There are a scant few social media circles that have had the far-reaching impact and daily presence that “Black Twitter” has. Simultaneously a crystallization of black culture and a dynamic, ever shifting story that involves issues, memes, celebrity culture and politics, it changes often and it regularly makes trends on the platform.
That’s why it’s not too surprising that Twitter’s former Manager of Journalism and News, Mark S. Luckie, has opened a website to help document and catalogue the conversations happening daily on Black Twitter, aptly called ‘Today in Black Twitter.’
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The website defines itself as such:
Each post highlights original sources of information whenever possible, always with full attribution, and is presented without editorial slant. It also shows the top tweets either by number of retweets or, in the case of hashtags, the original author. Join in the conversation by subscribing to the daily digest and following @todayinblk on Twitter.
It’s a natural extension of Luckie’s passion, which started long before he was at Twitter: news, and propelling the visibility of black communities in conversation. He told me that ‘Today in Black Twitter’ is actually a product of an idea developed among the Blackbirds — a social working group comprised of black employees at the platform — to highlight the rich conversations happening on Black Twitter.
“On Twitter, black people have been afforded the opportunity to be vocal about the issues they want to talk about, and they can interact with celebrities and politicians. People can then witness this opportunity,” Luckie said. “Black people are creative. The things we come up with, whether it’s a meme or #BlackLivesMatter, has come from a place of creativity.”
Developed with Twitter’s Open API, Today in Black Twitter is a running digest of the myriad elements that comprise Black Twitter: prominent black voices are present, but also hashtag conversations developing from within Black Twitter that end up trending on the platform and a healthy stock of memes.
— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) January 13, 2016
But Luckie is quick to point out that Black Twitter isn’t just memes or famous voices.
“A random person can have a worldwide hashtag trend,” he said. “Black Twitter surfaces individuals who are sparking conversations. Each day, you’re going to get something different. That’s what keeps it interesting for me.”
According to Pew Research data, 28 percent of African American individuals on the Internet are also on Twitter, so it’s no surprise that conversations are frequent and in ample volume. Every day, something new is brought to Black Twitter, and it’s what makes it such an interesting community on the platform.
Although the community is about promoting and engaging black voices, Luckie says that Black Twitter can also be a place for non-black people to engage as well. Although he does suggest it’s done so with thoughtful intentions.
“I always say, “Come from a place of authenticity,” he explained. “If you come to spy on Black Twitter or steer the conversation, then Black Twitter is going to shut you down.”
Today is Black Twitter is also designed to be a hub for journalists to get a quick read on what’s happening in the community, although Luckie says that much of the media often overlooks a level of nuance that would help better characterize the community. He’s written extensively on the matter before, but he also sees recurring issues.
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— @Gumbino (@derekt529) January 12, 2016
“My biggest thing is the media has to stop concentrating on the funny moments, or the moments where Black Twitter is reading an individual or ganging up on an individual,” he explained. “That doesn’t happen as often in conversations that are happening.”
These ideas all feed into the overall goal of Today in Black Twitter, which is to amplify voices, issues and opinions that are often marginalized in mainstream conversation. And Luckie does admire some of these voices who often appear in these conversations: Tracy Clayton and Saeed Jones from BuzzFeed, Jamil Smith from the New Republic and Deray McKesson of the Black Lives Matter movement, to name a few.
And he’s confident that these voices, as well as the voices of many others, who participate in Black Twitter will continue to thrive even if Twitter does not. But for now, in getting Today in Black Twitter off the ground, the future only looks bright.
“I’m just really excited to create something new and unique,” he said. “I wanted to focus on representation of black people and marry that with my technical skills. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.”