Last night, just hours after news broke that as-yet-unidentified "Juror B37" from the George Zimmerman trial had found a book agent, the agent decided to drop her. Shortly after dropping the budding author, the agent, Sharlene Martin, released a statement from Juror B37 that said she wouldn't write the book after all: Being sequestered had "shielded me from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case."
If only Juror B37 had turned to Black Twitter before deciding to cash in.
Because Black Twitter watchers know the power of the swarm. That obsessive and focused online conversation has gone from being a source of entertainment — and outside curiosity — to a cultural force in its own right. Black Twitter began making jokes at Paula Deen's expense in order to keep from crying — but ultimately drove the narrative around her and sped her demise. Black Twitter put the ABC show Scandal at the center of the elite conversation. Now, black folks on Twitter aren't just influencing the conversation online, they're creating it.
If you've been following the Trayvon Martin case from the beginning, you might remember that almost no one was following the Trayvon Martin case from the beginning. Martin was killed on Feb. 26, 2012. Two weeks later, the Sanford, Florida, police turned the case over to the state, but it was six weeks before Zimmerman was charged with the death. Outrage bubbled up from Twitter and Facebook before the case crossed any national news desks.
Black Twitter is, loosely speaking, a group of thousands of black Twitterers (though, to be accurate, not everyone within Black Twitter is black, and not every black person on Twitter is in Black Twitter) who a) are interested in issues of race in the news and pop culture and b) tweet A LOT.
The Martin case has remained in the back of the Black Twitter hivemind since Zimmerman's arrest. And when the trial began in June, the constant hum grew as everyday people turned to the livestream and tweeted what they saw. My own Twitter timeline showed the disconnect clearly: Generally speaking, people of color were tweeting about the trial, white folks weren't. In fact, it seemed like the Zimmerman trial wasn't really on the mainstream Twitter radar until Black Twitter's conversations about witness Rachel Jeantel became too numerous to go unnoticed. (Biracial Olympian Lolo Jones' mean-spirited joke about Jeantel might have even been the bridge.)
But back to last night.
Twitter user Genie Lauren — better known to her followers as @moreandagain — created a Change.org petition that garnered about 1,300 signatures. But the real work was done on Twitter. Along with Lauren, Black Twitter went on the offensive, barraging Juror B37's book agent with tweets.