Black Lives Matters Founders Open Up On the Birth of the Movement

ESSENCE Editor-in-chief Vanessa K. De Luca moderates a Black Lives Matter panel with the founders of the movement, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, at #BlogHer15.

ESSENCE.COM Jul, 24, 2015
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[BLANK_AUDIO] What was the impetus for the hashtag, for black lives matter? What was the origin? How does this all this come about? What was the stimulus? And how did you bring it to life? If you could share That story. We'd love to hear it. Yes. I'm like how many ways can I tell this story? [LAUGH] I'm always like, do you all know the story? Let's start off that way. I mean it's amazing, right? I think this generation, we live on social media. It's both our blessing and our curse. And sometimes it becomes a huge blessing like Black Lives Matter. It was birthed on Facebook and it was after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the day that he was acquitted on all charges of killing Trayvon Martin, many of us went to social media to grieve. To rage out, to, Try to find, make sense of the madness and listen to other voices in our generation, that was also going through a lot of turmoil. And I went on Alicia's page, because we have known each other for years, and she had written a note to blacks folks and really she was scolding us a bit And, in a loving way. And she was saying listen, I'm never going to allow them to think that our lives are not worthy. I won't sort of get caught up in the [UNKNOWN] of well, what are we surprised about and why is everybody angry. And she closed it off with our lives matter, we matter. Black lives matter and because I love hashtags so much, it's the generation of hashtags, it was the black lives matter part. It wasn't the our lives matter, it wasnt the we matter, it was the black lives matter, this bold statement, right? In the midst of knowing that Our lives don't actually matter to other people in large parts of the United States government. To say black lives matter was just this bold moment, and so I hashtagged it. And then I went pretty rouge on social media with the hashtag. [LAUGH] It was just like my way of dealing with the insanity, and I started hashtagging all my black friends, and Reminding them, like tag a friend and say your life matters, black lives matter, and then within a couple hours, but it all happened in one day, and I never got the phone with Alecia it was all through social media which I think is hilarious. I have responded to her in social media, I said hey think we should create An online/offline platform that really uses Black Lives Matters' impetus. And then Opal's gonna share her way into the story. [LAUGH] Yeah, I love social media. [LAUGH] So, Patrice named it right. We were all in this kind of collective moment Of grief and rage, and at the time my brother was 14 years old, growing up in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona and I just couldn't believe it. He and his friends and the young people in my life were going to witness This injustice, right? Happen and not have anything for our communities to really say about it, right? In a really courageous and visceral way, and so I too was searching. [LAUGH] I was searching for people who felt the same way, who wanted to do something about it. I've been community organizing for over a decade, and I've known Alicia through some of that organizing. And, as a result, when I saw her page and heard about this hashtag black lives matter, I was like, that's it. It resonated really, really deeply with me. I was organizing at the national level with groups who are black immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, Afro-Latinos, with African Americans, and working with an explicitly black organization already. And so having it named In a very public way and being unapologetic about our blackness and our humanity, and our dignity was really, really important. And so, the message really just struck me. And so immediately I reach out and I was like yo, [LAUGH] Alicia this is really powerful, what Can I do to ensure that this thing has a life outside of our network, right? How can we make sure that we connect with people across the country, other organizers, other people who are grieving and looking for a way to express that really constructively and transform their neighborhoods and our society. And I was a person who was very adept with social media tools. I had been working with different artists and social justice groups for many many years doing communications work. And so I offered that, hey I can build out a Tumblr page, and a website, and Facebook and all those kinds of things. And Utilize these communication tools for us to connect with each other, but also to amplify this message. It was really really important, I think, that we were able to get out of our own niche, right? We wanted to communicate this message more broadly than just us, and so That was kind of how it was created, and then it went viral. Once. [LAUGH] And then went viral. Sadly, soon after Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson, Missouri. So this is how we leave and close out every meeting, every event, every Action and every [INAUDIBLE] shut down. [LAUGH] Every mall we've shut down. We always get this chance reverberated throughout. Listen, [INAUDIBLE] This is from our beloved, Assata Shakur, who is number one FBI most wanted list, carpool leader, [UNKNOWN] New York, inspired by [INAUDIBLE] It's three times and we are going to start it off in a whisper and you are going to repeat it. [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] It is our duty to win. It is our duty [UNKNOWN] It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. It is our duty to win. We must love and support. One another. We will love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our shame. We have nothing to lose but our shame. Alright, let's have [UNKNOWN] [LAUGH] It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to fight for our freedom. I'm sorry ladies, I know you can shout much louder. [LAUGH] It is our duty to win. It is our duty to win. We must try to support one another. We must try to support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains. We have nothing to lose but our chains. I shade. Black eye shade. [APPLAUSE]