April Reign knows the power of Twitter. In January 2015, she sent out a Tweet from her living room that started a movement. Watching the nominations for the Academy Awards, she vented about the lack of diversity among nominees and started the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
Reign uses hashtag activism to advocate for diversity and inclusion for marginalized groups in everything from film to finance to the US Supreme Court.
She knows how Twitter can be used for good, or to incite violence like it did last week in Washington DC when a mob invaded the US capitol.
Reign tells Summer Times she lives near the area and was annoyed people were stating that the protests “weren’t America.”
“We’ve known for hundreds of years that this is exactly who this country is and unfortunately we’ve had, in the last four years, a so-called leader who incited this violence and did nothing and tamp it down.
“Even today to this point, even though he’s been blocked from several social media sites, he’s yet to mention the Capitol police officers who’ve lost their lives related to the treasonous mob insurrection.”
Reign says the decision by Facebook and Twitter to suspend US President Donald Trump was the right one.
“If you’re going to tell people to stand back and stand by, then absolutely. People went directly from his rally to storm the United States Capitol and inflicted damage and bodily harm to several people.
“Had he not had the opportunity to put those types of inciting rhetoric out there in the public, maybe all of this could have been handled differently, or not at all.”
She says it’s only fair that political leaders be held to the same standards as every other user on social media platforms.
“Yes, we have the First Amendment in this country and freedom of speech but that does not necessarily mean that there are freedom from consequences. Let’s remember that Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of them are businesses and so, at the end of the day, they decide who is on there and who is not.”
Reign has previously said “we cannot call on the oppressed to fix the systems that were built to oppress them.” She says a good example of this is the recent run-off election in Georgia which has given the Senate to Democrats. Reign says this was made possible by the mobilisation of the black vote, yet there won’t be any black people in the Senate.
“How do you ask [black people] to fix the system when we can’t even get our foot in the door to have conversations about what is wrong with the system.”
Reign is credited as one of the reasons why Game of Thrones show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had their planned series Confederate shelved. The show was presented as an alternate history where the Civil War ended in a stalemate and slavery still existed in seceded states.
“The information about Confederate came out at the same time that Heather Heyer lost her life battling against white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia. So, this was not alternate history – this would have been a reality TV show in some ways.
“We call it slavery-porn. How many more shows do we need about the enslavement of black people in this country, it seems like almost every year we have a new one and what we don’t have, as often, are TV shows and movies that show black joy, that show black love.”
Reign says that while Hollywood has changed since 2015, it’s not making quick enough progress.
“The Academy comes out every couple of years with these new ‘diversity initiatives’ but they don’t move the needle at all.”
While the Academy has more black members, it’s still overwhelming white and male.
“Did they do better? Sure. Did they do enough? Absolutely not.”