Before all these tragic deaths, there was the outrage of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, an overzealous neighborhood watch vigilante who murdered 14-year-old Trayvon Martin on a rainy night in Sanford, Florida.
The outrage of three radical black female organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Temeti—birthed an era-defining movement for change. Their collective outrage over Martin’s murder in cold blood was poured into what would become a new wave of black activism, all fueled by the belief in three simple words, “Black Lives Matter.”
This movement, which began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism, has now grown into a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. Its members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
“A year (after Zimmerman’s acquittal), we set out together on the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride to Ferguson, in search of justice for Mike Brown and all of those who have been torn apart by state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism,” the movement’s site revealed. “Forever changed, we returned home and began building the infrastructure for the Black Lives Matter Global Network, which, even in its infancy, has become a political home for many.”
In the years since its founding, the successes have continued to pour in: #BlackLivesMatter members have ousted anti-Black politicians, won critical legislation to benefit Black lives and changed the terms of the debate on Blackness around the world. Through movement and relationship building, the movement has also helped catalyze other movements and shifted culture with an eye toward the dangerous impacts of anti-Blackness.
But in order to truly understand the circumstances and the motivation the inspired this movement, one must consider the stories of the people who birthed it.
Cullors is the first of the trio to share her life and how it has converged with the #BlackLives Matter movement in a new memoir, titled, “When they call you a terrorist.” The book, which is a quick read, is a riveting two-part account of survival, strength, and resilience, including a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.
Part one shares deeply personal in-depth accounts of Cullors life and how she found her activist voice through the experiences she witnessed firsthand as a youth growing up in Los Angeles. Part two dives right into the #BlackLivesMatter movement and lends context to what was going on in her own life as this movement that began with a hashtag she added to the three words that fueled her outrage in the first place.
“Not everybody cares about black kids,” Cullors said, recalling the moment when she learned how disposable black people are.
In this book, she discusses how hard middle school was for her and how she felt like she didn’t matter. As she got older she dealt with issues around her Father Gabriel and brother Monte that later motivated her to keep going.
She said that her father was a really important figure in her life and that her brother was her first best friend.
How her brother was treated by police shaped how she felt about law enforcement. She states there is a serious need to reclaim and inform people what public safety really means.
Social media activism has been a huge part of spreading the word and goals of the black lives matter movement, but Cullors mentions that she & her co-founders are trained organizers.
“I joined an organization when I was 16. I really honed in on my skills and learn what it takes to organize,” Cullors explained. As the #Blacklivesmatter movement grew, she and her co-founders were developing a strategy that they could implement anywhere in America.
“Digital organizing is a new way to organize people to create change.”
We all know how powerful #blacktwitter is and when #blacklivesmatter jumps on your timeline you will read it to see if you need to comment, like, retweet or share your opinion on what’s happening.
Black Lives Matter is working to ensure that President Donald Trump does not get re-elected in 2020. “Local work is important to continue even when the national work is challenging and hard,” informs Cullors. She further states that their local focus on issues is what they work towards creating change nationally with a global impact through this movement. Even though Black Lives Matter isn’t in the national news each chapter is working locally on creating change.
Cullors mentions that we should take care of our organizers of the movement and recognize that they need our support as well. Many times we are so caught up in marching for the cause that we forget to check on the person standing next to us.
“I think that every black person should have a therapist as a part of their reparations package,” said Cullors about the importance of therapy.