#BlackLivesMatter: Black Lives Matter a Brief History

The Black Lives Matter Movement is arguably the first major justice movement spread largely through social media. Originally starting as a hashtag on Twitter, after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, the movement picked up speed in 2014 after the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and John Crawford III. The founders of this movement are Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, who are all activists of issues ranging from abuse to immigration. With previous experiences in community organizing, the three used their skills to move the hashtag from social media into the streets. Connecting with many people across the country, they hosted conference calls and protests focusing on the critical issues affecting black lives.

Once the movement was born, the activists made it clear that it was campaigning against police brutality, particularly directed toward African Americans. Although, the movement is decentralized and does not have a clear hierarchy, there are several chapters in many states across America as well as chapters in Ghana and Canada. Since 2013, there have been several protests and demonstrations under these chapters, which caused people to review the racial tensions in America today.

Unfortunately, there have been times where the movement was devalued or warped to fit a different agenda. At best, these movements may have been inspired by Black Lives Matter, but often what occurs is the erasure of the contributions of black queer women even among allies. Alicia Garza clarifies the intentions and the origins of their work, stating in her article “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement,” “At the heart of the movement is the idea of intersectionality which affirms the lives of “black queer and trans folk, disabled folks, black undocumented folks, folks with records, black women, and all black lives among the gender spectrum.” To do otherwise under the guise of “Black Lives Matter” is not only “racism in practice” as she puts it, but “hetero-patriarchal”.

Social media was not only the start of this organization but continues to be used throughout the movement. Social media allows people to maintain contact and get information almost instantaneously. It allows for people to educate themselves at a faster rate. Now, in the era of technology, more and more people have access to events that are occurring all over the world. While Black Lives Matter may have started as just a hashtag, it became a platform for black lives to gather and black voices to speak up against systematic oppression.

Moving forward, the movement only continues to grow. Music artists such as Janelle Monae and Jidenna mention Black Lives Matter in their live performances. Beyonce and Jay-Z have spoken at protests, showing their support for this movement. The founders continue work towards the liberation and humanization of black lives even in separate countries. As long as social media continues to exist as an online platform for people to speak up about issues affecting their lives, this movement will continue to mobilize as they move forward.

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