#BlackLivesMatter founder Alicia Garza sent a powerful message at packed UR event
We know that all lives should matter, but do they? That is the question Alicia Garza, one member of the trio that founded the activist movement #BlackLivesMatter, posed in response to an inquisition. In theory, she said before a crowded room at UR’s Alice Haynes Room earlier this week, all lives should matter, but we as a people ascribe meaning to looks, and then we judge people based off of those meanings that we have given them.
Garza believes that one of the first steps to fixing this global issue is to first acknowledge that there is one.
People jumped at the opportunity to see the history making activists speak in Richmond, filling every single seat in the space and not being shy about sitting on the floor against the walls. UR even prepared an overflow room in a building across the street to show a live feed of the talk, which was also filled to capacity.
#BlackLivesMatter, or BLM as Garza referred to it, is a movement birthed from a tweet following the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed, 17-year-old black man that was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. According to Zimmerman, Martin, walking home from a convenience store one night tall, black, and hoodied, caused him to fit the description of those guilty of recent robberies in the area. The police were called, and they urged Zimmerman to remain a bystander. However he ignored that plea and decided to take the situation into his own hands, which ended with a teenager shot in the chest on the sidewalk.
After the initial lack of an arrest due to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, Zimmerman was eventually charged and tried, but then acquitted of the second degree murder and manslaughter charges in 2013, and that is what set the fire underneath Garza’s feet.
At the UR event, she spoke of how her own brother came to mind during the trial. She said that her brother is one of the sweetest people she has ever met, but standing at 6’4 with an afro, he could easily be mistaken as a target for someone with pre-conceived notions about black men.
Garza says that there were no charts or diagrams concerning the beginnings of the movement, and that #BlackLivesMatter sparking into a worldwide movement was not something that was planned. Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, the other two founders, just spoke from their hearts and from the fatigue they felt that was brought on by continuous Black deaths.
“BLM aims to restore the soul of humanity,” the activist said, and then referred to white supremacy as the disease that is killing us. White supremacy at its core does not mean white cloaks, wizard hats, and setting crosses aflame. It simply speaks to the inequity that our country was founded on, and that it continues to function underneath.
According to the BLM founder, this necessity of inequity makes the US a nation of parasitic power, meaning that we have arranged ourselves in a way that in order for survival, we must feed off of someone else. Garza called for a shift in power, and she wants BLM to play a role in that shift.
There are multiple different types of power that Garza speaks on: political, narrative, disruptive, and economic, all of which are viable forms. BLM is meant to be a platform of expression, spanning over several social media platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Garza makes a point to say that while technology aids us in crossing geographies, we cannot aim to do all of our work via the internet. “You can’t share or tweet your way to power,” she said. “We need consolidation of real power.”
This consolidation of power is a call for solidarity. Garza said that an active struggle is what begets change, but to remember that all of our lives are connected. Whether we want to accept it or not, our decisions always affect someone else, so we have to depend on others as well as keep others in mind.
Garza says that BLM is both multi-issue and mulit-dimensional. With 34 chapters spanning the globe, BLM focuses on not only the issue of police brutality, but other worldwide problems that disproportionality affect minorities such as worker, immigrant, and LGBTQ rights as well as the epidemic of mass incarceration here in America.
“The principles around intersectionality is that we don’t live single issue lives,” Garza said. “Our movements have to reflect how people live every day, it’s just basic. If we want to build something that’s viable and that has the potential to win over millions of people, which is what we have to do, then we have to take into account all of the different ways in which people are impacted.”
Photography and recording were not allowed at the event, so some lines were paraphrased for this write up. Top image is Graza from a 2015 speaking event in Raleigh, NC.
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