Ferguson Activist Johnetta Elzie Covers Essence’s Black Girl Magic Issue

On ESSENCE’s February Black History Month issue, the magazine celebrates ‘#BlackGirlMagic class of 2016  with 3 different covers of Chi-raq‘s Teyonah Parris, black-ish‘s Yara Shahidi, and civil rights activist Johnetta “Netta” Elzie.

26 year old “Netta,” became renown during the #Ferguson uprising after tweeting about the murder of Mike Brown happening in her neighborhood. She is now one of the leaders in the activist group ‘We The Protesters.’ She co-edits the Ferguson protest newsletter This Is the Movement with fellow activist DeRay McKesson.  With a substantial twitter following of over 82,000, Netta’s activism has actively included social media along with protesting and most recently meeting U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to discuss Campaign Zero—the ten-point solution to end police violence that Elzie helped develop.

netta cover

Her interview in Essence is in depth and speaks to both her approaches to activism and her inspirations:

On being judged for not being a polite protester:

“We definitely had a huge a moment on Twitter over [my public persona and being respectable]. I’m not going to stop cursing for the movement or to make people comfortable. It, actually, makes me feel a little better when I can throw in a little colorful language every once in a while. I’m a protester. We resist against the police, so I’m not trying to be cordial and polite with someone who’s pointing an M16 in my face. If a good F-bomb feels good there or, if I want to say sh– or damn or motherf—–, I’m going to do it. Protesting includes not being pretty and perfect.”

On the criticism of “social media activism:”

“Every time I hear people say it, being shady, I remind everyone, you met me or you know me because I was on the ground and on social media at the same time. It’s not hard to do both. If people want to do one or the other, that’s fine. It’s not a competition. That’s one of the pettiest things people can say. Not everyone can go be in the street. For example, when Martese Johnson was brutalized by the police at UVA, I was not going to Virginia. I was already protesting in another state. It would cost me a lot of time [to get to Virginia]. I, literally, was like, what is the number to the school? I took a picture of his bloody face, posted the number on Twitter and was like, ‘Call UVA and demand to know why this happened to him.’ We flooded the freaking phone lines for maybe two or three days until they had to have a response. They had to give an answer on what happened to him. That was a way for everyone to participate from wherever they were.”

In the issue she is joined by other activists including Jessica Byrd and Bree Newsome.

netta and nem

“Being a part of this reemergence of a movement both pro-diversity and pro-woman is the best part of being a Black girl,” says 16-year-old Shahidi.


Kim Katrin Milan is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed artist, educator and writer.

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