TikTok lets Black creators shed light on forgotten history, overlooked cultural impact
Last month marked the one year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd, which sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the world and calls to end police brutality and systemic racism.
Floyd's death, along with the deaths of countless other black Americans helped Garner more attention for Juneteenth.
A long standing holiday marking the freedom of enslaved black people in the US.
Social media has played a critical role in shedding light on social justice, current events and black history.
Coolio Green history major at Yale is one of many black creators leveraging Tik Tok and Instagram to reach 1000s of people through videos on everything from lesser known historical facts.
Due to cultural appropriation, he's here now to talk to us about the power of social media to reach large audiences and highlight overlooked or whitewashed black history.
You have a massive Tick Tock following you have hundreds of 1000s of followers and your Instagram also has 1000s of followers.
What inspired you to start your tik tok and Instagram accounts So I mean Instagram I've had since I was a kid so it's more of like turning a personal account into something for branded content but tik tok is actually a funny story.
I made my first tik tok on a whim it happened on MLK Day this year.
I was scrolling through LinkedIn just randomly, I think.
And I saw a bunch of corporations and people posting MLK quotes, but they're only posting the quotes that were super pacifistic.
So the ones where he talked about coming together and unity But they were avoiding almost intentionally or maybe like, unwillingly because of like a lack of knowledge of winning the quotes from MLK we talked about race and class and really nitty gritty things and he said things that weren't necessarily As mainstream as other comments, so I was like, why is it that nobody is sharing this side of MLK and framing him the very whitewashed way.
So that was the first talk I made and that got over 1.3 million views.
And from that, like once that first video goes viral, I'm like, okay, maybe I can do something with it.
So I just started making more One of the things that you do on tik tok that I love is you have this series called how everything on this app originated with black people.
Tell us a little bit about that series and how it started and why it was important for you to shed light on that.
So similar to the series that I made about MLK the how everything on this app originally of black people, it's a mouthful.
That series it was born out of frustration.
So there were two specific events that happened close to each other.
One was Jimmy Fallon inviting Addison Rae on his show to perform a series of TikTok dances that were originated by black American creators, mostly, with a few originated by other creators that were also uncredited which is an issue.
And then another Instance happened when Saturday Night Live had a skit called Gen Z hospital and they were supposedly making fun of Gen Z culture but they were actually making in front of was black American culture that was been co opted by Jen's ears.
So between those two things I was like, this is a.
It's a conversation that I've had with my friends that we've had for a long time topical appropriation.
My dad even told me about it.
Now as a kid, he always explained how Elvis got his start from appropriating black culture.
So I was like, this is an issue.
I wanna talk about this.
I'm frustrated with with what's happening.
So let me just break down how every major viral trend or at least a lot of them came from black people, but how most people don't know about that.
I want to ask you about, you know, The power of social media to shed light on these things that people wouldn't know about.
Otherwise What does social media provide that traditional outlets don't provide and why is this an outlet that you feel is powerful for you to share this information on?
Yeah, I think social media probably provides two major things that you don't necessarily find.
And other places.
I think the first one is reach especially with something like Tick Tock.
You can make a video and millions and millions of people can see it within a day just based on the algorithm and people's interactions and nothing that you have to do on the creator side to make it go more valuable.
Do any advertising or campaigns or pay any media firms just put it out there?
And what happens happens I think that reaches somebody's not gonna get anywhere else.
And then also just understanding right like communication, and a one minute or 32nd video on Instagram reels.
It seems like a daunting task when you're creating like creating content because it affects so much in so little, but with series and other ways of being creative about it, you can get a lot of information in a short amount of time.
Time and I think people love consuming quickly and also once again like the region can reach a lot of people so those are the special things about social media I believe.
I think it's interesting your videos on tik tok and Instagram are different.
So I want to ask you about how you decide what kinds of content to share on each platform and also is the kind of feedback that you get from each platform different as well?
Do you reach different kinds of audiences?
Actually I do reach different kinds of audiences and I think that's probably the major difference between Tik Tok and Instagram for myself.
I'm finding that I'm leaning a little bit more towards Instagram lately because I'm trying to make more in depth commentary and Instagram comments allow me to write a lot and allow for replies and a clear sequencing of.
Like comments and responses so I can actually engage in dialogue.
I feel like a lot more of my Instagram following are other black Americans or other black people that have experienced these things or that can add information or teaching me things from my video.
With more in depth, nuanced things, I'm going towards Instagram and generally also putting a lot of my content on Instagram as well right now, but tik tok was my start because I think it does reach a lot more people a minute is longer than a real which is 30 seconds even though I can put very long content on Instagram igtv The reels are shorter than the tik tok videos.
So whenever I need to clean something a little bit longer I go to tick tock and tik tok is probably why blew up for me.
So I've set a special place in my heart for that reason, but I teeter between the two and I think I'll continue to utilize both.
One of the things that is interesting to me about social media I love that there's wide reach but I think on the flip side The problem is that there's all these bubbles where people often are only exposed to other people and this is kinda less the case on on tik tok, although the algorithm is very tailored as well, but Oftentimes you're only exposed to information that already confirms what you believe.
And you see this on Facebook, you see it on Instagram, you see it everywhere.
So what are kind of or have you run into any obstacles with that and how do you kind of think about trying to tackle that so that you're reaching people who might not have been aware of these issues and should know about these issues?
Yeah, I'd say right now my main goal isn't necessarily to reach people who, like are so far removed from these topics that it would take convincing for them to like understand what I'm talking about, if that makes sense.
Like I try to make content a lot of icons especially now is like made for black people to learn about their own history.
So I made a video about the origin of black American names and how a lot of them come from the Arabic language, for example, which a lot of black people like didn't know, but it's something that I'm sure that they would want to know about.
They just didn't have opportunity as opposed to like reaching other people who think black names or ghetto and trying to convince them that they're not So I just make content that I find interesting about things that frustrate me.
A lot of times who will have their minds changed from an argument that I convey or something else.
But even in those cases, a lot of times I convey those arguments to equip people who are also on board with a lot of beliefs that I have in their conversations and debates.
I do a lot of research on my own ends so i'm not getting all of my information from one source.
So I think a lot of the critical thinking and the back and forth is something that I do internally in my research stage.
And then as I'm putting out content is for a very specific audience.
Whenever there's any type of social justice movement and people who are very vocal about a topic, whether it be black lives matter or anything else, they you know, talk about how they've been shadow banned or had some of their content blocked on social media.
Have you either experienced or spoken with other black creators who have experienced this?
And what issues they've kind of raised around that.>> Yeah, it happens all the time happens to me.
More so and take place ever having an Instagram has happened on tik tok multiple times that I had videos removed Or bands sometimes would be able to repeal it and other other times I have it.
For example, this one video I made about human zoos where I talked about how people of color were put into zoos and 1900s it was taken down through safety for minors or something like that, which is very strange because they had violated none of those rules.
There's no Graphic images or anything like that.
And then other videos that I've had have been harassment and bullying right critique other influencers stuff like that.
And it happens a lot and I've seen a lot of people have their entire accounts banned hundreds of 1000s of followers people of color who are on the platform, so that's another reason why I'm gravitating a little bit more towards Instagram cuz I haven't seen that.
And I think Instagrams Like, like team, I guess is more accessible than tic tok.
Like it's more of a face that you put faces to names and you can email things and get quick answers, which I'm sure it's like may be able to do but because the rate that I've seen people that I know just banned, completely banned from the platform, speaking about issues It's jarring and it's discouraging and I think that is a reason why people are have a lot of frustrations with Tik Tok.
Who are some of the other Tik Tok creators that you've seen that have really kinda taken off.
So Since the killing of George Floyd and kind of this rise in attention towards black lives matter.
And what kinds of, outcome do you hope comes out of voices like yours and their voices on these platforms on tiktok and on Instagram?
There are a lot of tiktok creators and I've seen consciously, he's like a teacher who makes content.
I think each person has different sort of goals and audiences with who they're reaching out to.
I know brain stars another one that came to mind.
But a lot of have different goals with audiences trying to reach out and so consciously does a lot of debating with like conservatives and people, too.
Kind of dismantle their arguments and I think probably appeal to a wide audience in that way to myself, I just tried to make more educational, almost like mini lectures because that's the type of content that I like creating.
And my goal is what's going to educate and empower other black people at the forefront of it.
My mission and then anyone else that find value in my videos, I think it's a great thing.
And then other people I've seen it's just like calling out racist and trying to hold people accountable.
I think every person's a different lane that they're in.
But I can really only speak to my own than my own goals but I think everyone else has a has a plan for themselves as well.
What are your thoughts on the attention that, Juneteenth has been around for a while, and it kind of seems like a lot of people have just found out about it over the past year or year and a half.
Have you seen kind of more awareness on social media For for this for this day that's really been around forever and what do you hope people learn about this that they may or may not have known before?
Yeah, I mean, I have seen more awareness about Juneteenth, especially last year, maybe less so this year.
I mean, it's a bad thing.
I mean, like all holidays and celebrations, Start somewhere, start with an idea and expand outwards.
Some takes more time than other places.
But I think the reaction has been positive.
I hope or I will try to make sure even that it's not one of those overly commercialized holidays at some point, that the heart and essence of what it means are still there.
A few key points And that top in that category one, it recognizes black Americans specifically and distinctly as a unique part of the African-American or the African diaspora.
So always holding true to the fact that it's not Not just a racial holiday but also an ethnic holiday.
That's important to recognizing where it was founded, specifically in Galveston, Texas in the South, there are black Texans.
Contrary to a lot of people's comments on my video saying why is Texas have anything to do with Juneteenth?
It's because there are black Texans and black slaves in Texas are the ones who were freed.
And that's what Juneteenth is celebrating.
Since and then three, the importance of the political and economic effects of slavery and the progress that has happened in the future through very huge like huge It's really important solutions like reparations and voter rights and all of these other things that affect the black American community.
So as long as those three core things are respected in the future, I think it'll be a good thing, but of course, it's gonna take some of us standing our ground and in these comments and these back and forth on social media.
You're fairly new to Tech Talk, as you'd mentioned, you just started in January, but how do you kind of hope to grow your platform and where are you kind of looking towards for the future?
Yeah, I mean, I think about growth naturally, in that.
I try to make the best content that I can and then growth happens like Before my how everything originated with black people or on this average black or whatever it's called.
Before that I had taken like a month long hiatus from tik tok.
And then like, I mean, we had three weeks before that I was posting and then took like maybe another three weeks off like I just post whenever I get a good idea as opposed to posting just a post because My content isn't like vlogging at least at the moment, it's not like vlogging or like, like that type of Tik Tok whatever.
So it's not so you can just really like rapid fire you like think about things or else you're gonna put out bad commentary, a bad argument and then just gonna get dragged on the Internet and no one wants that to happen.
So I'm looking at Post fully fledged thoughts and however I grow from doing that is what happened.
>. And I noticed that you always include your sources in your videos as well just so that people can always check back on that if they have questions or doubts.
Which is critical in in, in the information age as we have everything online to have that readily available.
Colin, was there anything else that I didn't ask?
Where you wanted to mention.
I'd say I definitely would love people to follow.
I am, an infant and the social media world in some ways, especially on Instagram, but I'm hoping to grow and diversifying my content, I mentioned I'm not doing vlogs just yet but hopefully June teenth blog and highlight some more of my journey and then get other creators Black creators, black American creators, especially cultural creators, interview them and have more video essays about issues that affect black people, especially as it relates to racism after the civil rights era of the 70s and onwards, because that's a huge blank slate and a lot of people's understanding of racism in America.
But I hope to fill all of this content and I'm very excited about all of that.
So thank you again.
Clea thank you so much for joining us.
And I really enjoy seeing the content you produce and all the information that you're shedding light on and all the history.
Thank you so much.