2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Hashtag Intervention - Why #BlackGirlsRun

Written by Megan Collyer | Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014

At SXSW 2014, Felicia Harris covers the obesity epidemic in the African American community

This installment of the Session Spotlight features “Hashtag Intervention: Why #BlackGirlsRun” and new media guru Felicia Harris, Doctoral Intern for New Media at the University of Georgia. Together with Ashley Hicks, Chief Visionary Officer for #BlackGirlsRun, Harris will discuss the power of social media and a hashtag in making a difference in the growing obesity rates of the African-American community. Catch up with Harris on Twitter @felicialynne.

SXSW: Tell us about #BlackGirlsRun.
Harris: In 2009, Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks created Black Girls RUN!® to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African American community. Today, BGR! is a movement of 60,000-plus women in running groups across the nation. How did one simple message/hashtag, #blackgirlsrun, grow to reach and impact the lives of 100,000-plus social media users daily? In this panel, the co-founders of BGR! will discuss the role of social media in empowering women to live healthier, happier lives offline.

SXSW: Who will enjoy this session? Will newbies of this topic be able to follow the discussion?
Harris: This session will be particularly useful for people who are interested in public health, digital innovation, or social movements. The rapid growth of Black Girls RUN! is an exemplar of health promotion and the power of social media. While the focus of this panel is on health, the discussion is grounded in aspects of social movements facilitated online. All SXSW Interactive registrants will be able to follow, and enjoy, this discussion.

SXSW: What is the best book or article you’ve read on this topic?
Harris: In early 2012, CNN ran a multimedia package that features BGR! co-founder Ashley Hicks and other BGR! members speaking specifically to how social media has fueled the running movement. The package can be viewed here.

SXSW: Have you been to SXSW Interactive before? When? What was your experience like?
Harris: I attended SXSW Interactive in 2012 and 2013. My experiences were phenomenal. As a communication scholar, the festival provides an unparalleled opportunity to network and learn from other professionals at the brink of theory and practice.

SXSW: Why is speaking at the festival a big deal?
Harris: Speaking at SXSW Interactive is a big deal because of one thing: the audience. The people who occupy the seats at SXSW are intellectuals, thinkers, dreamers, and most importantly, doers. Because of the way that SXSW audiences challenge speakers, you find that at any moment, at any panel, the next "big thing" can literally come about right in front of your eyes.

SXSW: While you’re at the event, do you generally hang out with old friends or try to make new ones?
Harris: At an event like SXSW, I am always in search of making new connections. Why spend all this money and time to hang out with people I could connect with at home? SXSW is all about NEW ideas, opportunities, and collaborations.

SXSW: Who or what inspires your creativity?
Harris: I find inspiration in humanity. As a race, we create some pretty epic stuff. I talk to my phone and it talks back. I add a '#' symbol to a phrase and I'm instantly having a conversation with thousands of people around the planet. How could I not be inspired to continue that legacy?

SXSW: What is your favorite gadget and why?
Harris: My favorite gadget is my Macbook Air. It fits in most of my purses and I tend to carry it everywhere. I'm never shy about pulling out my MBA anywhere and getting to work.

SXSW: Not necessarily related to #BlackGirlsRun and your SXSW session, what is your favorite book and why?
Harris: I read a ton. I'm currently reading "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi, which I'm sure will help me with fostering new relationships at SXSW. Ferrazzi details his approach to success through building relationships that last a lifetime.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. For tips on interesting sessions to attend, visit the new Recommendation page. Register now to attend “Hashtag Intervention - Why #BlackGirlsRun” and other incredible programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.