Keys added: “The other thing that hit me, was a question my husband asked me–But what happens after the protests? And so many people are asking ‘What can I do?’”
It’s been a busy year for global activism on women’s issues. From #BringBackOurGirls to #BanBossy to #WhyIStayed, social media activism around discrimination and violence against girls and women have caught the attention of the world, including a number of celebrities, world leaders and political activists. Although many are quick to dismiss celebrity-infused social media campaigns around women’s causes as mere “slacktivism,” the run-up to the opening of this week’s United Nations General Assembly suggests that social media activism fueled by powerful women celebrities is here to stay.
Keys released a new single entitled “We Are Here,” a song centered on the frustrations of witnessing the multiple global and domestic crises that have dominated the headlines in the past several months, and the hope in the declaration of asserting a shared humanity, in simply saying “We are here.”
She wants to “galvanize an army” and is asking fans to post their support for causes they are passionate about using the hashtag #WeAreHere. To launch the campaign, Keys, who is pregnant with her second child, released a nude photograph of herself, with a peace sign painted over her pregnant belly. It was a bold move for a performer who is known more for her voice and piano playing skills than for overt stage sexuality,
During last weekend’s Social Good Summit, Keys took hashtag activism to the next level. The #WeAreHere campaign will support 12 organizations that do work across a range of social justice issues, including Oxfam, Care, the Equal Justice Initiative, All Out , Moms Rising, War Child, and Girls Rising, just to name a few.
A number of the partner organizations share Keys’s belief in the power of social media. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRising.org said, “Because of what is happening in our nation, we grew by another 70,000 new people in this past several months alone. Also our tweet chat #WeMatter that had 170 million impressions. There is no organization that will grow if they don’t listen to women’s voices.”
But how can social media campaigns differ from one another if everyone is trying to broadcast at the same time? Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child, an organization that helps children in war zones, says, “Everybody is shouting, no one is listening. What social media can do, is that [campaigns] can become an introduction. Awareness is one thing as long as it is followed up by education and by dialogue.”
Keys took her commitment to the causes beyond just a hashtag and a song. In a surprise announcement at Sunday’s Social Good Summit, she pledged $1 million of her own funds to the #WeAreHere movement. Her act sheds light on a stark dichotomy facing hashtag movements on gender issues: despite the virality of social media campaigns, it still remains extremely difficult to raise money for women’s issues. One report estimates that on the whole, foundations only give about 6 percent or less to programs designed to meet the needs of women and girls.
Mary Ellen Capek, a founding officer for the National Council for Research on Women has said that having either of the words “women” or “girls” in the name of an organization is the “kiss of death” for finding adequate funding.
Thus, Alicia Keys’s significant financial donation to the causes she believes in provides a model of behavior for other celebrities and her fans: When it comes to social media campaigns for equal rights and women’s issues, put your money where your hashtag is.