Arts

‘Black Twitter’: Movements, Memes and Crying Jordan

When Prentice Penny first began work on the forthcoming docuseries “Black Twitter: A People’s History,” the last thing the director wanted to do was explain to anybody just what Black Twitter was. How could he?

“Everybody has a different opinion what it is, and a different entry point and path to how they feel about it,” he said.

“Black Twitter” is a kind of shorthand descriptor referring loosely to commentary, jokes and other kinds of cultural conversation and activism driven largely by Black users of the social media platform now named X. What Penny wanted to do was capture the pivotal moments that have come to define this organic online community, including the movements (Black Lives Matter; OscarsSoWhite) and defining hashtags (#uknowurblackwhen, #BlackGirlMagic) it has propelled and championed.

And he wanted to do all of this while Black Twitter was still around.

“So much of Black culture in this country isn’t documented,” Penny said. “When you see books about culture and race being banned, when you see narratives saying, oh, there were good sides to slavery, you realize that Black Twitter could be here today and gone tomorrow.”

Prentice Penny, left, Joie Jacoby and Jason Parham at the film’s debut at the South by Southwest film festival in March.Credit…Andrew Walker/Disney

Indeed, since Penny started the project, Twitter itself has disappeared — or the name officially has, anyway. “I don’t trust anybody who stopped calling it Twitter,” said Jason Parham, a producer on the show whose 2021 Wired story “A People’s History of Black Twitter” inspired the series.

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