Black Lives Matter Founders: We Fought To Change History And We Won

The year 2020 will be remembered for a lot of things – not least the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world.

Black Lives Matter Founders: We Fought To Change History And We Won

The organization has led huge street rallies and high-profile campaigns against racism and police brutality.

Now the three women who founded the movement have told they believe it has transformed politics.

“Black people alongside our allies stood up to change the course of history and we won,” said Alicia Garza.

Garza and her BLM co-founders, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, spoke as part of the100 Women Masterclass 2020, a digital live event of masterclasses, big interviews and guests on 30 November.

The trio started the Black Lives Matter movement in the US in 2013 after the not guilty verdict against George Zimmerman, who shot dead unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Protests erupted again this year after the killing of George Floyd, who died in May after a police officer knelt on his neck during his arrest in Minneapolis.

“Black Lives Matter, after seven years, is now really in the DNA and the muscle memory of this country,” said Garza. “We all have watched how our community members, our family members, are being murdered on camera.

“There are so many ways in which, even as this movement was exploding for the second time, major news outlets continue to focus on the wrong thing.

People take part in a protest on 8 July 2016 in New York City

“Over and over again, the burden and responsibility for violence gets placed at our feet, but nobody talks about the violence that our communities are experiencing both at the hands of government neglect, but also at the hands of police officers.

“Now we have a new element which is vigilante and white supremacist violence.”

Despite the ongoing struggle, the founders of BLM struck a cautiously optimistic note, especially when speaking about the defeat of Donald Trump in the US election. Black women in particular have been credited for playing a major role in President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

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The BLM trio welcomed the acknowledgement of this by Kamala Harris, who has made history as the first female, first black and first Asian-American US vice-president-elect.

But they said they would lobby for her to be not just a “symbol but a fighter for our communities”.

“I’m heartened by seeing the ways in which the BLM movement but also a number of other movements have risen to the occasion and have brought forward political thought and action that really reflects the best of who we are,” said Opal Tometi.

“I think our movements are showing a whole other way is possible and I’m very moved and grateful to be alive for a time such as this.”

Families participate in a children's march in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and national protests against police brutality on 9 June 2020 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City

Describing how its role has changed this year, Garza said BLM was increasingly making connection across the world, including elevating the #EndSars protests against police violence in Nigeria.

“We are transforming politics as we know it but we are very focused on transforming power, the way that it operates, and making sure there is more power in the hands of more people,” she said.

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