By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) — As Brittney Gault was following the breaking news surrounding the police-involved shooting of an unarmed teenager in Missouri, she was alarmed at the initial image of the victim that appeared on media sites.
The photo showed Mike Brown flashing a peace sign; for some, it implied he was flashing a gang sign. He is frowning, not quite scowling, but appears tough, although not quite menacing.
Other photos later emerged, They portrayed him as a more innocent looking teen, wearing headphones at an arcade.
She began to wonder: How would the media portray her in a similar case?
She posted two pictures of herself with the hashtag #iftheygunnmedown
On the left, she is at a gun range. Her father is a firearms instructor. On the right she is speaking to a South Side church group, organizing for Occupy Chicago a few months before the NATO summit in Chicago.
“Even in death, who do they [the media] call about photos?” Gault said. “They create a story from that one picture.”
The hashtag was used to question the media’s role in influencing black male stereotypes.
It is part of the influential world of what Gault calls “Black Twitter.”
“It’s a media response team, Gault said. “Among African Americans, it’s no surprise that they are most active in picking up the news on Twitter.”
Black Twitter is where African Americans follow news and trends and use it for promote social justice and change.
It was used to press law enforcement to do more to investigate the shooting of Travon Martin.
It’s being used now to create more pressure on authorities in Ferguson, Mo., to get to the bottom of how an unarmed teen was shot dead by a police officer over the weekend.
Gault, 28, is a micro-influencer in the world of Black Twitter.
She has a small following, but they are extremely active in pursuing their cause. In other words, it’s not sheer numbers that gets the message out. It’s how loud they can be.
She grew up in the Chatham neighborhood, a graduate of Hyde Park Academy. She is currently a graduate student at DePaul.
Activism has been part of her life since she was a teenager.
Black Twitter was also behind a campaign for a national moment of silence for Brown on Thursday, using the hashtag #NMOS14.
“That is a bigger point,” she said. “What we have witnessed is that Black Twitter has taken their organization to another lever.”