“What does it look like to not need a charismatic, cisgender leader who’s a preacher?” co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, Alicia Garza, asked a diverse audience of more than 500 students in the grand ballroom at Stamp on Oct. 20.
The question wasn’t meant to throw shade on respected civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but rather to acknowledge a powerful movement started by three queer black women. It also acted as a reminder that this new movement recognizes and protects the lives that make up every diverse aspect of the black community: all religions, ethnicities, ages, economic classes, genders and sexual orientations.
After clarifying the basis of the movement, Garza got straight to the point. The real question, she asked, is “What motivates people to take action and what keeps people from taking action?”
This question has no simple or single response.
As with any campaign, it’s not only about speaking and spreading the word, but it’s about taking action.
She laughed along with the audience at the complexity many politicians make out of questions as simple and straightforward as, “Do black lives matter?” She explained that even then, she’s not satisfied with politicians making comments such as, “Yes, black lives matter.”
That should be obvious at this point.
We need action taken toward putting restraints and consequences on those taking our lives. We cannot simply keep allowing victims such as Trayvon Martin, to stand on trial for their own murders.
Garza quotes a friend of hers saying, “Until the lion has it’s own historian, the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” In other words, a dead man (or woman) has no chance against the system.
Garza wants to know what policy makers are going to do about it; so much so that #BlackLivesMatter consequently created a petition to demand a 2016 Democratic Debate solely covering the issue.
During the span of this roughly two-hour discussion, the audience, both with their silent attention and oral praise, expressed their admiration for Alicia’s activism, eloquence and perspective.
While Garza was grateful, she was humble and quick to reject any “celebritization” of herself. It’s become cool to be a part of the black power, “new civil rights movement,” which Garza pointed out, is cool but not new.
Often times, she explained, “ego and distractions … these are things that break down a movement.” Many times folks become so wrapped up in what they’re doing and how it looks on their part, forgetting the big picture and the real reason they’re involved.
“Let’s work it out and fight the fight we need to fight,” she said.
After closing remarks, I felt motivated, inspired and better educated on the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
I will continue to reflect on this discussion as the struggle for equality continues.
And while all this writing is fun, I’ll remind myself, as well as others, not to lose sight of the goal: action; and the big picture: ALL #BlackLivesMatter.
Featured Photo Credit: Sept. 25 – Kondwani Fidel, a Baltimore activist, delivers a poetry performance before the Truth and Solutions in Baltimore panel discussion began. His poetry described his experiences while growing up and living in Baltimore. (Vickie Connor/For The Bloc)
Racquel Royer is a freshman journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.