#Blackout

On April 3rd, Tumblr users will once again be confronted with a mosaic of Black beauty curated using the hashtag #BlackOut.

Without a doubt, organizing coming out of Ferguson was strengthened by the broad coalition of people of different races and backgrounds who came together to stand firmly in defense of black lives. I continue to be inspired by brave solidarity organizing occurring in the name of #BlackLivesMatter.

But what makes these protests powerful and threatening to the status quo are the black masses – the extraordinary amounts of black people that comprise them, who are demanding systemic change and the right to self-determination and space.

Amidst overwhelming fear, confusion, and anger, it often felt like there was nothing else we could do but take to the streets. While the moment after the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson catapulted months of widespread protest, the protests often lacked direction and suffered from too many white people making things about themselves. But we were there. We came out of our homes, we spoke up and out, and we claimed our right to outrage, to justice, and to our own voices.

The confrontation of mass black presence, or in other words, of blackness itself, is hugely important beyond physical space, as well. Today, Friday April 3rd, will mark the second Tumblr #BlackOut. First happening on Friday March 6th, the purpose of the Tumblr #BlackOut is to flood the website with selfies taken by black people anywhere and everywhere as a celebration of black power, beauty, and voice. Happening the first Friday of every month, #BlackOut demands that Tumblr users see black people and blackness all day long. The backlash to #BlackOut from many non-black Tumblr users, which named the action as aggressive and contentious, is a further testament to its necessity.

Black people have internalized the need to be small and stay out of the way of white people. We have historically been told that we do not deserve space and that we do not deserve to be seen or heard. Blocking traffic, sitting in, and dominating Tumblr rejects that. It proudly states that we are here, we belong, we matter, and we will not go away – terrifying and empowering things for black people to say. It is a threat to the status quo of white supremacy. It does not matter whether white people support #BlackOut. Fighting for the rights of our people is fighting for the rights of ourselves.

By taking up space, be it in the streets, on the Internet, or beyond, we can become the fullest versions of ourselves instead of the stifled versions we are taught to be. We can push authentic survival for black people from a process of figuring out what parts of ourselves we have to limit in order to get by, to a bold demand for being everything that we can be.

by Alexandra Barlowe