By Javacia Harris Bowser
For The Birmingham Times
On September 18, more than a dozen local businesses, organizations, and white female leaders throughout the city will be handing over their Instagram accounts to Black women in hopes of educating their audiences about ways to fight racial injustice as a part of the #ShareTheMicNow campaign.
“Birmingham has a very rich civil rights history and I see this campaign as a continuation of that legacy,” said Birmingham-based writer Jasmine Shaw, the organizer. “I’ve often found that hate is steeped in misunderstanding. This campaign stands to build a stronger connection between Birmingham’s Black and white communities by creating a space for honest conversations about the realities of racial injustice and how it impacts us all.”
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.
Shaw learned about the campaign, knew she didn’t want it to stop after June 10 and decided to organize a Share the Mic Now campaign for Birmingham “because Black women have been leading from the shadows for far too long,” she said. “Our voices have power and our ideas are brilliant and it’s time that we put them on the forefront.”
Among the 13 pairs of participants in Birmingham’s #ShareTheMicNow campaign are businesses such as Swell Fundraising and Ashley Macs, organizations like Rotaract Club of Birmingham, and popular local destinations like Red Mountain Park and Ruffner Mountain. Black women scheduled to participate include Kellie Clark of Innovation Depot and YWCA CEO Dr. LaRhonda Magras. Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn, a Black female-owned company, has signed on as a sponsor for the campaign.
“The participants vary in age, professional industries, and socioeconomic status, which provides us the opportunity to reach those who may have never heard a Black woman speak on such issues,” Shaw said. “This allows us to reach those who have the money to donate to bail and legal defense funds in addition to those who still have the energy to go out and march or organize their own protest. My goal was to reach people who create the rules while inspiring others to speak up and help change them.”
Seeking to Understand
Lindsey Miller, co-owner of the boxing-inspired, strength and conditioning gym Battle Republic, was honored when asked to participate.
“We should all be seeking to understand people outside of ourselves,” Miller said. “This is definitely a great way to do that.”
Ashlee Ammons, co-founder of the event management software application Mixtroz, will take over the Battle Republic Instagram account.
“Ashlee is one of our good friends and an amazing client at Battle,” Miller said of Ammons. “She’s such a strong force.”
Through a series called Battle Unplugged, Battle Republic has also started hosting chats with local community members via Instagram Live. Valerie Thomas of The VAL Group was recently featured this summer.
While boutique fitness studios often feel exclusive, Miller said she and her co-owner Leah Drury pride themselves on Battle Republic being a place where people of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds are welcome.
“We’ve always had a culture of inclusion,” Miller said. “Everyone from every walk of life is welcome at Battle.”
Monique “Mo” Jefferson, founder of Champion Status Training, will take over the Instagram account for Ignite Cycle.
“I hope to add to the Ignite platform a spin and awareness to others about how it feels to be Black and a female in this industry in Birmingham,” Jefferson said. “How it feels to have to go the extra mile just to be recognized or heard or even taken seriously about what you love to do.”
Jefferson hopes the #ShareTheMicNow campaign will promote unity in the city.
“If everyone can just ‘share the mic’ in every industry, this city can be one of the top competitors as others today like Houston, Texas or Los Angeles, California,” she said. “Change is necessary for Birmingham to stay alive.”
The owners of Harvest Roots will hand over their Instagram account to Ashley Monroe, a “beertender” at Trim Tab Brewing and the woman behind the Instagram account @brewedblackgirl.
Monroe wants to shed light on being a Black woman in the beer industry.
“I hope to open up their eyes to the struggles and microaggressions we may face in this space,” she said.
Monroe also hopes Birmingham will get positive attention from around the country through the campaign.
“So many people outside of the South believe Birmingham is just horses and country land,” she said. “I think this campaign will help put our city on the map and, hopefully, have more business opportunities pop up, which will have more jobs, too.”
Change Starts At Home
After the killings of Arbery, Taylor and Floyd, Shaw said, “I felt like I just couldn’t write about it. It was time for me to do more.”
For her, the #ShareTheMicNow Birmingham campaign is a way to change the world by starting at home.
“The introvert in me has struggled because recruitment involved many phone calls, meetings, and a random pop-up,” she said. “But I know that the reward will be rich if it generates a change in my city.”
The #ShareTheMicNow Birmingham campaign is set for Friday, Sept. 18. Follow the #ShareTheMicNow Birmingham campaign on Instagram @sharethemicnow_bham for more details.