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Black Twitter Hulu doc captures the jokes, memes and revolutionary moments that embody Black culture

Written by on May 10, 2024

ABC

(NEW YORK) — “Black Twitter: A People’s History,” a three-part docuseries premiering May 9 on Hulu, is directed by Prentice Penny and based on Jason Parham’s WIRED article titled, “A People’s History of Black Twitter.”

The film explores the emergence, growth, and impact of Black Twitter, which has become a powerful and influential force in various aspects of American political and cultural life through its movements, voices and memes, according to the writer.

Black Twitter was formed as a thriving community on the Twitter platform rather than an app or URL. According to Parham, Twitter was chosen because it was a lightning rod moment. He believes that social tools best spoke to the moment of the 2010s.

Parham also said that Twitter had the platform’s immediacy and allowed people to come together and connect, which led to so many things happening.

ABC News sat down with Parham and Penny to discuss the importance of Black Twitter.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Black Twitter was never a URL or an app. Instead, it emerged organically as a thriving community within the Twitter platform itself.

Hulu’s new three-part docuseries, “Black Twitter: A People’s History,” directed by Prentice Penny and inspired by Jason Parham’s WIRED article series, “A People’s History of Black Twitter,” traces the evolution of this digital community from its humble beginnings as a hashtag to its impact on everything from entertainment to activism.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight, gentlemen.

PENNY: Thank you.

PARHAM: Thanks for having us.

ABC NEWS LIVE: So I had a former boss who one time I remember we had done this story that was really blowing up on Black Twitter. And so we were telling him like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is getting so much attention on Black Twitter.’ He happened to not be Black. And he was like, ‘Do I need a special password?’ That was funny. So we’ll start out with the general question: How do you find Black Twitter?

PARHAM: I mean, you don’t. It’s, it’s sort of this it’s, it’s sort of like the not right if you know it. You know what? If you get it, you get it. It’s one of those things where it’s like, we’re not going to explain it to you, but if you’re there and you know where to look for it. Yeah, but it’s a community of many communities, sort of Black users on the platform, sort of showing up, coming together around moments of joy, courage, sacrifice, sorrow. It’s all these things together. Yeah.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And, Prentice, congratulations to you on your nonfiction directorial debut. What made you decide you know, ‘I’m actually going to do a docuseries about this’?

PENNY: Yeah. I mean, I’d finish “Insecure” for HBO and I kind of wanted the feeling of being scared creatively again, and I knew whatever I did next, if it was scripted, would inevitably be compared to that. And I didn’t really want that.

And so I thought about my favorite filmmaker, Spike Lee, who had done narrative. But it also done docs like, you know, “When the Levees Break” and “Four Little Girls.” And so I really wanted to pursue that feeling again.  And Condé Nast brought me the article that Jason wrote and, once I read it, I was just like, I’m here for this.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And, Jason, what inspired you to write the article?

PARHAM: At the time, and I’ve been a part of Black Twitter since the beginning, 2009, almost sort of when the origin of it starts for me. And I just kind of wanted to give Black Twitter its flowers while it was still around, you know, so many things on the social editor are here today and gone tomorrow.

So, I felt like Black Twitter had it had been enough distance from its origin in, its founding where we could like, really put some care and thought and really give it, uh, it’s just due.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Do you feel like, for either of you, it’s not as prominent any longer now that Elon Musk is part of, there’s been so many changes, change from Twitter to X. Has that at all changed the community?

PARHAM: I mean, the data shows that, you know, there has been an exodus of users from the platform, less so for Black users. I think they’re not on the main avenue in the way that they used to be, like in moments of the Black Lives Matter movement or during Trump’s election, but they’re still there doing what they’re doing, doing what they do in their own corners of the app, for sure.

PENNY: I was going to say I think our culture, in this country, is usually pushed out right in certain ways. And I think our presence on the platform is another way of defiance of being right, just because you own it. We’ve kind of established a home here, and it may not be a physical home, but it’s a digital space again where you feel support, you feel joy. And so I think there is a hesitance to go, like, ‘why should we leave?’

ABC NEWS LIVE: And why Twitter do you feel, in particular, now known as X? Why do you think that this started? Because there are a lot of other this could have happened on Facebook. It could have happened on Instagram.

PARHAM: It really was a lightning rod moment. I think it was the social tool that best spoke to the moment of the 2010s. We were coming out of the Obama years. We had the Black Lives Matter movement.

There were so many things that I think Twitter, that was sort of the immediacy of the platform and people coming together and to connect. It was the news almost before the news.

PENNY: And we talk about this in the doc, too. I think Twitter was a lot of different things. It wasn’t sure what it was trying to be. So, as a result, it was very pliable as a platform; you could use it.

And Black culture is typically really good at, in this country, of taking something and repurposing it or remixing it, not in its original intention, but doing what works for us. And I think that’s why you see memes and that sort of language take off or activism take off is because we could bend the platform to kind of do whatever we needed it to do.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You talk about it as coming of age. How do you think that the future will evolve for Black Twitter? Do you feel like it is growing up and changing the dynamic different?

PENNY: I think it’s definitely grown up and stepped into its own power in its own way, and I feel like it’s even off the platform now.

I mean, I think you’re seeing it obviously in other social media apps. I feel like you’re seeing and in real life, I have three kids. They have lived in a life where they have always heard the phrase Black Lives Matter or Black Girl Magic, and that’s all a result of of stuff that happened on Black Twitter.

So I feel like it’s just bigger than the platform now. I think it’s always been in us, and I think that’s, just gave us the tools to take it out into the real world.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Prentice, Jason, we thank you both so much for coming on and talking with us. Really appreciate it. Want to let our viewers know “Black Twitter: A People’s History” is now available to stream on Hulu.
 

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