After three years of fighting, organizing and building, we have spent the last 8 months in deep collective reflection. With that has come great clarity, perspective, and the realization that many of our biggest supporters, fans, and followers don’t truly know what we DO, who our members ARE, and HOW we are building power for transformational change in the state of Florida.
Dream Defenders is an organization with membership throughout Florida committed to developing and nurturing strong community relationships, a deep understanding of the needs of our people, to facilitate the collective development and execution of transformational solutions. It is more than actions, protests, or occupations: though we do all three very well. The on the ground work that we do is tangible and transformational.
We have watched the growing debate about cultural influencers, social media/activist celebrities with larger followings and no accountability that comment on political issues. This is a worthwhile debate. Especially, in this hyper sensitive climate where discord and discourse is discouraged and attacked.
We have always used social media as a part of our organizing. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have created the unprecedented opportunity to contribute to and critique conversations and events as they happen. The emergence of a collective voice channeled online has helped us, and a host of others, develop a brand that people trust and believe relevant.
The answer is clear for us: Social media is a microphone—it amplifies the grassroots organizing work that we are doing to transform our circumstances. It does not, and never will, take the place of building deep relationships which are at the core of organizing. Everything outside of that -- though important in shifting culture, changing policy, and transforming our communities -- simply is not organizing.
To change our communities, we must have power, not just followers.
Our culture rewards folks for RTs and posting the same information, articles and snarky comments. Our profiles get more attention for talking about tragedies than they do for highlighting the work that our membership is doing day in and day out. We have attained social media popularity that doesn’t necessarily support a growth in our membership, nor does it give them a strategic advantage in transforming their circumstances locally.
We appreciate the immense support and trust that has been shared with Dream Defenders over the past 3 years. We recognize that people trust and love our brand because we are led by the work that our members are doing. But, it troubles us that participating in Twitter conversations and television appearances are held up as “doing the work,” when we know that so much more has to be done.
As our social media profile has grown so has its separation from the voice and work our incredible membership. In keeping up with the latest hashtags or movement trends/moments we have lost our way at times and fallen victim to the schizophrenia of the times. We can blame the culture. We choose to blame ourselves.
That said, we as an organization have decided to take a step back and take a “social media sabbatical” of sorts-- to adjust, re-center and get it right.
We will be back in November with a fresh voice; one that emanates from the grassroots and is a complement to movement work, not just characters.