Founded by three activists and organizers in Oakland, California – Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi – Black Lives Matter began as a direct response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for second-degree murder. Zimmerman, a 28-year-old male, served as the neighborhood watch coordinator for his gated community in Sanford, Florida. On the night of February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot and killed a 17-year-old high school student named Trayvon Martin. On the evening of July 13, 2013, a jury in Sanford, Florida, returned a verdict: not guilty.
That evening, Garza wrote a Facebook post that concluded with the words “Black Lives Matter.” Cullors shared Garza’s post and added a hashtag in front of the those words, creating #blacklivesmatter. Since its inception, Black Lives Matter has been a call to action on social media in response to anti-Black racism and extrajudicial police killings. The movement has grown into a chapter-based national organization operating in the United States, with intentional centering of Black persons who are queer, trans, undocumented, and/or disabled.
As a hashtag, #blacklivesmatter remains a vibrant and coalitional form of social media resistance to the dehumanization of black life. As a national organization, Black Lives Matter has placed significant emphasis on intersectionality and the way that discrimination weaves in and through a range of identities, abilities, and social locations. Here are seven forms of dehumanization that Black Lives Matters identifies as essential to resist:
- How Black poverty and genocide is state violence.
- How 2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.
- How Black women bearing the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families is state violence.
- How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.
- How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.
- How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.
- How Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy, and that is state violence.
No. We support them, but we have no official connection. In this project, we aim to use the phrase "Black Lives Matter and #blacklivesmatter in the way that the founders intended: In the words of Alicia Garza, “When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.” Read more about the Praying with James Baldwin project here. Read more about the authors of Praying with James Baldwin here.