ISBN : 9780190935528
Bearing Witness While Black tells the story of this century's most powerful Black social movement through the eyes of 15 activists who documented it. At the height of the Black Lives Matter uprisings, African Americans filmed and tweeted evidence of fatal police encounters in dozens of US cities—using little more than the device in their pockets. Their urgent dispatches from the frontlines spurred a global debate on excessive police force, which claimed the lives of African American men, women, and children at disproportionate rates.
This groundbreaking book reveals how the perfect storm of smartphones, social media, and social justice empowered Black activists to create their own news outlets, which continued a centuries-long, African American tradition of using the news to challenge racism. Bearing Witness While Black is the first book of its kind to identify three overlapping eras of domestic terror against African American people—slavery, lynching, and police brutality—and explain how storytellers during each period documented its atrocities through journalism. What results is a stunning genealogy—of how the slave narratives of the 1700s inspired the Abolitionist movement; how the black newspapers of the 1800s galvanized the anti-lynching and Civil Rights movements; and how the smartphones of today have powered the anti-police brutality movement. This lineage of black witnessing, Allissa V. Richardson argues, is formidable and forever evolving.
Richardson's own activism, as an award-winning pioneer of smartphone journalism, informs this text. Weaving in personal accounts of her teaching in the US and Africa, and of her own brushes with police brutality, Richardson shares how she has inspired black youth to use mobile devices, to speak up from the margins. It is from this vantage point, as participant-observer, that she urges us not to become numb to the tragic imagery that African Americans have documented. Instead, Bearing Witness While Black conveys a crucial need to protect our right to look into the forbidden space of violence against black bodies, and to continue to regard the smartphone as an instrument of moral suasion and social change.
Part I - Smartphones
Chapter 1: Looking as Rebellion: The Concept of Black Witnessing
Chapter 2: The Origins of Bearing Witness While Black
Chapter 3: The New Protest #Journalism: Black Witnessing as Counternarrative
Part II - Slogans
Chapter 4: #StayWoke: A Day in the Life of an Activist
Chapter 5: #WorkWoke: The Movement as a Labor of Love
Chapter 6: #BeforeYouWatch: Activist Reports from the Field
Part III - Selfies
Chapter 7: Shooting Back: The Making of a Black Visual Public Sphere
Chapter 8: #NoFilter: Exploring the Trauma of Black Witnessing
Chapter 9: Black Witnessing, Body cams, and the Enduring Fight for the Whole Truth
"Allissa Richardson's impeccably researched book provides an eye-opening account of how African American citizen-journalists have harnessed the power of cell phones and social media to document the deeply entrenched nature of anti-Black racism in the U.S. Impeccably researched and engagingly written, Bearing Witness While Black raises the bar for studying how ordinary people work for social justice in their everyday lives." -- Patricia Hill Collins, author of Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory
"This book weaves together compelling arguments about contemporary digital media use for racial justice activism, rich context about historical antecedents, and theoretical sophistication that enriches both theory and our understanding of digital witnessing. This is a rare combination for academic works, which makes Richardson's work unique and meritorious." -- Charlton D. McIlwain, author of Black Software
"Richardson offers a compelling inquiry into how activism and journalism work together for Black communities intent upon articulating the inequities of racial and civil discrimination. The author's careful work in interviewing significant figures in Black activism over the last half decade provide a substantial resource for scholars interested in hearing the voices of change." -- André Brock, author of Distributed Blackness