An Interview with Triangle Activist and N.C. State Alumnus, Taurean R. Brown.
Chris Hart-Williams | Staff Writer
Taurean Brown, activist, writer, and the man behind Twitter’s @TheBlackVoice, strives to wake people up and assist them in their journeys of consciousness through his tweets and writing.
Brown, age 26, began his activism about a year before he graduated from N.C. State in 2010.
Though his Twitter handle, which he created in Feb. of 2011, currently has more than 27,000 followers, gaining such a following wasn’t his intent. Brown first used his Twitter as an outlet to vent his frustrations but, more than 60,000 tweets later he has become a spearhead in bringing attention to the Black struggle.
“I thought it was just going to be a place where I could post small things…I never expected it to be developing to what it has,” said Brown.
Brown’s experiences growing up in Kinston, N.C. where he was exposed to problems of the Black community such as poverty, and violence both directly and indirectly contributed to his path toward activism.
But the violent and tragic death of a Chicago teen would ignite his desire to become an activist at 22.
In Sept. of 2009 Brown’s journey of consciousness began after he saw a video on the news of the murder of 16-year-old Derrion Albert of Chicago’s South Side. Albert was jumped and beaten to death by several other teens near his high school.
Brown said,“It was after that moment I decided I was going to get involved and stay involved.”
Despite majoring in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Brown took Africana Studies courses such as AFS 345 Psychology and the African American Experience with Dr. Craig Brookins an Associate Professor of Psychology and former Director of the Africana Studies program, which he too attributes to him learning about the Black community and becoming an activist.
“I began reading and questioning things. Writing was kind of a way for me to organize my ideas, and I also thought it was important for other people that might have similar stories and come from similar backgrounds, that had similar questions,” said Brown. “I thought that hopefully my writing would inspire them to think for themselves.”
Once Brown realized the following he had gained he started to use Twitter to highlight issues that don’t always receive the attention of the mainstream media.
“I want people to begin to question the society that they live in and the history that they come from and become critical of what’s going on and to organize and use whatever means they find necessary to fight the means that oppress people,” said Brown.
A common motif in Brown’s tweets is that of “wokeness,” as he often uses the hashtag #StayWoke. “Waking people up doesn’t necessarily mean they have to agree with what I’m saying but more so get people to think for themselves critically,” said Brown. “Malcolm X said the first thing you have to do is ‘wake the people up.’”
Brown said he’s fighting for freedom of the historically oppressed and that the want for freedom is why he does what he does. He defines freedom as the ability for everyone to be able to do what they want and be whoever they want.
“I believe freedom is the ability to define your own destiny and unfortunately in America if you’re Black, you’re gay or you’re poor…you don’t have the ability, or you do but it has a lot more obstacles,” said Brown. “My hope is that everybody – all humans– have the right to exist as you see fit whether you’re Black, whether you’re white, whether you’re gay, whether you’re straight, trans – whoever.”
Brown’s use of Twitter to help organize people in his community around the cases of Stephanie Nickerson, Carlos Riley Jr, and the recent case of Jesus Huerta, who was found dead in the back of a Durham police car after being taken into custody, align with his reasons for first wanting to become an activist.
“[For me, becoming an activist] really began with me questioning why a lot of things were happening, [like] why are the lives of my friends who grew up in a similar area turning out a little different than mine,” said Brown. “ I’m privileged enough to come from a good home and other things of that nature, [but] I questioned the pitfall that [others] fell into.”
One thing Brown first questioned was street violence in his home of Kinston, violence that at times, affected him directly. He also questioned the social constructs of American society concerning race and the fact that people are discriminated against everyday based on skin color.
Brown speaks openly against people he believes to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors. For Brown, this includes Black people who make light of the Black struggle and Black peoples’ value in American society. He compares the behaviors associated with Stockholm Syndrome to that of a wife who defends her abusive husband.
Unfortunately, Brown said some people speak from a point of privilege and use their “tokenism” as a way to say they mad it and therefore, so can everyone else. Brown says this is a problem because everyone’s circumstance is unique.
“They speak from a place of privilege and allow themselves to be unofficial tokens for groups such as the GOP,” said Brown.
Brown is focused on the progress of all Black people, and though there have been some gains since slavery, like the election of President Barack Obama, he feels there is a long road ahead.
“Our collective, as a group, as a people, we still have a long, long way to go,” said Brown.
Brown’s advice for someone that wants to speak out and be active about racial awareness and other problems in the Black community is to use love. “Always start from a place of love and a love of the people,” said Brown. “Realize you’re not going to save everybody. You’re not going to convince everybody to think as you do, and you shouldn’t want to…a lot of people are going to think you’re crazy.”
Check out Taurean’s Words of Wokeness below, as well as his blog.
“Our history is not just specific to the continent of North America, but Africa as well.”
“This country was built by Black people if anyone is American its us.”
“Race is not a real thing … skin is just different because of the melanin , but these things are made up and people are judged by them.”