I’d like to start by honoring the traditional owners of this land both past and present. Thank you for inviting BLM to be apart of this historical moment.
I would like to tell you the story of Black Lives Matter, tell you of its origins. Its beginnings.
In 2013 when George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin, Alicia Garza wrote a love letter to Black people. It was powerful. It ended with Black Lives Matter. When I saw that I knew it had transformative power. I turned it into a hashtag and it became alive on social media. Opal Tometi developed and curated our online social media platforms so the hashtag could go viral. That is the conception story. On August 9th, 2014 when Mike Brown was murdered by a cop and left on the pavement for 4 1/2 hours in the blistering sun, #BlackLivesMatter resurged out of the need for something greater, the need to intervene in the reckless genocidal murder of Black people in this USA, the people of St. Louis and Ferguson took to the streets and refused to allow their dignity to be shook.
Black Lives Matter has become what Black communities all over the world have needed it to become. At times it is a hashtag, at other moments it is a declaration, a cry of rage, a sharing of light. It has become a movement that is international, worldwide in its scope of liberation for Black and oppressed people everywhere. With over 40 chapters officiated in North America including Canada and the U.K. and several in development around the world, BLM is a growing global movement.
We’ve seen many movements emerge during the last 4 years. Immigrant rights, women’s march, queer and trans movement, take a knee movement built and developed by then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
We’ve seen the rise of white supremacists.
And here I am in Australia. As we go from interview to interview and meet with indigenous communities, I can’t help but reflect on the experiences and conversations I’ve been having with Indigenous Peoples, South Sea Islanders and Torres Strait Islanders. Horrendous stories steeped in state violence and government cover ups. Stories about children harassed by cops and dying, being murdered in jail cells.
This is a list of just some Aboriginal People killed in police and prison custody in recent years. We acknowledge there have been hundreds of Black deaths in custody since a Royal Commission on this issue concluded in 1991, putting forward many recommendations that have not been implemented. Many of these names are only known due to the efforts of family members who have taken to the streets demanding justice for their loved ones.
David Dungay Jnr
Wayne Fella Morrison
Kwementyaye (pronounced koo-mant-jay) Briscoe
We also acknowledge the many other people critically injured in police attacks such as Dennis Doolan, shot in the back by police, and Sheila Oakley, tasered in the eye.
White racist violence also kills Black people in this country, with disgusting leniency showed to perpetrators by the police and the courts, such as the recent cases of young Elijah Doughty and Kwementyaye (koo-mant-jay) Ryder.
We know about the history of blackbirding of some 62,500 Islanders from Vanuatu and Solomon’s.
I recognize the history here is a brutal and racist colonial history. One that sometimes mirrors the U.S.’s brutal history. But it would be easy to only talk about the past, let’s not make this an easy conversation. Let’s be courageous and talk about what is happening today.
Where the communities most marginalized in Australia face the highest rates of poverty, infant mortality, and incarceration. Let’s talk about the impact the years of the stolen generation has on current day Australia. The trauma and spectacle of having your entire life obliterated before your eyes. A trauma that tears into your spirit and your psyche. More like a nightmare with very little reprieve in sight.
We stand here today as the Black Lives Matter global network committing to be a part of the long legacy of global Black struggle in solidarity with the Indigenous People of Australia, South Sea Islanders and Torres Strait Islander People. We urge this local government as we have urged ours to meet the demands of these communities.
We have been told this government has been silent and instead has chosen to watch, perpetuate, and be bystanders of the atrocities Black people face in this country.
We, Black have been courageous. Our ancestors have been courageous. We need you, elected officials, appointed officials, and journalist to be courageous. We need you to make the choice to heal this country. We need you to believe and listen to the community in Australia.
That silence is the reality of those who get to choose. Non-Black people, this government, can choose whether or not they will name what is taking place here, we need you to name the people who have been killed by this government, name the realities of anti-Black racism and state-sanctioned violence.
But for those of us who experience this type of devastation every day, there is no choice. When everyone else fails to carry the weight with us, their complicity in benefiting from anti-Black racism, their refusal to name anti-Black racism, their erasure of our devastation, we are expected also to carry that failure, to carry their inability to recognize that freedom for us means freedom for everyone.
We must say the names of those who have fallen, because it’s through us that they continue to survive. We must say the names of our folks who have fought so we can fight and win.
This is why a movement like Black Lives Matter is happening now. One that looks at the necessity of intersectionality, the recognition of our struggles being interconnected, that our freedoms are intertwined, that this movement is global and has been global. It is the realization that we are all responsible. That there can be no neutrality in the face of Black decimation.
We must organize and build in non-colonial ways and that means centralizing those who are most marginalized, building their capacity in self-determined ways, and putting them in positions of leadership.
Our movement is built by all of us. It is our duty to join the growing movement for justice inside and outside of this country. If you don’t see yourself as an active participant in liberation of Black people now is your opportunity. All of our lives depend on it. Ase.