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The power of social media in connecting Black diasporas to social justice movements in their homelands

For years, social media has served as an effective tool to bring people together from all over the world, sharing pictures, videos and world news that you might have not heard about on national TV.

As someone working in the International Development sector, I’ve often used Twitter and Instagram to follow accounts like the United Nations and the Global Fund to keep up to date with humanitarian developments in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. However, in 2020 it was the Twitter hashtags like #ENDSARS, #Congoisbleeding and #SaveJamaica that created a movement and encouraged and inspired Black diasporas from all over Europe to form a collective voice and advocate for positive change.

It must have been difficult for a person of any race to see the videos circulating online of Nigerians being attacked and shot at by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) or child labourers mining cobalt in the Congo without feeling a sense of outrage. But for Black people, these issues hit much closer to home.

For many of us, including myself, with family members and friends living back home, we feared for their safety and livelihoods. People who looked like me were and still are going through unimaginable trauma that I might have endured if my parents hadn’t moved to England. The power of social media allowed us to view events as they were unfolding and we were able to hear first-hand accounts of protesters at the Lekki toll gate and Jamaican citizens whose homes had been swept away by the floods. Watching these events play out in real-time empowered the Black diaspora to respond in numbers that I had never seen before.

I was surprised and happy to see hashtags trending in not only the UK but Belgium and France too. Go Fund Me pages shared everywhere, petitions being launched and a number of protests taking place despite the pandemic.

This all proved that the collective voice of the diaspora can make changes, we have the capital, the education and the numbers to influence politics in our home countries and to show the people of these countries that we support them. It was even more encouraging to see that it was not just people of Nigerian descent protesting to end SARS or those of Jamaican descent fundraising for people who had lost their homes in the flash floods. It’s a promising sign that diasporas in Europe are coming together to form a collective effort to fundraise, raise awareness and advocate for political and social change.

I believe that diaspora members in the West have a duty to ensure that we support and elevate voices in the Global South.

More than anything, what we don’t need to do is try and take over social justice movements and become the prominent voice for an issue that we are not facing. People living in the communities can speak for themselves and have the knowledge and ability to be at the forefront of these movements.

As diaspora members, we have the unique opportunity to raise awareness of the issues facing our home countries to friends, colleagues and even strangers through the power of social media or even a simple conversation. Think about how many people you know who have learned what SARS is since October. 

The Covid-19 pandemic came unexpectedly, the lockdowns and restrictions we have faced gave us the time to watch and read about issues that we may not have paid as much attention to before.

Now we are in the early stages of 2021, the vaccine rollout is well underway and we are all expecting life to return to some form of normality.  Whilst this is good news, we have to make sure that we don’t lose the momentum to advocate for change in the Global South.

Whether it’s a retweet, signing a petition or starting a fundraiser, our voices can and will make a difference.

Sabrina Bowen

Photo by Ayanfe Olarinde on Unsplash

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