A Conversation with April Reign about Activism and Social Media

By Andreas Carlos Freund

If you’re a social media user or an activist, you’ll definitely want to get familiar with April Reign, a writer, former lawyer, and the activist who started the #OscarsSoWhite movement. April and I met at the Inaugural Recode 100 event where she was one of the honoreesI was very drawn to April’s experience as an activist who used twitter so effectively to spark dialogue around a variety of important issues related to women and minorities. As the creator and co-creator of  #OscarsSoWhite and #NoConfederate, April has played a huge role in systematically changing the status quo at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Even more impressive, is the fact that she did all of this completely from the outside. Although she hadn’t planned for #OscarsSoWhite to go viral, when the attention came, she was ready and capitalized amazingly.

When we spoke, April described herself to me as an “avid movie-goer, but not someone with any type of connection to the entertainment industry.” She says, “That particular year (2015) it just struck me that the nominees in every single category, and not just those in front of the camera, were such an incredibly homogeneous group.” She had no idea that what she’d do next would lead to celebrities like Will Smith, Jada Pinckett-Smith, and Spike Lee skipping out on that year’s Academy Awards.

“I picked up my phone, which is never more than three feet away and said ‘Oscars so white they asked to touch my hair’ and that was it. I went to work and checked in on Twitter around lunchtime and realized the hashtag was trending internationally, much to my surprise.”   

The tweet that started it all…

When I asked her how she handled this newfound attention and what her recommendations would be for activists using social media, I was struck by the sense of responsibility she had with over 125,000 followers. You can almost think of her as the opposite of a Logan Paul type, which isn’t exactly a compliment but I digress. She told me:

“I just think one has to fully take on the responsibility of being the leader of a campaign or movement. Or not, right? When #OscarsSoWhite happened, I very easily could have said at the very beginning, ‘You know what? I have a job and I’m not sure I want to be the face of this.’ But if you decide that this, whatever that movement or campaign is, that it’s truly something that you really want to do, you have to make sure that you have all of the information at your disposal.”

April makes a serious effort to remain informed, because follows and likes don’t motivate her. She’s dedicated to being a reliable leader and a voice for those our society overlooks.

When I pressed her further on Russian bots, automated abuse, hate-speech, she said, “I honestly think it’s scary. And it’s not just the bots. We’ve got robots that are becoming sentient now…. At some point, automation and all of those things mean that workers are going to be displaced…And who is working on retraining them to do something else?”

Humorous but far from cavalier, April, as an activist, views her platform as a serious responsibility and works tirelessly to make sure she’s informed, pragmatic, and, most importantly, an effective leader. As April told me, “To paraphrase Biggie Smalls, ‘more followers, more problems.’ Right? You have to make sure that you are being responsible.”

We only wish a certain man in the White House would follow her lead…

About April Reign, Senior Director of Marketing at Fractured Atlas

Reign practiced law for nearly twenty years, honing her talent for public speaking and writing, but it wasn’t until she walked away from her legal practice that she found her true passion.

As the creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and the co-creator of #NoConfederate, she sustains a movement that has resulted in the most systemic change ever seen in the over 80-year history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Reign is an influential and sought-after media presence, having built an organic following of over 125,000 worldwide. She has written for countless magazines/publications including Vanity Fair, Essence, The Washington Post, Vox, Huffington Post, Forbes, and the Guardian; has appeared on several news programs including CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, MSNBC, HLN, and the Today Show; and has presented at numerous conferences/events, including Women of the World Festival, Pop Tech, the Smithsonian History Film Forum, Toronto Black Film Festival, USITT, NABJ Conferences, United State of Women, BlogHer Voice of the Year, National Action Network Convention, and Social Media Weeks in Los Angeles and Ghana. April is a Google NextGen Policy Leader, an Opportunity Agenda Creative Change Alum, and was named to the Inaugural #Recode100 and Essence #Woke100 Lists.

Via Fractured Atlas

Andreas Carlos Freund

Andreas is a San Francisco native and the proud son of immigrants. He attended Vassar College and the Freie Universität in Berlin and previously worked for Versal and Blacklane. Andreas co-founded DiveIn in 2016 after witnessing the effects of the refugee crisis in Germany and watching the rise of xenophobia worldwide. Passionate about social justice, politics, and technology, Andreas also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Cheetah Conservation Fund. In his spare time, he enjoys playing soccer, hanging with family, and reading way too much news. You can follow him on Twitter here @ACFreund.