With hundreds of millions of followers between them, these celebrities turning over their accounts is a huge and tangible way to amplify Black voices. Whether it's in mainstream media or on social media, the most prominent voices and faces are ones we're used to seeing: white, straight and cisgender. It's a problem that demonstrates ingrained social biases and how privilege dictates who gets to say what, and to how many people. While some celebrities have used their platforms in dubiously "helpful" ways this year—that "Imagine" cover didn't really aid anyone during the current global pandemic—this is a useful and commendable way of turning influence into activism.
Here's what's happening and the voices that you should be listening to—not only because Lady Gaga said to, but because it's the long-term anti-racism work we should all be doing.
In an Instagram post last week, Lady Gaga announced that she was giving over her Instagram account to each of the organisations she'd recently donated to. She also vowed, "to regularly, in perpetuity, across all of my social media platforms, post stories, content, and otherwise lift up the voices of the countless inspiring members and groups within the Black community."
One of the first organisations she's given her 42 million follower platform to is the Community Justice Action Fund (@cjactionfund). They're a grassroots-driven nonprofit organisation that aims to tackle the issue of gun violence and uplift communities of colour in an intersectional way.
In an ongoing series of Instagram TV videos, Lili Reinhart is inviting Black activists and community leaders into conversation with her. From Emmanuel Acho (@themanacho), an ESPN analyst and former NFL player to Kimberly Drew (@museummammy), an art curator and author, the conversations she's having are urgent, thoughtful and reaching so many people they might not have without this platform.
Just how many Riverdale fans have seen Acho's incredible video "Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man" is unclear, but judging by the two million views on Reinhart's IGTV with him, we're hoping it's a few.
Selena Gomez is turned over her platform to the incredible Professor Sarah Elizabeth Lewis (@sarahelizabethlewis1), who works to unpack the relationship between images, race and justice: how what we see can influence us and how culture has led to a racial bias that feeds into police violence.
As Lewis explains in her takeover, "History shows us that culture—images, films, music, literature—not law alone, has led to this racial crisis and our focus on police violence. [...] Law alone did not result in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Travyon Martin, or any of the other unnamed lives lost due to racial terror. Law combined with culture shapes our social narratives. It can justify biases and stereotypes with deadly consequences."
As one of the most-followed people on the social media platform, and with nearly 130 million followers, it's a massive step in foregrounding the thoughtful, researched and considered work of a Black academic. Lewis's work with The Vision and Justice Project (@visionandjustice) at Harvard explores how art can be used as a tool for progression and challenging the racism both in our societies and in the narratives we have about ourselves. Our fave, Yara Shahidi chatted about how art enabled her to speak about justice at the Vision and Justice convening, you can watch it here.
Hayley Williams of Paramore turned her Instagram over to the Gen Z organisers behind the Black Lives Matter protest in Nashville. In their words, the group @teens.4.equality are "six teen girl activists in Nashville" who created a protest that over 20 thousand people attended for the Black Lives Matter movement.
As well as her soothing meditations, Lizzo is using her Instagram platform, which boasts a chill 8.8 million followers, to promote the work of the @blackvisionscollective. They're a group working in the heart of the protests in Minneapolis to shape a better future for Black people across the entirety of Minnesota.
One of the main things they were calling for was the defunding of the police, which, in a stunning culmination of events has been achieved. The Minneapolis City Council has voted to begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department. There are a tonne of resources on their Instagram account about how policing could be replaced with community-centric, safer support systems if your first thought is, "but who will protect us if the police are gone."
Time to put on the deluxe version of Cuz I Love You and get reading.