Alicia Garza about the origin of Black Lives Matter

This summer, the Black Lives Matter movement has become a central stage, from global protests to Washington, DC’s renamed squares and murals decorating neighborhoods across the country. And last month, movement founders Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza were on the cover of Time magazine.

“My hope to help move this forward wasn’t to start the movement,” said Auckland-based activist Garza, who coined the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” “My hope is to actually change people’s minds, change our own perspectives, and allow us to stand up in a stronger position and change the dislikes that are happening around us. It was to do. “

Garza’s upcoming book, The Purpose of Power, is her own story about black organization and black resistance. She talked to Mark Whitaker, the contributor to Sunday Morning, about the books of Marcus Books, the oldest black bookstore in the country. “We wanted to make sure we were in a place that really represented the legacy and lasting traditions of black organization and black resistance,” she said.

One world

You may remember that many people first heard the phrase “Black Lives Matter”. 2014 Protest in Ferguson, Missouri, The movement actually started a year ago, that day George Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin In Florida. After the verdict was announced, stunned Garza wrote several Facebook posts.

Whitaker asked, “Is it a phrase or was it just coming out?”

“Well, let’s just say I’m not a big Twitter user, so when I first used the word” Black Lives Matter “, it was on Facebook. “

Twitter-savvy Los Angeles-based activist Colors added a hashtag.

“I thought it was a pound sign!” Garza said. “She analyzed what hashtags are to me, and that’s the way #BlackLivesMatter was born. “

Black Lives Matter, now known as the “hashtag heard around the world,” is a global phenomenon.

Garza follows her own path to growing up with her mother in the wealthy suburbs of San Francisco from the 1980s to the 90s. There, she says, being an outsider gave her a unique perspective. “I grew up in the spirit that you always fight for the weak. As you know, blacks worked hard to move forward forever, but this country has a lifetime for blacks. I didn’t work hard and I didn’t mean to do that. “

Garza also acknowledges the work of MTV News, which broadened her horizons. There are talks about South Africa’s apartheid system, Ethiopian famine, and domestic politics.

“This was a time of great national debate about the teenage pregnancy epidemic,” Garza said. “And there was a big dispute over whether young people should have the tools they need to make decisions when choosing whether to have sex.”

“So was that your first major cause as an activist?” Whitaker asked.

“I was 12 years old and a junior high school student,” she replied.

In her book, Garza talks about formative moments at the age of 17. In association with a friend and a police officer who found him smoking marijuana, he threw her out with just a warning. “I was the kid doing what the kids did,” she said. “And I was shot, but most black kids of my age at the time weren’t shot, and if I were a 17-year-old black girl in West Auckland, I was caught with the same amount of marijuana. I would have had a criminal record, not just at night. “

The take-out from this encounter resonates with Garza today. “I think the lesson of that story is this. We have a criminal system that aims to treat some people differently than others. It really is in the architecture of that system. It is built in.

“And what the movement is fighting is, frankly, the dismantling of a system designed to criminalize blacks. It criminalizes the poor, people of color and other oppressed people. It was designed to be. “

Whitaker says, “So I think some people are now confused about what exactly it means when using the term’demolition’. Does that mean dismantling certain types of police in a particular community?

“Well, I didn’t talk about the dismantling of the police. I talked about the dismantling of the system,” Garza replied. “So when we talk about dismantling systems that are harmful to the community, that means disassembling them and stopping their use, but dismantling without building anything in place. You can’t, and I think it’s important for everyone. Our engagement is to rethink what a dignified community looks like, not patroling the community with guns and tanks. “

Garza is now focusing on her efforts beyond Black Lives Matter, establishing a group aimed at empowering women and building black political power.

Whitaker asks, “What do you tell people when white people say,’What can we do to help,’ as they are convinced they do on a daily basis?” What do you say to them? “

“Well,’you can participate in the exercise,’ I say,” she laughed. “Solidarity with Black Lives Matter and being part of this larger movement for change in this country and around the world cannot be about philanthropy. I am next to someone who: I don’t want to fight in. “I’m doing this because you need it.”

And for those who think Black Lives Matter is just a social media movement, Alicia Garza said: “The story of the movement is not the number of people following you on social media, but the number of people moving forward. There are 1 million followers on Twitter and no one is willing to take action. Please give me!”

“So, are the leaders or founders of today’s most famous social media movement telling us that social media isn’t everything?” Whitaker asked.

“Well, as the founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, which is considered the biggest protest movement in history, we can say that hashtags don’t start the movement. People do.”

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A story produced by Kay Lim. Editor: Mike Levine.

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