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


19 Responses to “I Was On Black Twitter and U.O.E.N.O.”

  1. Vickie October 9, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Thanks for the mention. Glad I got to read part 2 today 🙂
    Great read!

    • Wendy Jane October 9, 2013 at 6:32 am #

      thank you, Vickie, for being so supportive!

  2. indigo mac October 10, 2013 at 2:11 am #

    This blog is smile inducing.

    • Wendy Jane October 10, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      Dear Indigo Mac,

      Why, thanks so much! Thanks for visiting.

  3. Will October 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    A good read, Wendy. I really enjoyed reading it. So, thanks for sharing your insights.

    • Wendy Jane October 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      Thanks so much, Will. I appreciate you taking the time to read the blog post today.

  4. karen kidd October 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    Great and highly entertaining, as usual, Wendy.

    • Wendy Jane October 10, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

      Thanks, Karen! As always, I appreciate your support.

  5. Brown Cowgirl October 12, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    There is something very creative and unique about the black twitter-verse and it has to do with the language and the descriptive way of speaking that has developed like patois. The wonderful thing about you is that you came upon it as a result of following people who talk about things you care about and you’re now a voice in the dialogue. The joke is on those who troll it for condescending entertainment or who desperately want to monetize it. They OENO!

    • Wendy Jane October 13, 2013 at 9:05 am #

      Thanks for your support of my finding my way along the Black twitter-verse. Can you say more about what you see as the descriptive way of speaking and language you see there? I have had some people not very happy with me after the article, seeing me as a white person trying to be hip, or trying to be black, which hurt, but I know I have to just know where I am coming from on this. I know that I am still tentative to comment on certain tweets on the topic of racism, because I fear that I am stepping out of bounds, that it is not my experience to speak on. It’s not really such a conscious thing all the times though and I think I just try and be respectful and try to engage in the places that is about people across races both being a part of the conversation, instead of saying, “yeah, I know what you mean…” when I am incapable of truly knowing how racism as impacted a black person’s individual life.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comments, and support.

  6. Sherry Gordon July 9, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    Dear Wendy Jane,

    Hi, there, Wendy Jane! I so love this spectacular blog post article of yours, as well as your other insightfully magnificent ones! I am so happy that you are connecting to community through Twitter, and black Twitter in particular. I am like you! I didn’t get onto Facebook until late January 2012, and I signed up for Twitter later in the Spring of 2012 I think from what I remember. I, too, like you my precious white friend and sister just so love the idea of making community also in the virtual world on the Internet-like how I am so, so very blessed to have found you, Wendy Jane, and your wonderfully blessed website! I just cherish your validating how many black people are so hurt, heartbroken, and angry over how your and our Trayvon Martin was murdered and the verdict, and I love how you as usual affirm us as black people and our feelings! It means so, so very much to me how you care for and love us and our concerns, feelings, and needs!

    I don’t agree with those some other black people who felt for some reason that you were coming from a place of white privilege, Wendy Jane! I didn’t understand or interpret your writing and article as coming from a position of white privilege! I am so, so very honored as your black friend and sister that you are indeed a part of Black Twitter. I see your true love and caring toward black people and others! I trust wholeheartedly and without any reservation whatsoever in your sincere reaching out across color lines as the wonderful white woman who you are, Wendy Jane, and I readily and very eagerly see your very recognizable love, caring, and sensitivity in doing so! My sister, you have such a heart for us as black people which I just cherish, appreciate, and value so, so very much, Wendy Jane!

    I am having such great fun and joy reading through your gracious and inspiring archives! You have such a great wealth of relevant, inspirational, and insightful material in your fantastic writings! what a great pleasure to read these marvelous writings! I am going to read more of them to my great enjoyment and as a beneficial learning experience!

    Wendy Jane, please have a very nice, special, and a very blessed day, my special white sisterfriend who you are!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely Always,
    Your black sisterfriend Sherry Gordon

    • Wendy Jane July 10, 2014 at 11:19 am #

      Hi Sherry!

      Thanks so much for reading my post on journeying into the “Black Twitter” space. I hadn’t gone looking for it, but found myself there. I really appreciate your support, and your perspective. While I was hurt by some of the comments, I have to honor people’s opinions. I got many more positive, supportive comments, than negative ones, so that felt good. It’s not that I aspire to get people’s praise, but do want to connect and understand other people’s experiences and point of view, knowing that it is not my experience, but that we can feel more connected and move forward in a more positive way, by listening and talking without trying to take over. Thanks so much again, Sherry!

      Wendy Jane

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