Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, conducted a seminar on the uses of social media and other digital information tools in the design of mobilization and influence strategies in Annenberg Auditorium on Tuesday evening.
Color of Change was established by James Rucker and Van Jones in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a period that Robinson said epitomized the black struggle.
“No one was nervous about disappointing black people at this time,” he said.
So, the organization built a new, effective strategy for changing the rules society lives by and ending the injustices black people face. The organization seeks to “strengthen the political voice of Black America, using the power of technology,” according to its website.
Throughout his career, Robinson has helped mobilize communities across the country to undertake successful campaigns to foster more inclusive cultural and political institutions. At Tuesday’s event, Robinson spoke about the ways that Color of Change has used its online platform to address issues ranging from the shooting of Philando Castile to the suppression of the black vote.
“We are applying organizing skills to the technology today to translate presence to power,” Robinson said. “To ensure we are not just sharing articles but mobilizing to conduct actual change.”
The organization does so by utilizing Facebook, Twitter, emails and peer-to-peer texting to mobilize campaigns and voting initiatives. Robinson detailed the fine line between social media as a tool and as an impediment.
“Forty-five percent of Color of Change’s new members come through Facebook shares, but it’s important to note the various ways social media platforms can also work against us,” Robinson said. “Social media is often glorified, but we must realize it is also corporatized like other media platforms, which can be deeply problematic.”
Tuesday’s event also addressed how Color of Change interacts with public figures, such as football player Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem at a game in order to show support for victims of police brutality. Brian Walker, culture and entertainment advocacy director at Color of Change, further introduced the work the organization does with celebrities to foster change.
“We work with other entertainers, celebrities and artists that want to speak out about social issues by mobilizing their platform,” Walker said. “Ultimately, we build an overall discussion about the right athletes, and celebrities at large have to express their freedom of speech.”
Robinson said that ultimately, organizations like Color of Change can use social media to make individual actions part of a larger conversation about social justice in America.
“We do so in a way that does not just respond to issues, but transmits to some larger change,” Robinson said.