By Scott Brinton
Editor’s note: Brinton is a professor of journalism at the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University, and executive editor of Herald Community Newspapers and The Long Island Advocate. The video referred to herein was taken for the Herald.
All of it happened in an instant: 24-year-old Matt Brutus, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matters protest in Merrick on June 3, called over to grab my attention. I should photograph a little girl marching behind him, beside her mom. And I did, with my still camera.
Then I took a video with my iPhone that was viewed by 23 million people around the world. To check it out, click on LIHerald.com here.
The little girl, 7-year-old Wynta Amor-Rogers of Uniondale, lit up Twitter when my 15-second video of her chanting, “No justice, no peace!” went viral. I live-tweeted the protest throughout the afternoon. My tweet of Wynta-Amor was my second of the afternoon.
In addition to the tens of millions of views on Twitter, there are all the other millions on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok.
Most of the major TV news networks, along with local affiliates, wanted to broadcast the video. News outlets from around the world reported on it. Artists painted Wynta-Amor. Muralists covered walls of buildings with her image. Musicians created video montages.
I was stunned. So was her mother, Lakyia Jackson.
People have asked why I think the video electrified the Twittersphere as it did. Two reasons, I believe: One, Wynta-Amor was such a dynamic figure — strong, fierce, brave. If a 7-year-old can bound into the street with such fervor, then any adult should be unafraid of protesting.
Many of the commentators on Twitter said she is inspirational. Indeed, she is.
At the same time, I believe the video was posted at precisely the right moment. There had been ugliness in the initial days of protests. So many demonstrations were beautiful expressions of free assembly. In others, however, buildings were burned, windows were smashed, and people were hurt.
As a nation, we needed a respite from many of the images we were seeing on our TV screens nightly.
Into that fray came Wynta-Amor, reminding us of what mattered — social justice. The image of her marching at breakneck pace down Babylon Turnpike in Merrick, reaching only the waists of the protesters around her, resonated because she helped us recall why we must maintain the peace — there are children in our midst.
That is why I believe she was described by many as a superhero — one artist even drew her as such. Her disarming personality and seemingly unbounded energy helped, in so many ways, to remind us as a nation of our central mission — creating a more peaceful world. And she telegraphed a critical message: We must build that world for the next generation and the generation after her.
As a journalist, I was happy and proud to play my small role in this international story by chronicling moments in time during protests here on Long Island, only miles from Hofstra. No doubt, I will have a great deal to share with my students in the fall semester.
To check out my Herald column on the video of Wynta-Amor, click here.