By Javacia Harris Bowser
For The Birmingham Times
More than a dozen local businesses, organizations, and white female leaders throughout the city last week handed over their Instagram accounts to Black women as a part of the #ShareTheMicNow Birmingham campaign.
“The event was very successful, said Birmingham-based writer Jasmine Shaw, the organizer of the campaign. “I’m still getting numbers in, but right now it looks like we reached a little over 5,000 people.”
That number included residents outside of Birmingham in cities like Jasper and Montgomery.
The national #ShareTheMicNow campaign was sparked in part by the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. On June 10, several Black women took over the Instagram accounts of white women as a part of the #ShareTheMicNow campaign. More than 40 pairs of well-known women with a reach of more than 300 million followers, shared the mic with the goal of amplifying Black voices to reach new audiences and speak out about racial injustice.
After learning about the campaign, Shaw decided to bring it to Birmingham and recruited 13 pairs of participants.
Those participants included Kellie Clark of Innovation Depot who took over the account of Red Mountain Park. Clark is also the leader of the Birmingham chapter of Outdoor Afro, a national organization based in Oakland that promotes diversity and inclusion in outdoor recreation, nature, and conservation.
“You can feel her joy and passion through the screen and tell that she truly loves the outdoors,” Shaw said of Clark.
Clark used the Red Mountain Park platform to examine why an organization like Outdoor Afro is necessary. She pointed to the history of segregated swimming pools and parks. She also noted that groups of Black people congregated in outdoor areas like parks are also regarded with suspicion.
YWCA Central Alabama CEO LaRhonda Margras took over the account of Pam Benoit, Senior Vice President and Provost at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Margras highlighted many of the health and safety disparities that Black women face, such as police brutality, infant mortality rates, and COVID-19 infections.
Ashley Monroe, a “beertender” at Trim Tab Brewing and the woman behind the Instagram account @brewedblackgirl, took over the Instagram account of Harvest Roots. She used that platform to shed light on being a Black woman in the beer industry.
Participants in #ShareTheMicNow Birmingham seem pleased with the campaign.
“Share the Mic was very necessary,” Amanda Hare of Vulcan Park and Museum, another organization that participated, told Shaw after the event.
Other participants commended Shaw on how she “took up space” and showed up as her “unapologetic self” and encouraged them to do the same.
Shaw said that many participants are eager to be a part of another campaign like #ShareTheMicNow Birmingham.
“I initially thought that this was going to be a one-time thing, but I started receiving messages from interested Black women and other business owners asking when and how they could participate,” Shaw said.
To continue projects like #ShareTheMicNow Birmingham, however, Shaw said she must find a way to monetize the campaign as she spent over 110 hours working on this first event, juggling the planning and project management with her full-time job, her writing, and her podcast.
“Though I felt like Issa when she was planning her block party during the last season of Insecure,” Shaw said, “I’d love to be able to do this and other culturally empowering events again.”
Follow the #ShareTheMicNow Birmingham campaign on Instagram @sharethemicnow_bham.