Use Your Voice: Deba’s guide to activism in the digital age

Model Deba, artist Syd Falls, musician Djenaba, and stylist Payzee Malika discuss activism now at the first ever Dazed 100 Academy

Breaking through the silence of lockdown, not even a global pandemic could muzzle the urgent voices of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer. The killing of George Floyd by the disgraced police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis in late May reignited protests against racist police brutality that created a revolutionary cultural shift. “We were literally in the middle of a pandemic where everybody was segregated, (but) we gathered in thousands to show our disgust and our disapproval of what was happening,” explained stylist and anti-FGM, anti-forced marriage campaigner Payzee Malika, speaking at model Deba’s panel on activism and social media as part of the first ever Dazed 100 Academy. “The role that social media played in it was absolutely pivotal,” Payzee added.

Hosted by Dazed Beauty’s Dominic Cadogan, Deba and Payzee were joined by artist, musician, and model Djenaba and Chicago-based artist, DJ, and model Syd Falls to make a powerful line up of creatives using their platforms to advocate for positive change. Kicking off with what activism means to them, Deba explained that, to her, is it being “Vocal and expressive about issues that matter to you… (and) to communities that are less advantaged than you.” Acknowledging that the term can be intimidating, Syd suggested that “the greatest form of activism is to be living, walking examples of the type of person you would like to see in this world”, whereas Payzee finds she can really identify with the word, “Because I feel like: I play an active role… It’s a positive word for me.”

Noting that trust in traditional institutions is low (“Our justice system isn’t exactly just”), Djenaba explained that, “Social media is a chance for people from the actual communities to speak about their experiences, and it can go to such a large scale audience.” However, as Syd pointed out, not all online initiatives amount to meaningful activism: “The black and white photos that people were posting, that was for solidarity with Turkish women, but there (were) people posting it and knew nothing about it!” Performative allyship, then, is “not ‘allyship’ at all,” as Deba concluded.

Watch the highlights video for more wisdom and advice about how to navigate showing you care while helping to drive real change online.

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