Toward the end of February, flyers featuring the hashtag #dbkgu began to appear around campus. On Monday, the group responsible for the flyers revealed the phrase’s meaning through the social media advocacy movement Dangerous Black Kids of Georgetown University.
The Facebook page and accompanying Tumblr and Instagram featured photographs of black students on campus alongside their accomplishments and accolades.
For participants, the page creates a forum to present their identity without societal filters.
“I’m 6-foot-2, I was a football player in high school, I’ve always been really big, and I look kind of scary to some people, so the campaign was interesting because that’s been a big part of my life — trying to go past looking like a thug all the time, no matter what I’m wearing,” Itua Uduebo (SFS ’17) said.
Next to Uduebo’s photos — one in a suit and one in jeans, a hat and a hooded jacket — a short bio lists his accomplishments: high school varsity football captain, co-moderator of his high school’s diversity alliance, National Achievement Scholarship semifinalist, AP Scholar with Honors and member of the International Relations Club, Club Rugby, UNICEF and Georgetown Scholarship Program at Georgetown. Similar photos and bios accompany posts for over 100 other students.
Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson (SFS ’14) thought of the campaign after viewing a Huffington Post article that featured a photo of a child hugging his father’s neck with the hashtag #dangerousblackkids. The campaign is meant to demonstrate how society wrongly perceives members of the black community as dangerous, especially in light of killings of black young people such as Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, who was killed in a dispute over loud music.
“It just dawned on me, that’s how society perceives black people: as being dangerous,” Corbin-Johnson said. “The message I was trying to get across is, whether you are really dressed up, or whether you are casual, and regardless of your accolades, because of laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground, a lot of society is only going to perceive you as a #dangerousblackkid, when in reality you do so much for society, and you’re not a threat to society at all, but it’s just because of the color of your skin that people have a certain perception about you already.”
The focus on the contributions black students have made to Georgetown emphasized the disconnect between the phrase #dangerousblackkids, which recently trended on Twitter, and reality.
“Mainly it was just to show people the positives and the accomplishments that we’ve made because there’s so many negative stigmas and stereotypes that are forced upon African-Americans,” participant Courtney Maduike (SFS ’17) said. “The entire goal of the movement was to recognize all of the black people that are doing good here at Georgetown and doing good in society — they don’t have to be seen as dangerous or as delinquents, all these negative things they think about us. It’s just to showcase the positives.”
Currently, the Facebook page has more than 600 likes, and many students shared photos of participants in support of their accomplishments.
“I didn’t want to share all my accomplishments onto my page because I didn’t want it to seem like snobby or arrogant, like, ‘Look at all she’s done, she just wants people to brag about her,’ but I realized, it’s not about me,” said Maduike, whose bio lists her experience as her high school’s student body vice president and varsity basketball team captain and her membership in the IRC and Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority at Georgetown, among other accomplishments. “There’s a bigger message behind it, and I don’t know who it might reach and I don’t know who it might affect, but it’s just to, once again, for people to gain awareness for all the successes that we have in the black community, so I just shared it.”
This effort comes on the heels of December’s Being Black at Georgetown University, or #BBGU, Twitter protest, which spawned similar movements in the university’s Latino, Asian and disabled communities.
“It was really overwhelming with all the notifications, people sharing pictures, people liking pictures, so I guess I was surprised by how many people approved of the event,” Celeste Gee (NHS ’14), who helped put participants’ descriptions together, said.
The campaign, which also features portraits of nine non-black allies without accompanying descriptions, received widespread support.
“It brought the black community really close together because everyone was really involved in it, and it also gave people who aren’t black the opportunity to get to meet different people,” Corbin-Johnson said.
The Dangerous Black Kids of Georgetown University page launched at a time that other social media campaigns, such as #itooamharvard, seek to create dialogue about racial issues on college campuses.
“It’s been really awesome because I feel like the photographs in juxtaposition with the information that we provide about each student are very empowering, especially because of all these social media campaigns that are currently being led by various universities,” said Cat Skolnick (COL ’14), an ally who took photographs of the participants. “It’s kind of cool to be part of that greater movement.”
However, Georgetown’s adaption of the theme focused on positive accomplishments of black students, rather than experiences with discrimination or racism, which has been the focus of other movements nationwide and was part of #BBGU.
“This is more about our successes and our accomplishments, which I like,” Maduike said.
Going forward, those involved hope to continue the social media campaign and possibly start events associated with #DBKGU.
“I just want to bring this even more closely to campus, just doing things like maybe taking over Red Square and putting the pictures on the walls, and just have the hashtag there and one sentence just describing what we’re doing, so it’s kind of a satirical campaign. And then hopefully getting other campuses involved like [American University] or Howard [University],” Corbin-Johnson said. “It’s just a campaign to paint black people in a good light.”