These are the Black Twitter Moments from the 2010s that we will remember for years to come for their brilliance, staying power, and cultural impact.
By Clarkisha Kent and Da’Shaun Harrison
1. The Zola Story
Newer Twitter denizens will hear “Zola” and assume we’re talking about the A24 film set to premiere at Sundance in January. But Twitter veterans will remember what we feel is the most memorable and defining Black Twitter moment from the 2010s, when one hilarious stripper changed how we tell stories on Twitter in 2015 by detailing the trial and tribulations of a trip she took to Florida with a bunch of strangers—namely, another sex worker called Jessica (from Hooters).
2. A Decade of Rihanna Clap-backs
Rihanna was notorious for her Twitter clap-backs at the beginning of the decade. From Ciara, to Teyana Taylor, to Kendall Jenner, she held back for no one. And we loved every second of it.
3. Meme of the Decade: The Crying Jordan Meme
The meme originated from basketball legend Michael Jordan giving a speech during his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009—where he cried throughout. But the meme REALLY took off in 2012 when a version of it was uploaded to Memecrunch. From there, it became THE Internet’s meme thanks to Twitter and has managed to maintain unparalleled longevity and versatility throughout the decade. The closest contenders include the SpongeBob Memes, the Ralph Memes, and the Kermit Memes.
4. Beyoncé and “The Surprise Drop”
In 2013, Beyoncé changed how we would consume music forever. She had a surprise digital drop of her self-titled album, BEYONCÉ, that shut down the internet. Album releases changed from Monday to Friday thereafter. In 2018, she and Jay-Z dropped another surprise album, EVERYTHING IS LOVE, which took over the internet almost immediately. Mostly because, for hours, it was exclusive only to Tidal. Then in 2019, with only one coded tweet from the Netflix official account, Beyoncé dropped her Homecoming documentary and then later surprise-dropped the live album. She has changed the way marketing and digital consumption have worked this decade.
5. New York in the Motherfucking House: Rise of the Reaction GIF
One of the best parts of this decade has been the creation of gifs and the use of reaction videos. Black women and LGBTQ+ people took over our timelines in ways we had not really seen before. From Tiffany Pollard, to Whitney Houston, to MC Debra, to Jasmine Masters, reaction videos and gifs changed the way we communicated with each other forever.
6. #BlackLivesMatter and #TheMovementForBlackLives Emerges (CW: state violence)
After the murder of Mike Brown, Ferguson protesters took to the streets for several days of civil unrest and documented it through Twitter. This not only changed the way we protested, it also changed the very functionality of Twitter itself. After this moment, Twitter became more and more of a pop sociology course that educated people on varying systemic oppressions and created solidarity across borders for Black and brown people around the world.
7. There’s No Family Like a Black Family: The Birth of #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies
There’s no denying that Black Twitter really cemented itself as a legitimate and mostly cohesive community this decade. And a lot of that has to do with some iconic trending topics… the most, in our honest opinion, being #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies from 2015. While many of us recognize that Thanksgiving itself is a racist sham (like this country, oops), Black people have zeroed in on how we celebrate the day in particular with good food, family we haven’t seen in a while, and legendary roasts that are enough to start civil wars. The delightful trending topic spawned #ThanksgivingClapback and both tags are forever indebted to their predecessor, #GrowingUpBlack.
8.The Introduction of #BlackGirlMagic
Back in 2013, CaShawn Thompson introduced the term #BlackGirlMagic into our collective lexicon to “celebrate the beauty, power, and resilience of Black women.” No one knew how big it would get… until it really blew up in 2015 and 2016. The term took off, ended up on several Essence covers, had its own space carved out thanks to Teen Vogue, and even garnered attention from then First Lady Michelle Obama. And the term is not going anywhere anytime soon.
9. Dawn of #MeToo: The [Re]Introduction of Tarana Burke (CW: sexual violence)
While a certain white woman attempted to take credit for the #MeToo movement, this honor belongs to Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist from The Bronx (who has been active since 2003 and coined #MeToo in 2006). The hashtag went viral in 2017 after people on Twitter began using it to tweet about their own experiences with sexual abuse and assault amid the news of Weinstein’s crimes. Burke has continued to call out the pervasiveness of sexual abuse here in the states and abroad and she has especially committed to making sure that Black girls and Black women are not erased in that conversation (re: Cosby and R. Kelly).
10. The Introduction of #OscarsSoWhite
Before April Reign would risk it all for a white woman named Timothy, she did do the world a solid by coining the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The tag first came to life back in 2015 (Jesus, how long was that year?) when the Academy rolled out its Oscar nominations and revealed what was to be the whitest awards list (with no Black people, in particular, nominated in any acting categories) since 1998. Reign posted an initial tweet about the ceremony being so white that it touched her hair, and from there, the hashtag took off and trended for days. The hashtag was so influential that it even pressured Hollywood elites to chime in and explain their affinity for whiteness. The tag is still used as a marker for whether or not representation in Hollywood is truly “progressing” like its defenders claim.
Harpo, Who is this White Woman Curator?
Black people have always observed how quickly the general populace will come to the aid of a white woman—aka THE “damsels-in-distress.” But Black Twitter watched this play out in 2018 when several notable “Blue Checks” (verified Twitter accounts) came to the defense of historian Timothy Anne Burnside when it was discovered that she, a white woman, would be curating the hip-hop exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The NMAAHC defended their decision, @DJChubbESwagg rightfully questioned this, and incurred the collective wrath of Blue Checks like #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign, activist Brittany Packnett, political commentator Symone D. Sanders, unqualified culture vulture Sam Whiteout, and more. Most of whom ended up apologizing over the weekend. It was a chaotic event that highlighted the racism AND classism that Black artists, historians, and curators face… even from skinfolk. And even spawned the iconic #AskTimothy hashtag that hilariously sought to test Timothy’s so-called “cultural competence” and “allyship.”
Peaches Monroe Creates “On Fleek”
Peaches Monroe changed the game and really should be revered as one of the best linguists of the decade. Brands, companies, songwriters, and rappers used her phrase, “on fleek,” after her Vine video celebrating how good her eyebrows looked went viral.
Rise of the Concept Thread
Tweetdeck became really popular in the latter half of this decade, and most times their use was to steal tweets from others and gain virality from them. This was not true for popular tweeter nasmaraj, however—who is alleged to have been Lil Nas X. nasmaraj’s claim to fame was his innovative use of “concept threads.”
The Fall of Vine and The Rise of TikTok
The fall of Vine came long before the death of Vine. But when Twitter decided to close Vine, many people took to Twitter and shared some of their favorite vine videos from the decade. Soon after, TikTok had its claim to fame.
The Fighting Emcees: Cardi B Versus Nicki Minaj
Cardi B and Nicki Minaj had one of the more entertaining feuds of the decade. In 2018, it came to a head after Nicki Minaj allegedly liked a tweet about Cardi’s mothering capabilities. At that year’s Harper’s Bazaar Icons party during New York Fashion Week, Cardi approached Nicki Minaj and, after being stopped by security, threw her shoe at her.
Paging HR: Twitter, Black Names, and the Curious Case of Corporate Racism
Thanks to Zola, storytelling became way more popular on Twitter after 2015. And one of the most memorable ones included Twitter denizen ToraShae (@BlackMajiik) and her encounter with corporate racism. To make a long story short, some Chet thought he was going to disrespect “hood Black girl names” by refusing to learn hers and he received his just desserts when ToraShae called him assorted white man names for over six months. This started a fun little conversation on Black Twitter on how to deal with corporate racism… in the pettiest ways possible. We love to see it!
Black Twitter Introduces #AskRachel, a Black Litmus Test
2015 was a fairly chaotic and landmark year for Black Twitter. And one of the things that made it the most chaotic year was when NAACP president Rachel Dolezal was exposed by her own parents (We love to see it!) as a white woman pretending to be Black. Nevermind that she could never be Black with struggle edges like that, but Black Twitter decided to take this opportunity to introduce the hashtag #AskRachel and test Rachel on her alleged Blackness by offering up questions and trivia only a Black person would be privy to.
Who Would You Kill (or Save) in the Race War?
In another 2018 moment, Twitter denizen @SilentHooper tweeted about expressing regret at having to kill professional skater Tony Hawk in the hypothetical race war… and the pro skater legend thanked them for their hesitation. It was a hilarious exchange that spawned a separate debate in-thread and across Twitter about what white person many of us would save or hesitate to kill in a similar scenario.