Not a Moment, but a Movement
Patrisse Cullors is one of the three co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the summer of 2013 fueled by the acquittal granted to George Zimmerman after his murder of Trayvon Martin, Alicia Garza posted on Facebook, Patrisse added a hashtag, and Opal Tometi had the vision of a platform for Black liberation.
Black Lives Matter!
Black Lives Matter (BLM) has evolved into an international chapter-based movement broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state and the ways in which Black lives are deprived of basic human rights and dignity. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.
Patrisse, Alicia, and Opal have recieved widespread recognition in their roles as the organization’s visionaries, a practice which is rooted in the fundamental vales of Black Lives Matter. Historically the Black Power movement has left out Black queer people, and specifically Black trans women. The BLM movement is rectifying the all-too-common erasure of Black queer and trans women and making sure they are recognized as the influential leaders of the movement that they are.
Although the founders have received a lot of media attention, there are BLM chapters in multiple countries leading vibrant and powerful work. For example, in the south like SpiritHouse Project; women like Mia Wilson, Ashely Henderson, and Mary Hooks; organizations like Southerners On New Ground (SONG). There are individuals and collectives that are not nonprofits, like a healing justice collective called Harriet’s Apothocary that’s leading powerful work in New York City. All of their work should be lifted up and known.
Patrisse places strong value in building Black leadership and realizes that the current ways of working for change may not be the same in 10 years. “Black Revolutionary Amnesia” is how she describes the phenomenon of the gap between the generation of the Civil Rights Movement and today’s Black Lives Matter generation. Building the next generation of Black leaders is one of BLM’s highest priorities and is done through many different chapters and programs, a great example being the national leadership development program BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity). BLM is working to achieve and sustain Black liberation.
Ferguson to Palestine
In 2014, three weeks after Mike Brown’s murder, Patrisse co-organized and participated in the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride. Over 500 people from all over the country rode in buses and convened in Ferguson, MO to demand justice for Mike Brown’s family. Patrisse concentrated on organizing in Ferguson during this time, and as part of Ferguson October’s “Day Of Civil Disobedience” she and other activists were briefly arrested after protesting the deaths of John Crawford and Mike Brown at a local Walmart. During her time in Ferguson Patrisse met with the community, family members of the deceased, and continued to organize the movement.
In January of 2015 Patrisse joined representatives from Ferguson and members of the Dream Defenders in a 10-day trip to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. There she saw firsthand the occupation, ethnic cleansing, and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians, and built real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation.
I believe the Black Lives Matter movement can benefit greatly by learning about struggles outside of the US, but particularly the Palestinian struggle. I want this trip to be an example for how Black folks and Arab communities can be in better solidarity with one another.
Not even a month later Patrisse went on a speaking tour of the UK and Ireland dubbed The Ferguson Solidarity Tour. They toured in solidarity with with the families of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson and others whose loved ones have been killed by police in the US, the Ferguson protesters, and the United Families and Friends Campaign of Britain to demand justice for those who have died in custody. While traveling Patrisse had the opportunity to fully immerse herself in the culture and struggle of those in the UK, gained information to share with the movement, and met an amazing team of directly affected activists who she teamed up with later that year for the ACLU and Ella Baker Center‘s Caravan For Justice tour.
In the UK you have a Black presence that is part of a colonial past and comprised of immigrants, in contrast to the blatant slave history in the US. You also have ‘colour’ that is more than just Black in terms of the giant colonial past. But you still have systemic oppression, and state sanctioned violence plays a role in each of our contexts. We are in a historical moment where we can make great shifts inside and outside US borders to ensure that Black Lives Matter around the world.
Patrisse continues to tour and organize for global Black liberation.
Shut It Down
One of the Black Lives Matter movement’s common phrases is “shut it down,” usually heard in response to blatant displays of white supremacy and systems of Black oppression. In the summer of 2015 after the murder of Sandra Bland, Patrisse and others saw the presidential debates approaching and decided to shut it down. It wasn’t long before Patrisse and Tia Oso grabbed the microphone from Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders asking them if they will advance a racial justice agenda that will dismantle structural racism in the US. Chants of “Black Lives Matter!” were heard from the audience. Soon after disrupting the democratic presidential debate in Arizona, Black Lives Matter affiliates developed a definitive policy agenda for urgent solutions to save Black lives called Campaign Zero. BLM is now calling for the democratic national committee to hold a Black Lives Matter debate. Patrisse has gone on the record saying that Black Lives Matter is ready to shut down the Republican Convention as well.
Let me be clear – every single day people are dying, not able to take another breath. We are in a state of emergency. If you do not feel that emergency, then you are not human.