“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” – Haile Selassie

Everyone with a laptop, or cell phone with Internet access has become an expert about almost everything imaginable in this world. We live in an age where life is explained in 140 characters or less. So, if you’ve decided to continue reading despite this being longer than 140 characters, I commend you; better than that, I salute you. Many an e-mail that have made their way to my personal inbox have gone unanswered, unread or simply un-cared for because of the simple fact they didn’t capture my interest within the first few sentences. I say this to state that yes, I too have fallen victim to quick-witted one-liners, eye-catching headlines and poignant status updates. Life theoretically happens in those first few sentences and we blindly have accepted this fate as reality and are content to have those tidbits of information dictate our current knowledge base.

We read and listened intently a year back as LeBron told us about his #icebucketchallenge and we curiously thumbed through his mentions to see who else he challenged, but it would be interesting to see how many of his social media followers actually did any sort of research of into the actual cause of this social media sensation. I’d be willing to bet a stack of Instagram money that half the people dousing themselves in frigid, ball and nipple-numbing water had no clue about the crippling effects of the incurable disease known as Lou Gehrigs a.k.a. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Nevertheless, most fads and sensations usually bring about some sort of sordid awareness of various issues; unfortunately it rarely manifests cures or solutions.

“Face on T-shirts with no hashtags / Just big-ass trash bags tagged hash / Out here, shit been trill.” – Malik Yusef “Nobody’s Smiling”

A couple years ago we were all captivated by the disgraceful death of Trayvon Martin that sparked international outrage – an unarmed young black man in the state of Florida returning home from his girlfriend’s house, Skittles and iced tea in tote, was confronted by a local gun-toting wanna-be superhero and was shot and killed. We all remember the entire Miami Heat basketball team paying homage to the fallen teen by wearing dark hoodies illustrated in a picture and tweeting it to the world in a show of solidarity to this outrageous and very polarizing case. Many throughout North America followed suit, and conducted their own commemorative renditions throughout social, televised and print media. Another phenomenon was established, and yes, awareness to this consistent and all-to-familiar situation for our young, black men was created. Once again, the problem is that awareness doesn’t always translate into solutions.

Fast-forward two and a half years and we are right where we started, like the Trayvon Martin situation hadn’t even happened. Another helpless, unarmed young, black man gunned down in the streets. Mike Brown became the latest hashtag due to unfortunate circumstances, and everyone from rappers like Nelly and other sports icons, have stepped up to show their support either online or in person in Ferguson, Missouri.

Kudos to those of you who choose to just hashtag the most current and sexiest issue in a blatant effort to gain more mentions, re-tweets, likes and followers – you’ve all become clones of social mediocrity.

As if that wasn’t enough, the atrocious broad daylight killing of New Yorker Eric Garner, choked to death while bystanders watched in horror, still sickens me to this day as this unfortunate homicide has spawned its own brand of hashtag furor with Instagram and Twitter pictures emblazoned with the captions that read Garner’s cryptic last words – #ICantBreathe.

NBA superstars, Derrick Rose, Lebron James and Kyrie Irving have turned their attention to the matter and become silent advocates in the fight for the extinguishing plights on young, black men at the hands of overzealous law enforcement officers. Earlier this season they donned #ICantBreathe T-shirts during their warm-ups before games to the ire of local police departments.

Other than the world’s heightened awareness of the ongoing issues of racial profiling and intense debates of race, class and culture throughout the blogosphere and social media, the two years since Trayvon Martin’s death have proven to be over 700 days unchanged and with the result of inconsequential solutions to a growing North American problem. Kudos to those of you who choose to just hashtag the most current and sexiest issue in a blatant effort to gain more mentions, re-tweets, likes and followers – you’ve all become clones of social mediocrity and perennial fans, or stans, in the crowd, never really becoming players in the game. And that’s okay; everyone has his or her own lane.

“I seen a lot of ice water tossed, and I know it’s for a cause / My only question is, what we doing for the loss / Of Mike Brown, ’cause right now, I challenge you to use your talents to Speak up, and don’t you ever let them silence you / ’Cause action speaks louder than words, that’s what I heard / Shot down with his hands up, that’s what occurred.” The Game, “Don’t Shoot”

Social media (largely Instagram and Twitter) has created a platform, which has proliferated a medium for which athletes, celebrities and the average Joe are able to shout to the world from their mountain tops about their lives and events therein, no matter how insignificant or inconsequential it might be. You’re able to troll and navigate through their vast array of hashtags and creatively imagined captions; in doing so you’re susceptible to follow similar trends on everything from fashion and music to political and social causes. This platform has also yielded an opportunity for said people to totally make a mockery of the hashtag revolution by creating, although funny at-times, enormously dim-witted hashtags that serve little or no relevance to anything, but a mere chuckle or smirk. Don’t believe me? Just watch… Kevin Hart, for one, Lebron James for another.

To protest by hashtagging is trendy and somewhat valiant, however, futile when only done from the comfort of one’s living room or toilet seat.

So as the hashtag revolution for sexy socio-political issues surrounding deathly diseases and police brutality, championed by your favourite athlete or rapper, meets its eventual demise, society is implored to maintain its pressure on the powers-that-be to enact legislation and policies to unearth new ways to deal with these problems. To protest by hashtagging is trendy and somewhat valiant, however, futile when only done from the comfort of one’s living room or toilet seat.

Hashtags, likes, re-tweets, favourites and mentions are as relevant as our celebrities make them. The hashtag revolution is upon us and we are all witnesses a-la @KingJames and his loyal subjects. However, it’s unfortunate that many issues in society, especially within the sports and entertainment sectors, become twitter fodder only to fade into obscurity within the blink of an eye, just like endless amounts of e-mails, status updates and headlines that get chucked, deleted and ignored because they’ve surpassed our self-imposed information quotas of 140 characters.


Karim Grant is a former professional football player who has spent time in both the NFL and CFL. His love for hip-hop spans nearly three decades of beats, rhymes and fashion. His love for sports is equally expansive, as he’s made money playing one sport and has made enemies playing countless others. If he’s not on the field or the hard court coaching inner-city youth, he’s either reading or listening to your favourite artist’s favourite artist while exercising his competitive demons at your local gym. Grant has never been one to mince words on either subject of hip-hop or sports – or anything for that matter – and he’s not about to start anytime soon.

1 Comment

  1. Elaine Mcleod

    Although most things are not in our immediate space to act, or do . We can in some form Open the minds of those who will listen . Karim. You have taken some steps in the right direction . Helping the inner city youths will , and should pay off in the not so far further. Depending on their intereste, ambitions to become the men and women of tomorrow. They have to stand tall on the platforms of ambition with their minds and eyes open . So much power to you as you continue to lead and direct their thoughts and minds. Do not look at them now, but look on whom they can become. Blessings going forward with God as your leader and director all things are possiable.