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Our Hashtags Aren’t For Sale

#Demthrones, #MelaninMagic, #afrolatinx, #hotgirlsummer, and other cultural hashtags are among the most shared you’ll find on and off social media.  Since the Twitterverse’s inception, we have seen collectives grow. We have Black LGBTQ+ Twitter, Shea Butter Twitter, Ratchet Twitter, Blerd Twitter; but you get my point. We exist and have created a presence online for our conversations to exist. Black Twitter, more than any other collective, has been recognized for creating the hottest trends on social media. Posts and trends that, without fail, tap into our Black roots.

From memes to music to movies, Black Twitter has been the catalyst behind a lot of today’s  conversations. Hashtags are integral to these conversations. It brings our community closer and creates more of a conversation around topics we don’t really have a safe place discussing within workspaces or with family. The hashtag, #hotgirlsummer, in particular, has caused massive waves across the country.

For those who don’t know (i.e. our lost sis, Ayesha Curry), Houston rapper and official “hot girl”, Megan Thee Stallion, coined the term herself., The term took off, simultaneously with Meg’s blossoming career, and soon all of the internet took notice. With so many variations and misunderstandings of what a #hotgirlsummer was, the rapper took them to school. 

The term blew up in a major way. Brands like, Wendy’s and Maybelline, started to take notice. Alarmingly, however these brands began cashing in on this trending expression without crediting or sponsoring the woman who ignited the fire behind it.

Even fans are taking it into their own account to question these mega corporations ethics and diverse hiring practices. 

It’s confusing and disappointing right? Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that words or phrases created by POCs were used as profitable ways for predominantly white companies to engage their youthful demographic.

Artists now are beginning to take action. Cardi B., for example attempted to protect the term “Okurrr”, the catchphrase she’s been known for.  The rapper did so in order to use it solely for T-shirts, sweatshirts, hooded sweatshirts, pants, shorts, jackets, footwear, headgear, namely hats and caps, blouses, bodysuits, dresses, jumpsuits, leggings, shirts, sweaters and undergarments. However, the application was denied and sparked the conversation on what is the rules for trademarking phrases.The USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) supposedly cited the Kardashians use of the phrase as an example of it being a common expression.” Truly shocking, however, was the fact that weeks later Kim Kardashian was permitted to trademark the word, “Kimono”, for her lingerie line. Crazy how that is, right? Cardi expressed frustration on failing to receive claims to the “Okurrr” phrase that is now circulating internationally and brands are failing to recognize the woman behind it.

We have seen this before from popular dances being used in video games to having iconic movie lines used by kids who can’t even reference which movie it’s stolen from. 

In 2016, the comedic movie line from Ice-Cube’s, “Friday” bye felicia resurfaced everywhere. We couldn’t go anywhere without seeing it on tee-shirts, phone cases, and even costumes in the stores. But how much of that coin went to Ice-Cube, the film’s director?  That’s right, nada. But that’s a reality that we are forced to face as creatives and entertainers of color.

With all of these questions arising on why haven’t these artists been able to receive their coins, Megan “thee stallion”, is currently going through the process to trademark her phrase “Hot Girl Summer.”This begs the question , whether this is another form of appropriating culture? Terms and phrases such as “dope” have been used in the POC community for decades before outside consumers had a chance to utilize the word. Online collectives such as Black Twitter makes it easier for outsiders to sit back, observe, and steal what is rightfully apart of our culture. It’s time for them to pay us our coins or go invent their own terms to profit from. Pay credit where credit is due. PERIODT.

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