When three historically black churches were burned down in St. Landry Parish, Megan Romer turned to Twitter. She hoped to use her online audience to put national attention on the string of hate crimes taking place here in Louisiana.
At first, the tweets, which contained a link to a GoFundMe raising money to rebuild the churches, didn’t garner much support. They were retweeted a few dozen times, but they certainly didn’t gain the national attention Romer was hoping for.
Then, the Notre Dame fire happened.
While Romer says that she found the news of Notre Dame heartbreaking, she was somewhat surprised how quickly people rallied to give money to the Catholic Church, which she calls “one of the world’s wealthiest entities.”
In France, the Catholic Church brings in over $740 million in assets every year, according to a report in the Catholic newspaper La Croix.
Struck by the disparity, Romer again took to Twitter.
“My heart is broken over the loss of Notre Dame,” Romer tweeted. “The Catholic Church is also one of the world’s wealthiest entities. If you are going to donate money to rebuild a church this week, I implore you to make it the black churches in St. Landy Parish.”
She then linked to the GoFundMe account.
My heart is broken over the loss of Notre Dame.
The Catholic Church is also one of the world’s wealthiest entities.
If you are going to donate money to rebuild a church this week, I implore you to make it the black churches in St. Landry Parish. https://t.co/HBh4n80nT1
— Megan Romer (@meganromer) April 16, 2019
This time, the tweet hit a nerve, quickly going viral. Within 48 hours, the fundraiser had gone from raising $60,000 to over $1.8 million. The tweet was spotted and shared by freelance journalist Yashar Ali, who has over 394,000 followers. From there, other celebrities began retweeting, including Hillary Clinton, Megan McCain, and Soledad O’Brien.
As of early Monday, April 22, the fundraiser ad raised over $2 million and is no longer accepting donations.
“I’m both a religious person and a social justice-y person,” Romer told NOLA.com. “I tend to tweet a lot when I think something hits that intersection.”
In this case, it was just what was needed to garner some much-needed national attention on a serious issue.
The results of Romer’s viral tweet shine a more positive light on digital activism, which has gotten something of a bad reputation in recent years. Some studies have implied that online activism isn’t really activism at all, only creating the impression of activism.
However, as Romer’s tweet shows, sometimes online activism can spark a wider conversation, and bring attention to issues affecting underserved and underrepresented communities. Activism doesn’t always have to mean grabbing a shovel, Romer says. For some people, it means grabbing a phone or a keyboard, and that’s okay.
“I think it is important that we all have a role to play, and it’s okay if those roles are different,” Romer states.
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.