviously Colin Kaepernick is the first thing that comes to mind. There is a price to activism, and you see what’s going on with Kaepernick right now, he hasn’t been able to get a job.
There is really so much more than just Colin Kaepernick. There is really a movement afoot because of what’s been happening in this country with regards to policing issues, and the criminal justice system, and how African Americans are treated. You know, in talking to Michael and Malcom about this panel discussion, this topic, one of the things that really came through to me is that the price of activism is not just what can hit you in your wallet, but it’s about the time to become educated. About what you have to expend to learn about the issues to be involved in. Then, it’s also about taking the time to actually separate yourself from your family and friends, and dedicating yourself to going out there and trying to affect change, and trying to make a difference. So, I’d like to start this out by asking Mike, what did you have to do to find out what you needed to do?
Michael Thomas: Right, like you touched on it, it’s about educating yourself. I’ve been involved with a program called The First Step Program now going on three years. What The First Step Program does is it’s the law officers and the local authorities in the Fort Pierce community in Florida. They go into the community they serve for about 60 minutes every single Tuesday. And that’s 20 minutes of physical activity, 20 minutes of mentoring the kids, helping them with homework, speaking with them, and another 20 minutes of feeding them. There is statistical evidence to show that within these three years the crime rate in that one community has dropped significantly.
So, me being involved with that program it showed me that ok there are steps, there are programs, that are out there to try to help the communication gap that is between our authorities and our communities. So, [it’s] me just trying to get involved with different organizations like that. There is the RISE program with the Dolphins that does amazing work and they are about to receive an award at the ESPYs — the Stuart Scott Inspire award.
Getting involved with programs like that helps me realize that there is so much more I can do, and that’s the biggest thing. Educating yourself and realizing how many programs out there are already doing what you’re passionate about, and just trying to get involved with.
Reid: Malcolm, I mentioned Kaepernick because obviously what he is going through right now, the nation-wide debate he sparked by what he did by sitting and kneeling, clearly it’s an issue and something being talked about. But there is also a lot going on among other individuals who are trying to affect the same type of change. I mean you’ve been up to Capitol Hill, like I said in the intro you’ve done so many things. Talk a little bit about, I think maybe there is a frustration on the part of some athletes who are like “Hey, it’s not just about Colin, no disrespect to him.” Can you talk a little bit about how you guys feel about always getting hit with Kaepernick while all of these other things are going on?
Malcolm Jenkins: I mean it’s frustrating to constantly have to talk about Colin Kaepernick not because of him or what he did, but because it takes away from what the actual issues are — what he actually took a knee for in the first place. And so, I think one of the things that we try to draw attention to, at least when people ask me about Colin Kaepernick and where he is, the biggest thing I attribute to him is that he started a conversation that went global. You know worldwide they were talking about what he did.
But I think more importantly what he did was he woke guys up at least in the NFL and showed us how much power and leverage we have if we so choose to use this platform that we have. Most times we can go on our own social media and say whatever we want, and that only goes as far as your following. But all of a sudden you take the grand stage of an NFL game and you use it to speak out on somebody else’s behalf all of a sudden that kind of opened up our eyes that we can really shake this up if we wanted to get involved.
And I think that’s what we are seeing now over the last year is the combination of athlete’s using their voices unified in solidarity, having the same messaging, organizing, knowing that what Colin Kaepernick did was really just the warning shot. And now what’s coming after that is going to be a bigger wave with a more collective and concerted effort really to use this platform of sports to try and make some change.
Reid: Kevin, when we see what’s going on in this country right now with regards to things like the Black Lives Matter movement, with the officer shootings, we all saw the Philando Castile verdict recently. How important is it, and from your perspective as someone in the media, what these guys and others are doing to shine a light and get people to understand that there is something we need to look at here?
Kevin Merida: Well, I mean, I think one thing athletes have, they have visibility. They populate the stadiums. We have a lot of divisions in our country as you know. But when you are in that stadium you know, and you’re playing for the Dolphins or Eagles, the people next to you they may be Trump supporters, they may have been Hillary supporters, they may be Muslim or Christian. You know yellow, black, brown, white, but they are yelling for their team, they are connected.
And I think that athletes have the power unlike probably anybody else in our society to really influence. And they are listened to by everybody. So they can go up to Capitol Hill and get the attention of lawmakers, they get the attention of people who are dealing with the range of issues whether it’s immigration. As you know Jason, we did a session at the Super Bowl at the University of Houston, and Brandon Marshall was one of the athletes and his issue was mental health and the lack of services widespread in the mental health space. So he had injected himself into that and I think that whatever you do as an athlete you have the ability to elevate.
Reid: Mike, you put yourself out there because you saw something that effected you at your core. You put yourself out there. People know you’re on social media and they also know that obviously, you are a star player from the Miami Dolphins. But they also see these things that you are doing in the community, and not everybody likes that. What has it been like in this age of Twitter and Instagram when you do put yourself out there, what has it been like to deal with the backlash of that?
Thomas: I mean initially it was a lot of hate. A lot of “I can’t believe you would do that, can’t believe you would take a knee, you are disrespecting the flag, the troops.” A lot of people didn’t take the time to listen or even ask “Why are you doing it?”
But that eventually changed once they saw the work that we would do in the community. Like similar to Malcolm, with the RISE program, we did a ride along with law officers in the Florida community. We did town hall meetings having open discussions, open dialogue so people could understand your frustration.
Similar to Malcolm or with anybody else there was a boiling point last July with the unjust murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I’m going up to Capitol Hill with that First Step Program I mentioned earlier to receive the Presidential Community Service Award the same day these unjust murders are happening. And I’m conflicted because here I am working alongside officers who are doing it the right way, and they should be awarded and applauded for the efforts they are doing in their community. But yet, I just witnessed on Facebook Live an unjust murder of a young African American who I identify with.
So I’m furious, I’m angered, you know I feel like I’ve got to do something. And deep down in my heart I’m kind of feeling defeated like a lot of other people because I’m like “I don’t believe anything just is going to happen.” So I said, “I’m going to do something, I’m going to find a way. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I’m going to find a way to let everybody know like this is not okay something needs to get done.”
And then came the news of Kaepernick protesting the anthem. So me and my teammates talked about it, prayed about it, and just ultimately like Malcolm said, decided to work in solidarity with Kaepernick instead of everybody doing their own individual thing. People have more access to us with social media, you know people can respond to us immediately, they can feel connected to us. But at the same time it can be used in a positive way once we put out all the work we’re doing in the community to show them it’s not just about taking a knee, we’re trying to [take] next steps, we’re trying to progress, we’re trying to find a solution to this.
Reid: Malcolm you have three lapel pins on, and I think one of them says Black Lives Matter. There is no more divisive phrase or slogan than Black Lives Matter. Because what it does is, there are so many people who have taken it and distorted what the meaning is of the group, and it has become a rallying cry for some people to say “Well no, all lives matter,” not understanding what the concept behind it is. You want to educate people about Black Lives Matter, why is it important for you that people understand what the true meaning of those words are?
Jenkins: So I actually avoided the phrase for a long time. Just because it was for whatever reason, a very divisive phrase, and I wasn’t very familiar with the organization, and still really don’t follow the organization a lot. But I do think the phrase in itself is genius because even in the missing conversation with people who get offended by the phrase that Black Lives Matter in itself should be conflicting. Why would that be something that would offend you?
One of the things that I like to do, and one of the reasons I wear a pin or say Black Lives Matter is because 1) I think they do and 2) I like to engage in those conversations of “Well, explain to me what about that offends you?” And I think in those conversations, although they are uncomfortable sometimes and hard to have, they open up chances for you to learn about yourself, and learn about others experiences.
It’s also an opportunity to teach history, which I think is one of the biggest problems that this generation is having when it comes to race. Because we grew up in schools where racism was on a black and white TV screen, and people were getting bit by dogs, and shot with water hoses. Well, we didn’t see that. We were taught that this is what racism looks like.
And so when we go into our world, we think we’re the post-racial generation. And all of a sudden we are adults and we see things and we don’t know how to deal with it. It’s because we weren’t taught the history of where we are, and how at one point in this country black lives literally did not matter. Legally did not matter. And it’s from those places that we’ve arrived at where we are today.
So, for me it’s an opportunity anytime, not only for me to educate somebody, but somebody might educate me. Because one of the things my dad told me, the thing I held onto is he says “You don’t know what you don’t know.” And so, I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in White America. A white person doesn’t know what it’s like growing up in Black America. So, if I don’t know what I don’t know, then let me hear your experience. Let me hear what this is.
But at the end of the day if you can say “all lives matter,” and you’re okay with that, then by rule you should be okay with saying that “black lives matter.” Unless somehow you don’t really agree with the fact that all lives matter, or you simply don’t know why there’s a need to separate it. Look at our criminal justice system: it disproportionately affects the black community. If you look at the history of race in America at all, you would understand the need to differentiate, or separate black lives in the context of 2017.
Reid: Kevin, as you’ve looked at the media coverage of Kaepernick, of the protests, of the players playing a much larger role, using their social media platforms to try to go out there and bring awareness, how do you feel about the coverage of Black Lives Matter and athletes, just everything that involves this movement? Do you feel the coverage has done a good job, the media has done a good job, of capturing what these guys and guys like them have been doing?
Merida: Well you know, I would say that it’s mixed. As you know, it’s our daily bread. It’s where we live, right? And I also think that it’s important to recognize what’s going on. I don’t think it’s an aberration. I think that the involvement of athletes, and increasing involvement of athletes wanting to be citizens of the world, and leaders beyond their sport, is something that is kind of a renaissance of sorts.
We’ve always had athletes to be involved, but in a big way where there is public attention we probably have to go back to the 60’s right. But I think we’re coming to something that’s happening now. It’s athletes at all levels. It’s the biggest athletes. It’s the LeBron James. It’s everybody in the sport. It’s Steph Curry saying if Under Armour doesn’t share my values I can walk away from that. And it’s in so many different levels. It’s in the ways that often go unnoticed and as Malcolm is talking about, and Michael, they are doing things that people don’t always see. And some things we do see.
I think that it’s important from a media standpoint to really dig into it, and not just kind of cover the surface of what’s happening. Taking a knee everyday, it’s important to do that, but it’s important to find out what they really are thinking about. How they are learning, how to influence. I think overall we obviously could be better as a media — I say that about almost every subject. But I think that at least where we sit, we’re giving it a lot of attention.
Reid: Mike, you took a knee for the whole season. You take on what that is, because race and protests make a lot of people feel uncomfortable. You’re a young man, you’re a talented player, you’ve had a lot of success, but at some point the game ends for everybody. Are you concerned that because of your activism, because you put yourself on the line it could have repercussions for you later on in terms of your wallet?
Thomas: I’d be lying if I didn’t say you know, I thought about it. If I didn’t weigh on those options before I made that decision. You know obviously I’ve got a wife, I have a daughter who’s about to turn three — definitely had to speak with my wife before I made that decision.
At some point you have to, especially if you feel a certain way about events that are going on you have to make that decision. It’s just bigger than me. You know am I willing to put everything on the line? I’ve worked for my whole life to pretty much make a statement that what I see that’s going on, the problems that are going on in our society, that it’s worth it for me to put myself on the line, to put my career on the line, money on the line. All of that. And for me that was the case.
So, I am not necessarily concerned about it anymore. I thought about it, I believe in my heart something positive is going to come out of this. Because, at the end of the day since when is fighting for justice for all a negative thing? It should be actually viewed as positive, you know, to each is own in the country now, in the country we live in. So for me I don’t feel like I am going to have any issues post-football, but I’ve definitely thought about it.
Reid: And Malcolm, from an effort standpoint, do you think that you could get disillusioned if you don’t start to see all of this effort that you’re putting in actually start to change some things?
Jenkins: I think you could definitely get frustrated. I mean I’m a football player, so I’ve been training my whole life. You work hard, you do XYZ, you’ll get this result. There’s one of those things that to me.going back to the question you just asked Mike, the risk wasn’t more so about my career, and maybe getting blackballed or whatever.
The risk was if I publicly stand out in front of all these millions of people and say that this is my stance, people will wanna know “OK, where are the fruits of that declaration?” And that’s not just going to be a month long commitment, or a year long commitment, that’s usually a lifelong commitment that you’re putting out there. And so with speaking on this is going to come a real sacrifice.
So to me that was really the biggest burden, or thought that I had to wrestle with. Am I really ready to commit to this? And so, once I’m having frustration that things might not move fast, or you might not get the results that you want, that’s just part of it. That’s like anything else in football, you learn to lose way before you win the Super Bowl. So, I’m not frustrated with it.
If you asked me right now, we’re coming up on a year where we both decided to even get involved, and I don’t think anything has gotten better. If not, I think it got worse since then. But I have found opportunities to get wins, we’ve found opportunities to kind of unify, come up with a plan, and take on low-hanging fruit. And we’ve been doing things that have been encouraging. We know we’re not going to change the world overnight, this problem wasn’t started overnight. But I do feel good that even if I don’t change it, hopefully I’ll spark the person that does.
Audience Member: I guess for both of our awesome football players here, I would love to know how the differences you’re trying to make in the world, if it causes any rift inside the locker room, and how your teammates possibly support you, or if it causes any friction?
Jenkins: So, I think being in a locker room is like a relationship. Like any relationship, there needs to be communication. Not everybody is going to agree. So in my locker room specifically, before I decided to protest I called a team meeting, players only, and was like “Look, this is what I’m planning on doing, this is what guys around the league are planning on doing” because we had a big conversation with guys across the league, talking about what we wanted to do. During that meeting I had probably half the team get up and walk out, and the other half talk and debate, and basically when it came down to the actual protest it was me and three others, and then by the end of the season just me by myself, which is I think, okay.
But having the opportunity to express why I’m doing what I’m doing, that, I think gave a little bit of understanding. Even if they didn’t really agree, its like you can’t really argue with, or be mad at somebody who’s doing what they think is the right thing. And if you’re not passionate enough to oppose, then what are you upset about? So it’s been pretty positive in my locker room, I haven’t had any issues. Even if people wanted to get involved, but didn’t want to protest, they would talk to me on the side about some other ways they could help out and lend their platform as well.
Reid: Let me just jump in here with Mike because this was one of my questions. You weren’t on the Dolphins when they had some issues a few years ago (Richie Incognito) in the locker room. Now, I mean you guys had a great season. And there weren’t many players, there were three players who protested taking a knee for the whole season. One of them is now gone from the team. For you, given that the Dolphins have had some issues in the past, is it something that you thought about even more from the perspective of “OK, is this going to be a problem?” I know you weren’t on the team then, but I’ve talked to people that were down there, and they have had issues there.
Thomas: Right, no. That issue didn’t weigh in on our decision to take a knee. I think more so what we debated about was that our first game was on September 11th. So that’s what we debated about. Even though we wanted to take this stance, do we want to do it on such a day that means so much more to everybody in America? It’s such an emotional day regardless of the protests. And back to your question earlier about social media, more people were mad that it happened on September 11th, not that we were actually protesting.
But to answer your question my man, I got a very similar story to Malcolm. Like you said, we got the group texts going on, conferences going on trying to figure out what we were going to do. Same thing, held a players-only meeting when we were in Seattle. There was a handful of guys who were very passionate for us being against it. But we actually had a dialogue, everybody stayed right there, they stated why they thought we shouldn’t do it. Most of it was because of September 11th, some just didn’t want to do it at all. Others were very open to hearing why we wanted to do it.
Ultimately, it just came down to each man making their own decision, and there were only four of us that decided to do it September 11th. But there was no beef with us, we had open conversations about it throughout the year. I think what helped with us was that the owner of the Dolphins, Stephen Ross, is a very progressive thinker. He already had a program called RISE going on, so he was very supportive of us. He told us in the locker room right before “Hey, I understand y’all already had a players only meeting, so regardless of whatever y’all think, just know I’ll support y’all 100% with whatever y’all do.”
Reid: Because most NFL owners are not as progressive as your owner. I’m not going to ask you to comment on it, I’m just saying that reality of it is in the NFL — that’s not the typical situation which is why that was something that was really extraordinary.
Audience Member: This question is for all four of you: You briefly mentioned how the media can do a better job of assisting athletes when it comes to elevating your voices and really showing support. What can we do at the club or league level that we are not doing right now in order to help our athletes?
Jenkins: I think everybody, even the media, one thing that’s not a negative thing, but I think we need to be careful with it is, placing too much attention on the athlete that’s doing the action as opposed to the action that the athlete is doing.
So, for instance we can do all the work we want in the community, and every article we read about the work is going to be “Hey, this football player did this, look how great he is” and never actually talks about what we are putting our time into, what the passions are, and the actual movement.
And I think, [what] we’re not doing it for, especially not this because there’s not much praise in it, we actually want to get some change, so I think having that same commitment from writers, coaches, the league to actually get behind what the players are doing, and lend support to come alongside. I think that is where the help is at.
It would be a PR disaster if an NFL team openly decided to silence one of their players in a way that was combative, that would be terrible. And so the way that we get support is to basically not hold us back. You know, we’ll let you do whatever you wanna do.
But, not many teams out there besides Miami have really come alongside their players and say “Yeah, this is a cause we as an organization support, we as a league support.” We’ve seen the league and teams do that for other causes. And [that’s] the biggest thing. We’ve seen even the NFL stand up for the gay community. We’ve seen it for… we see it every year, we’ve got a whole month we’re in Breast Cancer awareness, our military. So we see what it looks like when the league and teams actually want to partner with the players to actually make something happen. It could change way, faster than us doing it as individuals. But they haven’t taken the initiative to take that cause that serious yet.
Audience Member: This is for Michael and Malcolm, first off, thank you both for all that you do. You see different forms of expression in different leagues. So in the NFL as an example, kneeling for the Anthem. In the NBA, LeBron and his teammates, they wore the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts. Is there any type of conversation that trickles over to different sports, and it can create more of an organized approach between athletes across all leagues?
Jenkins: Yeah, so that’s actually something that we’re working on as we speak. This offseason we created what we call a player coalition. It started with myself, Anquan Boldin, Andrew Hawkins and a few other guys that originally went to DC to speak to members of Congress about criminal justice reform. And since then, that group of six has grown to about 25 league-wide.
And what we’re planning on doing is crossing the boundaries of sports. So, linking with guys in the NBA and MLB to like you said have a concerted effort where everybody is doing the same thing, speaking the same thing, and able to actually really push the needle. Especially when we go to season and all of a sudden our time becomes unavailable. The NBA players can carry that torch and visa versa. So there is an effort right now to unify that voice, knowing that like I said if Colin Kaepernick can shake up the world that much with just his one voice, imagine what all of these athletes across different sports can do not only in their own communities but across the country.
Reid: And Malcolm, along those lines, in that group, can you see eventually like a list of goals being set? Like each year we’re going to try and accomplish X…or not X but 1, 2, 3, 4?
Jenkins: Yeah, I mean we’re already there. There was a piece of legislation in Ohio where they were trying to give community alternatives, programs as opposed to going back to the mass incarceration type of thing, and we were able to through our database of players go through any player who has ties to Ohio — so whether you played at Ohio State, you played for the Browns, Cincinnati, to write a letter and sign off to the legislators supporting this specific bill. Then shortly thereafter we did that, it got approved for the budget. Those are like small wins.
Reid: That get to a national level.
Jenkins: Yeah. We’re doing the same thing, we actually started on the federal level and then we took that same platform and now applied it to different states. So now we have the same thing going on in Louisiana, they have some criminal justice reform things that have been signed off by the mayor and passed but they’re having pressure from the district attorneys so we’re doing is getting Saints players, LSU players to continue to support that — writing letters, writing co-ops, sitting down having meetings. So we have these written out plans for what’s kind of happening right now, what’s kind of off that we can collaborate on, and we’ll be coordinating another trip to DC with NBA players probably by the end of the summer.
Audience Member: First of all, thank you so much for being candid with your story and continuing to do the work that you do. Going back to the relationship with owners and team personnel, they have been outwardly supportive but those of us who work on the inside know that that’s not necessarily the case so what were some of the things you guys planned to do, not to combat but to deal with player personnel and employees on the inside who were not supportive of you guys as well as to kind of support employees who may not be players who support you but cannot express it outwardly because they can’t afford to lose their job?
Thomas: That’s tough because like you said, we know that not everyone is on board but to you and in front of you and in front of the public they might come out and say that they support [us]. That’s really a tough one…
Jenkins: The biggest thing, I think our biggest cushion from the league or our teams and that negative backlash is numbers. That’s the reason we started the coalition so that players who might not have the same security on their team as we do or people who like you said are employees or it’s a lot easier for them to be “cut” from the team, we want to create a safe place for them to get involved, and the only way to do that is numbers.
It’s easy to take somebody like Colin Kaepernick who took a knee by himself and we can just throw everything on him and kick him to the side. But you know, when you have guys across the league that are all standing together, it’s really hard to pick one out of the bunch. But it’s definitely…there’s no way to be a safe activist. There’s always going to be a level of personal and individual risk and sacrifice, and that just has to be understood going into it. And that’s where, as an individual, you have to weigh your passion and level of sacrifice.
Thomas: Yeah, and the other thing is, there’s other ways besides being outwardly open, you know what I’m saying, that would cause you to get fired or lose your job. There are still programs you can get involved with where you’re not putting yourself out there like that, where if you want to get involved in a safe space — and like I said, we’re trying to create more spaces like that or find more spaces like that but there are programs out there.
Reid: And the reality is…Sorry go ahead.
Merida: No, no I was just going to ask Malcolm what percentage do you think — or you too Michael — would be or would define themselves as activists?
Jenkins: Uh, very little. You might have five guys in the league who might say that they’re activists. And I fight the word as much as I can but it’s following me. But one other thing that we’re doing is we’re creating levels of engagement because people like myself, I’ve educated myself enough, I feel secure enough in my team, I like to be in front, having meetings, talking on behalf of them.
There are some guys who want to get involved but don’t quite want to do this. And so we’ve created places where they can help because there’s so much work to go around, there’s plenty of spaces — whether that’s just retweeting or signing your name on an op-ed or being involved in a community group that might need some support. And if it’s somebody from the staff, it might not be standing next to us while we protest, but it might be saying “Hey, here’s an opportunity for you guys to partner with these local community groups or identifying some spaces where we could operate in. I think that is needed.
Reid: And the reality of it is, just by the nature of what you’re doing, not many people can stand with you. Because it’s not easy. And things that are difficult, people often shy away from, but I would think the mentality is, it has to be — you’re not shying away, you’re going forward with it because you’re here. So we have a couple questions, right over here.
Audience Member: We are at a social media conference and you know a lot of people call it hashtag activism what you guys do, but I love when it goes beyond the social media platforms… What is your social media plan or could you tell us top key points that you use to get your message out there and to take it from social media into real life?
Jenkins: Yeah, that was probably part of my frustration which got me into this role is that I was tired of the hashtag activism because that actually does nothing until the next hashtag comes up…
Jenkins: You know, you literally had Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, one name, one hashtag was trending one day then the next day somebody else got killed and it’s a whole new hashtag. It’s the same thing Kanye West dropping albums, a new hashtag. So what we wanted to do was to not use social media as our, you know, way of trying to create change. [We] want to go do the work and then use social media as an opportunity to educate those who follow us.
So one of the things that I did was a ride-along with police in Philadelphia. I had a camera crew document that entire thing, so all the conversations I had with an officer just riding around in his car, and his interactions with the police and his community and airing their interactions — just documenting all of that and having these tough conversations that we try to have on social media that you can’t fit into 140 characters — have that in real life and then post that on social media.
So you’re using it to, kind of, educate people whether it’s about events that’s going on or just being the example of, okay this is how you have a constructive conversation with somebody that you might not agree with because to try to have those conversations over Twitter is proven ineffective and what ends up happening is you just run into a thousand different trolls and then it’s hard to really differentiate who’s really engaging with you or who’s just you know trying to make a name.
Reid: Real quick, we don’t have much time left would you like to tackle that one too?
Thomas: I mean, [it’s] the same exact reasons. I was tired of the hashtag activism but again like I said earlier using social media can be powerful. Like he said, if you’re documenting everything and you’re using that to educate people and you’re showing it on your social media this is the actual work I’m doing in the community. These are things I’m doing to actually try to find a solution that’s when I think it could be powerful.
Reid: Well, I’ve got about 50 other questions that I could have asked and I could do this for at least another hour, but we are out of time so I think it’s appropriate to thank these guys for coming here today because they gave up their time to do this.
Thank you very much. (Crowd applause)
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