In February 2012, a 17-year-old African-American male named Trayvon Benjamin Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who was later acquitted on murder charges. Immediately after a shot heard around the world was publicized, Alicia Garza, an organizer and special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, expressed her deep anguish by posting her own reflective truth: “Black Lives Matter,” beginning the movement that would shift the civil rights dynamic.
Opal Tometti, the national organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), got involved with Black Lives Matter when she saw the need for the #BlackLivesMatter movement to become an online platform to connect our black groups and communities to a primary goal. That goal is to establish a really broad perspective of who is Black America currently and also ensure the immigrant communities like Afro-Latinos, Caribbeans and Africans could also voice their own concerns as well.
In 2012, Cullors became interested in a civil-rights lawsuit filed alleging that gangs of deputies in the L.A. Sheriff's Department had been systematically beating and abusing inmates. Before long, Cullors and likeminded members who began organizing protests against these alleged issues in the system and they called themselves Dignity and Power Now (DPN). In 2013 Cullors joined forces with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi to co-found Black Lives Matter (BLM), an online platform in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman that is designed to highlight that black people deserve dignity and not to be dehumanized.
The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag moved quickly from social media to the streets, and the movement began a prompting a new wave of civil rights protests across the nation, as the killings of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner began to overwhelm the community.
They're fighting to bring awareness to: black poverty and genocide from state violence; the 2.8 million Black people locked in the country's state prisons; black women taking on the heavy burden that there is a systematic, relentless assault on our children and our families; black queer and trans people bear separating themselves from a hetero-patriarchal society that dehumanizes and and simultaneously fetishizes and profits off of them; and the 500,000 black people in the United States that are undocumented immigrants and pushed into the shadows of this nation; black girls are used as negotiating pawns during times of conflict and war; and black folks living with disabilities and different abilities have to deal with state sponsored experimentation in attempt to keep them boxed into states of normality defined by white supremacy.
When the world’s attention turned to Ferguson, Missouri, you could easily see #BlackLivesMatter protesters becoming angry and frustrated at the unfairness in today's justice system and took to the streets to show police and America that they would not stand down.
From scheduled marches, to assembled sit-ins and to heated rallies across the country, protesters and communities have pushed the #BlackLivesMatter movement to great lengths. The slogan has become more than something to shout or print on posters and quote on T-shirts. It has received so much acclaim that it's made its way to be featured on an episode of Law & Order: SVU.
The ladies have sat down many times and discussed what the world needs to look like and what changes need to be made in order for black lives to actually matter. How can communities be safer, how do we deal with the injustice, how do we solve community issues? The movement wants to be clear that the state of violence is bigger than police terrorism, because there is so much more to what state violence looks like or feels like in our communities.
The people have spoken! Via twitter, via Facebook and other social media outlets, it's been a viral sensation, movement and proclamation that "black lives matter." This movement has impacted people across the world and shows that there is a way to rebuild civil rights, restructure our justice systems and reestablish the principles and policies that govern our nations to respect everyone in it.
These three ladies are well-equipped and ready to push our nation and our world in the right direction, and we honor and salute them for helping our community receive the rights and diginity it deserves by awarded them with the Community Change Agent Award.