On February 26, 2012 Black America was in an outrage over the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was killed in Sanford, Florida by a white 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman after reporting Martin to the police as “suspicious.” Although the police told Zimmerman not to pursue Martin, the neighborhood watchman decided to follow the teenage boy with a 9-millimeter handgun on his person. Zimmerman claimed that he shot the teenager in self-defense.
Martin died that night carrying only a bag of skittles and a can of ice tea. Several weeks later, Zimmerman was arrested for the killing of Martin however, on July 13, 2013 a jury found Zimmerman not guilty.
After the trial, both national and international protests erupted making statements that the reason behind Martin’s killing was the color of his skin.
As a result of Zimmerman being found not guilty for any crime, three African American women by the name of, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza created #BlackLivesMatter. According to the founders, the hashtag is “a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately our movements.”
“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” said the Black Lives Matter movement creators. “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
As of February of this year, it has been five years since the death of Trayvon Martin and the creation of a movement that had to remind the world that Black lives matter too. The creation of the hashtag has expanded beyond social media and has become a voice for Black men and women, a statement and a political movement for nationwide protest against police brutality and wrongful killings.
These are the women behind the BLM Organization.
Cullors is an African American artist, organizer, public speaker and criminal justice advocate from Los Angeles. She holds a degree in religion and philosophy from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Currently, Cullors is a lecturer at Otis College of Art and Design in the Public Practice Program.
In 2014, Cullors was honored with the Contribution to Oversight Award by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) for her work with civilian oversight in L.A. jails. In 2015, she was named the NAACP History Maker and a Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century by the Los Angeles Times.
Tometi is a Nigerian-American community organizer, writer and activist and a former domestic violence case manager. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Masters of Arts degree in communication and advocacy from University of Arizona. Currently, Tometi is the executive director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) which advocates for social and economic justice in African American and black immigrant communities. In 2014, Tometi was featured in Essence Magazine as a new civil rights leader. She was also listed on The Root’s 100 list of African American Achievers between 25 and 45, Cosmopolitan’s Top 100 list of extraordinary women and Politico Magazine (Politico50) “2015 Guide to Thinkers, Doers, and Visionaries”.
Garza is an Oakland, California native who has spent majority of her life’s work in activism, writing focusing on health, domestic workers rights, police brutality, anti-racism, transgender and queer rights. Garza also worked as the director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights in the San Francisco Bay Area. While there, she fought for gentrification and for the right for San Francisco youth to use public transportation for free. Previously, Garza served on the board of directors for Forward Together’s Oakland, California branch. Currently, she serves as the special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which is known as the leading voice for domestic workers in the U.S.
In 2016, Garza was recognized on The Root 100 list of African American Achievers between the ages of 25-45 and on the Politico Magazine (Politico 50) “2015 guide to Thinkers, Doers, and Visionaries” along with an extensive list of other awards and recognitions.
Due to the efforts of Cullors, Tometi and Garza the conversation around national and international police violence is spreading nationwide and the celebration of the humanization of African Americans, transgender, queer, disabled and undocumented men and women have begun. For more information of Black Lives Matter visit http://blacklivesmatter.com