Tweeting for Equality

On Sunday, thousands of gays and lesbians gathered in Washington, D.C. for the National Equality March, which was billed as the largest event of its kind since 2000. While many in the gay community were divided over the reasoning for having such a march, this was also one of the first massive gay rights protests to use social media – tools that are being used by the new generation of LGBT activists. Sunday’s protest was the latest example of the generational shift in how to communicate for social change.

Most of the organizing was done through Facebook, YouTube and other tools leading up to the march. Before and during the march, protesters could follow the march’s official Twitter feed for any logistics matters, such as getting information about purchasing subway round-trip tickets before the march to avoid long lines stations kiosks.

Throughout the day, Twitter was the main choice of communicating, as thousands of protesters either in Washington or following the events on television reflected on march highlights. Most used the hashtag #nem to follow the conversation.

loquaciousmoi “Rights for Gays
and Lesbians aren’t special rights in any way. It isn’t special to be free from
discrimination.” – Julian Bond #nem

700mtv Judy Shepard, “I”m here today
because I lost my son to hate . . . We’re all equal Americans. Gay, straight,
whatever.” #NEM

peterzimmerman Wow the speeches at #NEM are really inspiring. Gosh.
So exciting to see the outpouring of emotion at the march!

Jamal Jackson and Winston Brown moved to the United States from the Caribbean island of Jamaica to escape harassment from others about their relationship three years ago. The march was the first gay rights event they have attended as an openly gay couple. The both also used Twitter to follow what other folks were saying, as well as tweeting their own thoughts.

“I started using Twitter a year ago and I found using it to be very useful,” Jackson told Global Wire following the march. “I was able to tweet other protesters, find out where to meet my friends and navigate the city during the protest. I was able to find other people here from the West Indies, like Trinidad, Dominica and Haiti.”

For Winston Brown, tweeting had a more sentimental meaning.

“I am using Twitter because I still have closeted gay friends back home in Kingston, and they are reading my updates,” Brown said to Global Wire. “They will not feel alone anymore and might feel inspired.”

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