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My Disability & Blackness are Beautiful: The #BlackOut Experience

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This past Friday, I participated in the social media #BlackOut campaign by sharing a few selfies I took and posted them on the Ramp Your Voice! Tumblr blog.

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At the end of Saturday, my #BlackOut images finally reached over 100,000 notes.

The #BlackOut was a social media campaign spearheaded to allow those of the African Diaspora the opportunity to share positive images of themselves, and receive affirmation and love from others within and outside of the Diaspora about why their existence matters and is valued.

Why I Participated in the #BlackOut, & the Shocking Reactions I Received

Being someone who is proud of her ancestry, I could not pass up the opportunity to be a part of the #BlackOut movement.  I knew the buzz surrounding the movement had impactful potential, but I was not prepared for the kind of reactions and attention my personal photos would receive within hours of being shared.

When the #BlackOut ended, my photos received 89,453 notes on Tumblr.  The next morning, it had close to 98,000 notes, and by Saturday night, finally reached more than 100,000 notes.  The #BlackOut caused not only the RYV! Tumblr page to break records, but the #RYV! website and my personal Twitter account reached new views and sharing milestones as well.

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Screenshot taken early Saturday morning shows that the RYV! Tumblr page had 97,482 notes, gained 515 new followers, which increased the total followers count to 4,486.

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These are statistics of the number of views that occurred on the RYV! website last Friday. Total views: 409.

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Screenshot of my Twitter page (@VilissaThompson) with 1,366 retweets, and 1,806 favorites the day after.

Why the #BlackOutDay Experience Matters

The #BlackOut conjured up a plethora of emotions within me – appreciation, being loved, affirming my unique beauty, and knowing that there are folks who loved me for existing and thriving, even if they would never meet me in real life.  Receiving over 50 messages in my inbox throughout the first two days had been overwhelming in a wonderful way.  Being someone who has felt invisible within the Black community because of my disability, it was empowering to know that so many cared about my existence, and showed me that I, too, am important and my voice is needed.  To read so many positive messages touched me deeply, and it made a roller coaster week end on an incredibly high note.

Movements like the #BlackOut has such an empowering, positive effect in ways that a simple action as uploading a selfie could not be imagined.  It was emotional to see so many Black disabled people post images and stories on Tumblr – I did not feel alone as a Black disabled person that day.  We are here, we exist, and we matter; that is what the #BlackOut represented for me and many others – validating our worthiness.  I ardently believe that we should uplift each other every day because valuing our differences, similarities, and personhoods should be ingrained into our psyches and spoken effortlessly in our day-to-day interactions.

Final Thoughts

The #BlackOut caused me to develop the following mantra about how and what I am as a person:

I am proud of being Black, disabled, and female.  The beauty I possess is powerful, and important.  I matter, and I am worthy, as are the other disabled and black people that exist.  We are here, and we deserve to be recognized and celebrated.

I hope that more #BlackOut campaigns occur, not just online, but during everyday encounters in real life.  We can never do enough to support one another, and we should not stop after one successful day of making it a priority to be kind and loving to our fellow brothers and sisters.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of What Whites Will Never Know Tumblr page.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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