A Primer for Navigating the #BlackLivesMatter Movement Online

I took a few days to rest up and get ready to head back out to the streets, after being arrested on Monday night, December 8, 2014, on my third night of marching in the Berkeley protests as part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement calling for an end to police violence against Black and Brown men and women as well as to an end of the new Jim Crow and mass incarceration.

In those few days, I found myself becoming disheartened and discouraged. The news I was hearing from the usual outlets was making the movement sound increasingly dangerous and violence prone. I kept hearing calls for “A Leader” of the movement—implicit in the calls seemed to be some kind of ultimatum: “I won’t get off my duff until you show me who the Martin Luther King, Jr. of this movement is.” I heard leaders of the movement being interviewed, but more significantly being interrupted in interviews as they tried to get the message out. I heard critiques of the Berkeley protests becoming “about something else”—disconnected from Ferguson, NYC, Cincinnati, and BlackLivesMatter and just about Berkeley itself.

Maybe I was just physically tired from walking a total of 25 miles on three consecutive nights, or from losing a night’s sleep in the Santa Rita jail while more than 200 of us sat on metal bunks in an unheated building with no potable water.

What became clear to me was that the only way to stop feeling discouraged and disheartened was to get back out on the streets; to give my voice and my body over as an ally for the cause of justice; to stop starving my soul with the filter of the news entertainment industry; and to start feeding it with the testimonies of my black sisters and brothers who are leading this movement. I needed to remember that discouragement and distance are feelings I get to indulge in because of my white privilege. I needed to get back into the beauty, the struggle, and the transcendence that is this movement on the ground. I needed to turn off the TV and take the hand of someone beside me.

Meeting with students last night at ABSW for a time of prayer, singing, and conversation, I realized that most of what folks are hearing about the movement is through the filter of the news entertainment industry. Without the reinvigorating energy of the streets, I saw folks feeling more reluctant and discouraged than I’d hoped. Thus the reason for this blog post.

Whether you are feeling called to march with thousands of others, or whether you are seeking to advocate in other deeply meaningful ways, here are some places you can turn to keep informed.

Black and Breathing
Photo Credit BlackOut livestream

I would say turn off all news entertainment, and stop looking to it for information on what is really happening in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Instead, go to unfiltered, raw-footage reporting to get a sense of things.

Each protest has numerous livestreaming reports going on. Download the Ustream and the livestream apps on your phone, or visit these sites on your laptop. Search for channels on Ustream like #BlackLivesMatter, #blacklivesmatter Bay Area, and Black Liberation and White Anti-Racism. Some of these channels have previous broadcasts archived. On livestream start with the channel called BlacKOut (a livestream account is required to view this channel).

This is a movement that was started by and being led by young people who are comfortable with technology today. So turn to Twitter as an excellent resource to follow what is happening and to be informed about last minutes calls for action, locations for protests, updates on arrests, and live reporting of events. If you don’t already have a twitter account, set up one for free. Then begin following accounts such as @blackoutcollective@Blklivesmatter, @handsupunited_, @BTSFblog, @FaithInFerguson@fergusonaction, and @deray. Follow the founders of #BlackLivesMatter: Alicia Garza @aliciagarza, Patrice Cullors @osope, and Opal Tometi @opalayo. Follow also Pastor Michael McBride @pastormykmac from The Way Christian Center, and ABSW-alum Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews @mrmathews who is an organizer for PICO National Network @PICOnetwork. For on-the-ground reporting, follow the independent news site @Berkeleyside.

To be aware of the ways ABSW is staying active and involved in the movement, follow Dr. Valerie Miles-Tribble @CantBeStill, Dr. Jennifer Davidson @momentofbeing, Dr. LeAnn Snow Flesher @lasnow52, and the seminary account itself @ABSWBerkeley.

Finally, or maybe firstly, read up on the origins of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, beginning with “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement” by Alicia Garza. Visit and sign up for updates from the BlackLivesMatter website, and visit the Live Free website, a campaign of PICO National Network to familiarize yourself with the practical demands being made by movement organizers.

These are just starting places. But I hope you find them helpful if you are just beginning to navigate the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Stay tuned here, as well, for an upcoming organization of a GTU collective for centralized and organized action and reflection among the sister schools of the Graduate Theological Union, GTU alum, and area churches.

Photo Credit: BlackOut UStream
Photo Credit: BlackOut livestream

#Ferguson and A Reason to Hope

The murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson by a white police office is a miscarriage of justice and sets the country back forty years. It says to me, that my life as a black man in America and the lives of my children are not valuable. It also says to me that a white officer can shoot me or any one who looks like me if he only says he was in fear for his life – even if the facts and eyewitness accounts contradict that.

In Ferguson, I was hopeful that the grand jury would do something- even if only a small reprimand – to send a message to police officers around the country, that it is not okay to shoot an unarmed man 35 feet away from you with his hands in the air and ready to surrender. But this did not happen. And while many in the nation (like myself) were grieving over this miscarriage of justice another grand jury in New York refused to find any wrong doing in the choking of a black grandfather who was accused of selling cigarettes but was not a threat to anyone. Those two decisions made me feel as if someone punched me in the stomach and knocked all the wind out of my body.

I am still grasping for air and I am still shocked and saddened.

My concern is this: if there is never any police sergeant on the scene to tell misbehaving officers to stop using excessive force; and then the justice system does not step up to the plate and say this wrong and you will be punished, then how can any black man in America feel that he will receive fair treatment on the streets or in a court of law?

It now seems obvious, that there are two justice systems in America, one for white people and one that denies black persons due process.

There is one thing, however, that gives me a reason to be hopeful.

Many protesters throughout the nation were also white men and women (and other races as well) saying that this is wrong. If enough Americans can continue this protest and insist that these killings stop and everyone be treated fairly, then perhaps one day we can have a country that protects all its citizens.

Ronald Burris, PhD., is Associate Professor of Church History American Baptist Seminary of the West