I was at work when the Baltimore Riots happened. As I allowed the news to distract me, I remember feeling shocked and confused. As a white, cisgender, not overtly queer feminist, I struggled to comprehend what was happening, as it was happening, as the media told me it was happening. So, I took a step back and decided to observe, not react. What I saw, was a wave of emotions from my community and no adequate place to put them.
I live in Frederick, MD, about an hour from Baltimore. I’m a part-time student at Frederick Community College and the exiting President of the FCC Feminists Club. Baltimore is considered our neighbor and as everything unfolded, many Fred-neckians took to social media to respond.
It was very clear that my town was deeply affected. However, I knew there needed to better place express one’s self, beyond 140 characters.
I made the spontaneously decision to send out a tweet from our club’s profile.
Our campus retweeted the message and the response was overwhelmingly. Teachers and students were tweeting, messaging, and emailing us, wishing they could attend. Ultimately, our discussion group was small, about six people, but very provoking. In fact, because it was so successful, we decided to host the discussion again. This time, we were a little more prepared. We put out tweets, hung up flyers, and sent an email to the entire student body.
Our second week was still small, but bigger: about 10 people. The conversation was again, provocative and insightful. And apparently, we’d made some waves.
At the conclusion of the discussion, our club’s adviser informed us that the school’s administration set up an emergency meeting to discuss the campus’ response to Baltimore. This was monumental, because our campus never responses to events like this. The next day, I was in that meeting, alongside faculty and administration, planning a course of action.
The entire event was put together in less than a week, during finals. Despite all that, our conference room was filled with about 40-50 eager participants, including the College President. At the end, President Burmaster said, “This is the most important conversation that I’ve been a part of on this campus.” Her statement was a truly humbling compliment to everyone who put the event together; and it all started with a tweet.
Well, that’s not completely true. It started with me realizing my sphere of influence. A sphere of influence is simply the power one has in a particular environments. Everyone has multiple spheres of influence. For example, mine are:
- Family: How much say or control one has in their family, is a sphere of influence. Mine tends to be limited because my parent’s sphere is larger and more powerful than mine.
- Social media: My sphere of influence (like most) is also limited, but a social media advocate like Laci Green, has a larger, more powerful sphere of influence, because she worked hard to build up the trust of many viewers.
- School: At my school, I’ve been actively involved in clubs, as a student leader for years. I’ve researched and hosted discussions, organized countless service projects and maintained the monotonous bureaucracy of extracurricular activities. This involved working very closely with the SGA, the Center for Student Engagement, and school administration. I’ve worked very hard to build up trust and respect within the school, and in return the school trusts and respects me. This means, I have a fairly large sphere of influence on my campus.
That is why a single tweet worked. Very rarely will 140 characters carry this much impact and create this much change. It is because I built up my sphere of influence, and the influence of the club, that the school was able to take notice, and learn from its students.
Everyone has spheres of influence, and anyone can make theirs powerful. I challenge you to do the same.