Dismantling Respectability: The Rise of New Womanist Communication Models in the Era of Black Lives Matter

Richardson, Allissa V
Journal of Communication

Legacy media coverage of the Civil Rights Movement often highlighted charismatic male leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., while scores of Black women worked quietly in the background. Today’s leaders of the modern Black Lives Matter movement have turned this paradigm on its face. This case study explores the revamped communication styles of four Black feminist organizers who led the early Black Lives Matter Movement of 2014: Brittany Ferrell, Alicia Garza, Brittany Packnett, and Marissa Johnson. Additionally, the study includes Ieshia Evans: a high-profile, independent, anti–police brutality activist. In a series of semi-structured interviews, the women shared that their keen textual and visual dismantling of Black respectability politics led to a mediated hyper-visibility that their forebearers never experienced. The women share the advantages and disadvantages of this approach, and weigh in on the sustainability of their communication methods for future Black social movements.