July has been a tough month for America. The deaths of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police have increased racial tensions once again. Protests, largely in affiliation with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, have popped up in vast numbers across the nation. While most of the protests have remained peaceful, things took a violent turn in Dallas when a sniper opened fire on police officers, killing five and injuring seven. Many opponents of BLM have pointed to the group as the cause of the officers’ deaths. But from the start, BLM has been a non-violent movement. In fact, it’s an intellectually fueled movement focused on justice and equality.
The movement officially began back in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. The group was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. The movement has pulled pieces of inspiration and strategy from a host of other protest movements including Occupy Wall Street, the Civil Rights Movement, and the 1980s Black Feminist Movement.
BLM was largely an online campaign until August 2014. After the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, more than 500 people gathered in a non-violent protest. Since that initial in-person protest, BLM has organized more than 1,000 peaceful demonstrations across the country. There are currently 23 BLM chapters spanning across the U.S., Canada, and Ghana.
Unlike protest movements before them, BLM sets itself apart by relying solely on its own recruitment and organization efforts. The group does not depend on support from local churches, politicians, or the Democratic Party. Music, memes, hashtag activism, and protests are the primary tactics used by BLM.
Officially, the BLM website describes the movement as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression”. Among the many principles listed on the site, restorative justice, globalism, and empathy are promoted.
While many have criticized BLM as disruptive and negative, the group seeks to uplift the disenfranchised. Prior to BLM, the death of black men like Castile and Sterling may have gone unnoticed. BLM has brought visibility to these instances of extreme police brutality. But even more than visibility, BLM has given the nation’s disenfranchised people a viable way to take action.
The hardest thing for oppressed people and the disenfranchised to do is get attention. Crimes against them often take place in secret with little to no news coverage. BLM has increased awareness and shined a spotlight on a national issue that has not been rectified.
Additionally, BLM is a movement with peace as an ultimate objective. And in the quest for this peace, they include every group that’s disenfranchised. Some of their other guiding principles are queer affirming and transgender affirming. BLM is a group that truly understands that all people must love one another and be accepted in order for the greater group to move forward.
Black Lives Matter isn’t just some disruptive movement. It’s a path forward to ultimate freedom and equality that’s more visible than any movement we’ve had before.
I am a co-founder of Prison Life & Beyond eMagazine, a resource aimed at connecting loved ones of prisoners-wives, mothers, girlfriends, immediate family. Our theme is family-centered, but prisoner rights groups, curious fans of crime lifestyle, and criminal justice professionals find our prisoner-driven journalism interesting, entertaining, and instructive.
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