On July 13, I shared a 12-second video of eight Black Lives Matter protestors standing peacefully outside of the main New York Fashion Week: Men’s venue. They were clad in black t-shirts that showed a mixture of blank slates and messages like ‘Stop Killing Us’.
The text of my tweet was simple: “Awareness should be everywhere. Fashion isn’t excluded.” My tweet means what it means. There’s no hidden political context. There’s no critique of this movement or any other one. Fashion Weeks in general often serve as a method of escapism. They rarely get political, and when they do, it isn’t particularly impactful. Libertine used a tinge of faux activism in its February runway show. It was more a statement of the need for love in the world and lacked real political gravitas. My tweet simply meant that the fashion industry shouldn’t get a free pass when it comes to national events that impact its attendees, designers, executives and models. The impact of what’s happening across America shouldn’t be completely erased from Fashion Week.
After watching the terror, hate, and deep-rooted racism unleashed across America after the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were caught on video, attending NYFWM made me feel guilty. There were people out there on the streets protesting. They were risking their freedom and enduring abuse to make sure America listens. And what was I doing? I was on the front lines of social media seeking to add productivity to the race conversation. I was signing every petition that hit my inbox. But I wasn’t physically fighting. And then, to top it all off, I was going to Fashion Week-an event in which I was sure the influence of national and global events would be all but absent.
"I was on the front lines of social media seeking to add productivity to the race conversation. I was signing every petition that hit my inbox. But I wasn’t physically fighting."
I first saw the protestors on my way into the venue. And I admit, I didn’t immediately respond. I was running late for the Robert Geller runway show. I was already on edge after a tense ride through gridlocked traffic on the West Side Highway. I shuffled past them and silently hoped they’d still be there when I left.
They were. So I took that video and shared it across all my social media accounts. The response was minimal. But from the interactions I received, it was mostly positive. The tweet received the least action of all with just a couple likes and one retweet. I was sure it’d be buried in my timeline as I moved on to other issues and media.
But somehow, my tweet picked up steam. After sitting dormant for two days, I noticed an uptick in activity. At the moment, it has been retweeted 173 times and liked 268 times. Not exactly viral. However, for a Twitter user whose tweets max out at 2-3 retweets on a regular basis, this is pretty major. The last time I saw this much interaction from one tweet was when I wrote about Zayn’s Met Gala outfit.
The response to the tweet has been overwhelmingly positive. But of course, where there’s activity, there are trolls. I’ve written about trolls before. About how they all live in some dank basement eating Cheetos and drinking Fanta. About how their profiles rarely feature pictures of their actual faces. About how they typically don’t have a lot of followers. All of the above is true for the six people who took the opportunity to send some hate my way because of the Black Lives Matter tweet.
One user said blacks should go back to Africa where they still currently enslave us. Another user said BLM was only calling attention to the fact that we kill each other. That same user then linked to a New York Times Op-Ed piece about how to “end the slavery blame game”. A few other users shared the video on their profiles and questioned the purpose of the protest. What was the point of such a small protest? Were they mimes? Why were they trying to piss people off? What did they accomplish?
"That little protest did accomplish something. The leader of the group was Hannah Stoudemire, a style blogger and sales professional at Lanvin. She was able to have a conversation with CFDA president Steven Kolb."
That little protest did accomplish something. The leader of the group was Hannah Stoudemire, a style blogger and sales professional at Lanvin. She was able to have a conversation with CFDA president Steven Kolb. Kolb then shared a picture of the protest on the official CFDA Instagram account. While it may seem like a superficial acknowledgment, simply being acknowledged is a tremendous feat within itself.
In fact, that small acknowledgment is a representation of what the greater movement is hoping to achieve. Black Lives Matter isn’t about placing blame on others for the struggles within the black community. We acknowledge that there’s black on black crime. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for other people to kill us, too. BLM doesn’t think black lives matter more than everyone else’s. It means our lives matter, too. Because we often feel that they don’t. Those six trolls who took the time to spew hate or ignorance were probably hoping to engage me in digital battle. I refused.
At first, I wanted to respond. To destroy their character and measly followings completely. But that goes against everything I stand for in the digital space. I refuse to engage people who are only interested in wasting time and picking fights. I refuse to allow a stranger to anger me. I refuse to take part in any discussion that isn’t productive. My nasty responses won’t achieve anything other than rapidly rising blood pressure. I simply muted those trolls and cleansed my notifications of negativity.
I posted a small series of eloquent tweets which you can view below.
It's truly incredible to see how so many people are willing to fight & disprove the credibility of Black Lives Matter. Instead of...— Uptown Bourgeois™ (@Jeffereyspivey) July 16, 2016
Having a productive dialogue about what we can do to become a more tolerant and harmonious society.— Uptown Bourgeois™ (@Jeffereyspivey) July 16, 2016
For all of you miserable, incompetent, racist trolls out there, I will not respond. You are cowards who hide behind the shield of the web.— Uptown Bourgeois™ (@Jeffereyspivey) July 16, 2016
With hundreds of positive interactions, I wondered why six disapproving voices outweighed the support of the others. The trolls were far outnumbered by the supporters. I think it bothered me because this cause is personal. Their critiques and misunderstanding of the movement felt like they were critiquing and misunderstanding me. And that pissed me off.
But more than anything, this simple 12-second video has proven a lot to me. It has shown me that I have the power to spread a positive message and reach people. I can do my part by using my gifts and skills. I may not be on the ground in Baton Rouge. I may not be out in front of 550 Washington St. I may not have the patience to independently debate with each troll on the web. But I am able to write about it and spread positivity and productivity. For me, that’s the most valuable thing I can do.
This year, I've learned that running a business means making sacrifices. Some of them have hurt, but it'll all be worth it in the end.