Miami-Dade County

Dream Defenders take break from social media

Dream Defenders executive director Phillip Agnew, left; and Dream Defenders members Shamile Louis, center, and Arely Lozano-Baugh, right, post notes written by members of the Miami Gardens community onto a poster in this Feb. 21, 2015, photo. The Dream Defenders of South Florida organized a community town hall after the shooting death of Lavall Hall, a mentally ill man, by Miami Gardens police. The organization will take a social media break to “focus on grassroots work,” said Steven Pargett, the organization's communications director.
Dream Defenders executive director Phillip Agnew, left; and Dream Defenders members Shamile Louis, center, and Arely Lozano-Baugh, right, post notes written by members of the Miami Gardens community onto a poster in this Feb. 21, 2015, photo. The Dream Defenders of South Florida organized a community town hall after the shooting death of Lavall Hall, a mentally ill man, by Miami Gardens police. The organization will take a social media break to “focus on grassroots work,” said Steven Pargett, the organization's communications director. MIAMI HERALD FILE

Since the Dream Defenders joined Twitter in 2012, the organization made up of young activists pushing for social justice tweeted more than 30,000 times —commenting on current events, retweeting positive messages and announcing activities.

One of the most recent subjects: 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, who was suspended from his Texas school for three days after bringing a homemade clock — which was mistaken for a bomb — to school.

But the number of tweets will remain stagnant for a while as the organization takes a social media break to “focus on grassroots work,” said Steven Pargett, the organization's communications director.

“We realized that our social media growth does not relate to the power of our squadds [the term used for chapters]” Pargett said. “We are taking the next couple of months to develop a strategy and really talk to people.”

During the summer, the group gained national attention after staging the longest sit-in at Florida Capitol in recent history. Activists from across the state spent 30 nights and 31 days trying to persuade Gov. Rick Scott to call a special session on the controversial Stand Your Ground Law.

The group formed in 2012 after George Zimmerman, a Sanford neighborhood watchman, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, 17. Forty people marched from Daytona to Sanford in April 2012 to protest that Zimmerman had not been arrested. He was later arrested and charged, but was acquitted in the shooting death of Martin.

Over the ensuing months, the group has staged protests following the shooting deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers, been vocal about the Stand Your Ground law and has fought for equal rights for everyone.

While the group will not be posting on their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts, the group is not going away, Pargett said.

The group has launched what it’s calling a Free campaign to have statewide conversations and discussions about how it can continue to fulfill its mission. It will also continue to get involved in major issues — just not through social media posts.

“We tend to assume that social media is the only and the best form of communication,” Pargett said. “It is a misconception that if we are not participating in social media than we don’t exist. We will focus on being present in our community, authentic real human connection, which is often forgotten.’’

Carli Teproff: 305-376-3587, @CTeproff

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