Social change movements are the opportunities for citizens to speak up about their thoughts and concerns. Finally, take a step to prove their point. A few important aspects of social change are participation, a meaning claim, and a valid point. All these can be successful with proper communication. In the book ‘Citizens’ Media and Communication’, Development in Practice, vol. 19, no. 4&5, pp. 443-452, “This introductory article finds that citizens’ media and communication is about more than bringing diverse voices into pluralist politics: it contributes to processes of social and cultural construction, redefining exclusionary norms and power relations. Local participation, ownership and control can allow people to reshape the spaces in which their voices find expression.”
Today I will be comparing and contrasting the communications strategies used in 1960s Civil Rights Movement and the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. The civil rights movement took place during the 1950s and the 1960s, it was a struggle. The “blacks” were trying to gain equal rights under the US government. After the Civil War slavery was abolished, but that didn’t; stop people from discriminating against blacks. By the mid-20th century, African Americans had decided to take action to mobilize and began to fight for equality. Meanwhile the Egyptian Revolution took in January 2011, when activist decided to have an uprising, about many issues people living in Egypt are facing. Like poverty, unemployment, government corruption, and the fact that President Hosni Mubarak had been in power for over 30 years.
How did both social movements become successful? Communication. Each social movement used different strategies to achieve their goal, however some approaches were the same. Like, physically informing people on where to go, and explaining to people why this is happening. Both social movements came up with their own logos and approached newspapers to feature them on the front page with a clear message to the rest of the population. These are just some of the ways used to communicate with the rest of the group.
The Egyptian Revolution surprisingly had very minor use of social media and social documentation, but social media played a role in connecting protestors to one another based on a study data. “The Tahrir Data Project gathers empirical data on media use during the Egyptian revolution of January and February 2011. The Project consists of three data sets documenting media use by protesters, by coordinators, and by transnational audiences. Preliminary descriptive analysis of the data suggests that social media use was not dominant in demonstrations but may have played an important role in connecting and motivating protesters.” A famous social media outlet called Twitter played a major role during this social movement when the #jan25 tweet became one of the most tweeted tweets for a while.
The protestors and the Egyptian government had two different ideas of communication. The people where always arranging and signing up on new social media outlets, posting and sending personal messages on Facebook, tweeting, and texting to friends and newspapers/magazines about their minute by minute movements and plans. The revolution was often referred too as “The Facebook Revolution” because this is how it all started, a single frustration post became a revolution and an uprising. Facebook was like the dictionary, if the news was on Facebook it meant it was true. The organizers of the January 25th protest wanted to make sure the people were expressing their concerns, that was another way to sue Facebook as a “feedback” to what could happen in the next days of the protests. It was almost lie having two worlds. A virtual world on Facebook and the real world at Tahrir Square. The citizens where doing everything in their hands to make sure that all types of media where getting the correct information to keep the chain of news going.
While the Egyptian government had others plans in making sure the news heard their side of the story regarding the uprising. The government made sure to include spies within the protestors crowd to get all the latest news on their communication skills, so they could shut this down before it got out of hand. Obviously, this didn’t work. The national media channels and newspapers where under strict supervision of the “truth”. The Egyptian government shut down cell phone lines, arrested staff members from Al Jazeera who seemed threatened to the state and targeted foreign journalists to send them the latest news through their perspective. Not only that but they shut down and blocked off the internet for a whole week. Strategic decisions were taken to stop the uprising, but the citizens and the army where one hand at that point.
On the other hand, the civil rights movement used violence to stop the growth of the protests. If black men were seen talking to white women or white men, they were automatically arrested or beat-up. Protestors communicated verbally by knocking on doors and sharing their plans, thay had signs all over the place. They were nonviolent, and others were seeing how peaceful things were, more people joined the safe protests. The violence was coming more from the police than anyone else. The words used at protests, and posters where carefully picked to send the message. More or less, the radio was present at the time, which allowed for people to listen to podcasts, news reports to understand this movement. “Traveling down the highway in Alabama listening to Neil Young sing “Southern Man” and following that with video clips of the fire hoses and police dogs in Birmingham, followed by the words of Dr. King upon the church bombing that killed four young girls is a profound experience. We weren’t there, and we would never claim to fully know the thoughts of those who were, but yet we could feel the history. We were moved by it.” Said David Domke.
Youth play a vital role in any social movement because they are the future. Social movements are often trying to change things for the upcoming generations. The civil rights movement drew children, teenagers, and young adults. These young adults were drawn because of the strong support of their elders in helping shape their future path. Joyce Ladner said when asked to answer why did so many young people decide to become activists for social justice? “The Movement was the most exciting thing that one could engage in. I often say that, in fact, I coined the term, the ‘Emmett Till generation.’ I said that there was no more exciting time to have been born at the time and the place and to the parents that movement, young movement, people were born to… I remember so clearly Uncle Archie who was in World War I, went to France, and he always told us, ‘Your generation is going to change things.’”
Freeman Hrabowski another young boy at the time of the movement decided to join, when he heard about the protests in church on a Sunday night. He was then arrested, but many images of police and dogs attacking young kids drew much attention to the topic nation-wide. Hrabowski remembers that at the prison, Dr. King told him and the other children, “What you do this day will have an impact on children yet unborn.” He continues, “I’ll never forget that. I didn’t even understand it, but I knew it was powerful, powerful, very powerful.” Years later, he became the President of the University of Maryland where he supported African American students due to his experience.
It’s the people like Hrabowski and Ladner who made a difference by using their experiences at the time to change the future. The images they had where used to raise awareness about the topic and help take action to better the community. Folks need to be aware of racism and make action in order to prevent racist bias to occur. In this society we are raised with racism on our media and it makes us have unintentional bias against black folks. Because of media, many black people are afraid to embrace their culture such as eating fried chicken or eating watermelon because they do not want to be laughed at and accept a stereotype while Japanese people are not afraid to eat sushi in front of others.
The Square a documentary by Jehane Noujaim that tells the real story of the ongoing struggle of the Egyptian Revolution through the eyes of six very different protesters. Starting in the tents of Tahrir in the days leading up to the fall of Mubarak, we follow our characters on a life-changing journey through the euphoria of victory into the uncertainties and dangers of the current 'transitional period' under military rule, where everything they fought for is now under threat or in balance. That’s the blurb of the film. In 2011, young Egyptian protested to transform the government and demand change. The film provides a scope of what the revolution was like through the lens of the starts of the movement. Cairo’s Tahrir Square is the heart of the city and the heart of the film. The film shows “the life-and-death” struggles between the authorities, state, power, and the people.
Apart from communication, photography also played an important role in raising awareness about the topic. Many photographers risk their lives by being part of those protests, some even get arrested. James A.Michener Art Museum, presented “A Time to Break Silence: Pictures of Social Change” an exhibition that features 31 pieces, of visual documentation of the protests. It featured many images from the civil rights movement. An example would be an inspiration photo from Martin Luther King’s famous speech. Not only does it feature images but also call-to-action images from King’s famous speech. “Photographs are a powerful medium to convey social unrest and change, and the historical photographs in this exhibition reveal struggles that are both widely shared and intensely personal,” said Kelsey Halliday Johnson, executive director of the SPACE Gallery in Portland, Maine and former Michener curatorial fellow in photography and new media, who curated the exhibit. “I know this show will resonate with today’s audiences as much as it will with those who experienced the eras and the turmoil depicted in these photographs.”
An article names: From King to Spring: Parallels Between the Civil Rights Movement and Egypt’s Revolution. The Egyptian revolution and the Civil Rights Movement yearly anniversary are only days apart. “A riot is the language of the unheard,” King revealed. “The rule of law, for everyday Egyptians and Africans Americans, afforded no due process or relief, while the very government entrusted with the duty to protect sought to only persecute and prosecute.” Both social movements are diverse. Civil Rights Movement was largely an African American population while the Egyptian Revolution consisted of mainly Muslims with the support of others of course. These movements allow for people to break the ice between religions, color, sexuality, and look through all these to get a good result. Both movements started at famous locations to prove a point. Copts and Muslims were protecting one another to show solidarity. The reality is that both countries need wok, they are both struggling in different aspects of the government. Communication is a key factor for any movement to succeed.
Lisa Tremper Hanover, director and CEO of the Michener Art Museum said, “These images are especially meaningful in today’s social and political landscape and give us pause to as we continue to navigate important issues in our nation and in the world.” Photography and communication go hand in hand for any social movement to succeed. It takes one brave soul to start a revolution and a bold society to finish the journey.
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