I Was On Black Twitter and U.O.E.N.O.

9 Oct

I still  consider myself a relative newcomer to the world of Twitter, joining just four months ago.  I joined after attending the Grub Street’s writers’ conference workshop panel on Twitter.  Presenters, Rebecca Schinsky and Kevin Smokler recommended it as a way to connect with others, not just for author self-promotion, but to build “real” virtual relationships with people who share the same interests as you.

“How do you find people on Twitter?” I asked them.

They replied, “you start following people who are talking about things you’re interested in, and you will find your community.”

It sounded like it should be simple, or really, like it would be simple for all the people who really get and use social media a ton in their day-to-day lives, but not for poor lil’ me, who can adopt the victim mentality at times like this, and think everyone in the world can do this, get Twitter, and go out there and get 10,000 followers (which I’ve since learned is NOT the point at all), everyone, but me.

I opened my account, and began building my list of people to follow.  I started with a few personal friends, with Rebecca and Kevin from the conference, a few more authors, and a few celebrities just because I heard that’s also what people do on Twitter.

Even though I felt like a wallflower at a school dance, I started tweeting.  There’s not much interaction–no one to retweet or favorite your tweets, when you’re just starting out, and I wondered…

If a gal tweets with a handful of followers in the twitter forest, will anyone hear her?

Thank goodness for my friend, Vickie, a big supporter of my Facebook Poems Of The Day (poems I make from my friends’ facebook status updates).  She’s on Twitter, too, and retweets my poems.

Yet, slowly I started to gain more followers.  I was thrilled when someone followed me back after following them, or favorited or retweeted my tweet.  Sure,  some of them were just trying to market their ability to get me 10,000 followers, or help me self-publish a future book, but a number of them were honest-to-goodness interesting, like-minded individuals I would never come across if it weren’t for Twitter.

Still I felt like something was missing.  And, then it happened.  I had my “duh” moment and realized since I care about and write about race relations,  I should follow people who are talking about race.  So, I started to follow some of the on-line magazines like Colorlines and The Root, and people like author of How To Be Black, Baratunde Thurston, and anti-racism activist, Tim Wise.  I also started following actress, and writer, director/producer of the webcast series, Awkward Black Girl and Ratchetpiece Theater, Issa Rae.

And, then the Trayvon Martin verdict was returned in July and everyone on Twitter started talking about race and the inherent message of injustice; of racism, in the not-guilty verdict.  I followed the tweets closely.  I heard the message loud and clear from black people on Twitter on how hurt, disappointed, and yes, sometimes angry, they were.  Especially angry when white tweeps spoke about black people making everything a race issue, and implying that black people exaggerate about racism.  I was incredulous, angry, and sad that people of color weren’t being allowed to even have their own feelings and experiences validated over such a major tragedy that touched millions of lives across the country and around the world.

Yet, following the Trayvon Martin case aftermath on Twitter was also a big connector for me.  I was able to follow more and more people who were talking about race.  And before  I knew it, I was a part of conversations with people of color about race, and then simply about everyday things like what some celebrity wore badly on an awards show, teenage memories of bad boyfriends, or the latest television series.  Then one day someone mentioned something about Black Twitter, and I said to myself, I think I’m on Black Twitter. 

I had remembered hearing a while back that there is a large community of Twitter users that are black, and that businesses had been trying to figure out how to take advantage of that “market”, trying to figure out how to reach this audience, yet I don’t think I knew it was a “thing,” that it now had a name. All I knew at that moment was that I felt like I had been given this golden key to a VIP labyrinth of Black voices.  Intelligent, humorous, thoughtful Black voices.  Here I was with writers, educators, artists, comedians, political pundits and activists.

My comments and interactions on race and everyday matters there have been welcomed.  Links to several blog posts of mine, including Wendy Jane’s Primer for White Folks On How To Talk About Race was graciously embraced by writer, Jenee Desmond Harris (a contributor to The Root, Huffington Post, and Time Magazine).  I have a back and forth banter with my Twitter friend, Groove SDC, another supporter of my blog.  We have an ongoing half-joking, half-serious series of tests he’s giving me, that if I pass, I will be awarded the honor of becoming an Honorary Black Person.  Part of my music training included the need to know at least two Al Green songs (easy), and to listen to the album, Connected by Foreign Exchange (I didn’t know them.)  Next up, I had to read the wonderfully written coming of age memoir, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-nehisi Coates.  I have to be careful though, I’m told Robin Thicke was in the inner circle but had to be let go when it was found out he couldn’t dance.

Being a part of this new-to-me Twitter community, I felt special.  I felt cool.  Until I started feeling like a lurker, who was just trying to be cool by being a part of something I can’t really be on the inside of because…I’m not black.  But, that’s my own guilt tripping self.  It’s not like I’m the only white person in the mix of Black voices.  And, it’s not like it’s some homogenous, spokesperson voice representing all Black thought.  Black Twitter is diverse. But it seems a Wikipedia entry on Black Twitter put up this summer angered some people who tweeted that the Wiki post signaled the demise of the on-line community.

Regardless of whether I’m really on Black Twitter or not, I feel richer for being a part of these conversations that deal with race, and to be able to have my ear to what people are feeling and thinking, especially during a time when people of color are feeling like they’re getting it thrown in their faces that their cries of racism are unwarranted.  It helps me to grow and learn and accept the not so pretty reality of where things really are when it comes to the way people are viewing race and racism in 2013.

And here we are at the end of the article and I haven’t even explained what this blog post’s title means.  To help me explain the title, and to give the latest take on Black Twitter, I have two treats for you:

First, the genius Issa Rae and her Ratchetpiece Theater video, Future, The Sad Rapper.   U.O.E.N.O. stands for the phonetic slurred auto-tuned chorus of You don’t even know it by Future.  For example, This a half-million car U.O.E.N.O.

Check it out.


Alas, it looks like I’m late to the party, because Issa Rae’s most recent video, Black Twitter Party, parodies what I thought I was so hip to be a part of.


www.youtube.com, issa rae, Episode 8, Ratchetpiece Theater, Future (The Sad Rapper   and  Black Twitter Party


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