“Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter. Black lives matter.” These were words
posted on Facebook by Alicia Garza on July 13, 2013 in response to the acquittal of George
Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed fifteen year old Trayvon Martin. Patrisse Cullors, a
close friend of Garza, posted to her own page a message in response to the acquittal using the
hashtag #blacklivesmatter. These Black women, along with Opal Tometi, and their posts would
make the phrase, “Black Lives Matter”, grow in national conversation, and eventually into the
movement and global network it is today, an organizing force to intervene in violence inflicted
on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
After the #blacklivesmatter became an online campaign in 2013, a container was created for
Black protest to be seen. In July of 2014, Eric Garner was held in an illegal chokehold by a
police officer and murdered in New York City. In August, Micheal Brown was murdered by
gunshot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Neither of the officers faced criminal charges.
These killings sparked protests and demonstrations under the banner of “Black Lives Matter”, as
it was clear that these events were not isolated, but were a picture of the police brutality and
systemic racism that faced every African American community.
In 2015, there were too many more Black lives taken at the hands of police, including Sandra
Bland, Walter Scott, and Mya Hall. Mya Hall, a Black trans woman, was murdered by Baltimore
police. Protests were held following Hall’s death highlighting the abhorrent injustices and
violence that Black women and Black trans women endure. Black Lives Matter is in support of
all Black lives, and aims to center leadership around Black women, queer, and trans people
whom have been left out of movements in the past.
Last year, in 2020, the devastating video of George Floyd being murdered as a Minnesota police
officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds surfaced on social media. The video
gained national attention, putting the state-sanctioned violence that Black people in America
endure and fear on display. The death of George Floyd, as well as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud
Arbery, sparked a national reckoning with racism in America. Protests against police brutality
and systemic racism were held in all 50 states and around the world.
The United States has never been an equitable and safe place for Black people. Many of the
hateful remnants of slavery and the Jim Crow era persist through systemic racism that affect
African Americans in nearly every aspect of life. Black people are both killed by police and
incarcerated at disproportionate rates. There are also deep inequalities in other areas, like access
to healthcare, employment, and the ability to build generational wealth. Black Lives Matter is a
human rights movement aiming to challenge systemic racism in every context.
Garza’s post was what she called a “Love Letter to Black People.” The BLM movement was
formed and still functions around this idea, a reminder to Black people that they are human and
deserve to live vibrant and full lives. A movement that allows us to reimagine a world where
Black people are free to exist and to give allies a chance to act differently.
Black lives matter.