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From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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For Shahd Khidir, the Sudanese Military Crackdown Has Been an Emotional Journey

The Sudanese-American style and beauty influencer behind "Had You at, Salaam!" writes about losing a friend in the recent crackdown and attempting to use her influence for good.

This was originally written for the iRunWithLula newsletter. You can subscribe here.

There's a revolution in Sudan, my country, and my weapon is my social media influence. This revolution has affected my friends and family however the hardest part was losing one of them. There have been uprisings since last year, against a 30 year military authoritarian regime that has persecuted my people but the uprisings started intensified in December 2018. A lot of peaceful protestors were beaten and lost their lives for a better future for the rest of us. In April, the former President Omar Al-bashir was overthrown. In return, we got a transitional Military Council that was supposed to be in charge and negotiate with the opposition to reach a civilian led democratic government. But recently, about one week ago, there was a paramilitary crack down on peaceful protestors by the Rapid Support Force junta. When protestors were attacked at a sit-in area. I personally lost a friend during that massacre and it was the hardest because I hadn't known when and how it happened until days later.

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