Black Lives Matter.
Before those three words became a hashtag and an inspirational rallying cry for a new national movement, they were a heartbreaking plea for simple recognition.
First shared publicly on a Saturday in the summer of 2013 — the day George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin seemed to say the opposite — “Black Lives Matter” was an affirmation of a basic humanity too long denied.
In a recent phone interview, Alicia Garza reflected on the moment she posted “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter” to Facebook, how her friend and fellow activist Patrisse Cullors then shared Black Lives Matter as a hashtag, and why it has resonated so powerfully ever since.
“We live in a world where it’s not actually true,” Garza explained. “To have a message that is affirming of people’s existence, is affirming of people’s experiences.”
That message of affirmation continues to resonate far beyond Garza’s words — and it’s what makes the movement she co-founded (along with Cullors and Opal Tometi) so different from the fights for civil rights that came before. From Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. to Nelson Mandela, social justice movements have always been about more than their courageous and inspirational leaders. It’s the multitude of diverse individuals who unified behind a common cause that propelled movements forward.
But the diversity of those unified individuals wasn’t always so visible — and that’s what sets #BLM and the collective Movement for Black Lives apart from their predecessors. While #BLM has been justifiably hailed for galvanizing a new generation of activists through social media and mobilizing through a more distributed organizational structure, its leaders see their embrace of intersectionality and the foregrounding of multidimensional identities and perspectives as critical to ensuring this movement succeeds.
“Blackness is not a monolith,” Garza said. “There is no one way to be black.” Read more
In collaboration with BET