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Black Lives Matter leader recounts group’s beginnings

blmIn the age of technology, having a voice and a message on social media could be just the tools a person needs to start a movement.

One of the most popular movements today is Black Lives Matter, a movement that has been fueled by stories of police brutality, violence against African-Americans and hate crimes. The movement’s leaders have used social media and #BlackLivesMatter to grow and galvanize supporters.

On September 15, the founder of the Black Lives Matter international movement, Alicia Garza, delivered a lecture to a group of about 100 Furman students and faculty members gathered in Watkins Room. She spoke about the roots of the Black Lives Matter group and the importance of its message and reach. The presentation was sponsored by the Furman Chapter of the NAACP and Encouraging Respect of Sexualities (EROS).

Garza said Black Lives Matter began as a “love letter” addressed to the black community. Garza described her reason for writing the letter after hearing that George Zimmerman had been acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

“I didn’t know what to say,” said Garza. “Because what words are appropriate when an adult kills a child armed with Skittles and an iced tea…I was somewhere in between rage and grief. So I turned to social media.”

However, once on social media, Garza didn’t find the reactions she had hoped for. “The reactions were ‘Why are we surprised’…and let’s better educate our children.” Neither of which satisfied Garza’s desire for change. So she decided to write a love letter to the black community, telling them that their lives matter.

That letter launched the notion and phrase black lives matter. Her friends and co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi turned into a hashtag.

“We didn’t start a movement,” said Garza. “We started a network. We used social media to connect people online who resonated with the message ‘Black Lives Matter’ so that they could take action offline.”

In response to Michael Brown’s shooting in 2014, Black Lives Matter fueled protests in Ferguson, Missouri. “People were just fed up,” Garza said “and wanted to do something about it… [we came up with] an idea whose time had come with a basic demand, stop killing us.”

Recently the group has come under fire for disrupting commerce in malls and restaurants and for disrupting political rallies.

In closing, Garza used a parable to describe the current conditions of the black community “Until the lion has its own historian, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. We’re working to change that.” Garza further encouraged the attendees to get organized and involved in matters they’re passionate about “The power of people together is vital for the future.”

Photo from Shutterstock


Last updated September 18, 2015
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director