Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi: An interview with the founders of Black Lives Matter
Alicia Garza - Writer, activist
Alicia Garza launched a global movement with a single Facebook post that ended with the words: “Black lives matter.” Full bio
Patrisse Cullors - Artist, organizer
Activist Patrisse Cullors created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter as a tonic against years of injustice by police forces and prisons. Full bio
Opal Tometi - Human rights activist
By taking the phrase "Black Lives Matter" onto social media, Opal Tometi helped turn a hashtag into a networked movement. Full bio
Mia Birdsong - Family activist
Mia Birdsong advocates for strong communities and the self-determination of everyday people. Full bio
important for the US right now
is our call to action.
to show up differently for us.
that was heavily policed.
by law enforcement.
as a child was, why?
offers answers to the why.
for young black girls around the world
on local governments to show up for us.
happening in the United States.
all across the globe.
is a human rights movement
in every single context.
are subject to all sorts of disparities
issues of our day.
nations by climate change
from all sorts of unnatural disasters,
from their ancestral homes
at making a decent living.
like Hurricane Matthew,
in many different nations,
in this hemisphere,
a number of challenges
that was brought in by UN peacekeepers
didn't have a population that was black,
that there's a network of Africans
and demanding climate justice.
black people are free,
is probably the most studied
phenomenon in this country,
in the United States
from black to white.
in between don't experience racism,
you are to white on that spectrum,
that you are on that spectrum
how we address problems in this country,
of trickle-down justice.
as the control we say,
better for white folks
happening in black communities,
to every dollar that a man makes.
for white women and white men.
make something like 64 cents
it goes down to about 58 cents.
who are the most impacted,
to benefit from that,
who are not as impacted,
a glass of champagne, right?
doing this for a minute,
have learned a lot about leadership.
to share with these people
in black leadership.
in the last few years.
of black people showing up for our lives
and very little support.
isn't just about our own visibility
make the whole visible.
for our individual selves
everybody in this audience
and watching people on a stage, right?
become that leader --
whether it's in your home --
for black lives isn't just for us,
a great deal about interdependence.
about how to trust your team.
from a three-month sabbatical,
who are in leadership,
for my leadership and for my team
was that we need to acknowledge
contribute different strengths,
for our entire team to flourish,
to share and allow them to shine.
that I also work with,
a lot of gratitude and praise
that they truly had my back
of my sabbatical,
philosophy of Ubuntu.
that I'm able to make,
that they make, right?
and I have to see that,
"Keep calm and trust the team."
I feel like I've heard
movement more than anywhere else
to the conversation about leadership
that leadership is lonely?
where leadership is lonely,
that it doesn't have to be like that.
that we need to be doing.
treating leaders like superheroes.
attempting to do extraordinary things,
supported in that way.
I've learned about leadership
between leadership and celebrities, right?
kind of transformed into celebrities
who are trying to solve a problem.
celebrities is very fickle, right?
wearing the next day,
will step into leadership.
to step into leadership
that I've learned about leadership
when everybody likes you.
when you have to make hard choices
are not going to like you for it.
that we can support leaders
without being disagreeable,
to sharpen each other,
some brutal, painful realities
we live in a society
on the TV screen,
we imagine black life?
living and thriving.
these days are immigrants.
who are doing the best that they can
to survive and also to thrive.
over 244 million people
in their country of origin.
since the year 2000.
are only getting worse.
the strength and wherewithal to travel,
and their loved ones.
who are immigrants
is telling them, you're not wanted,
and subject to abuse, to wage theft,
to organize in their communities.
that there's also an emerging network
who are resisting the framework,
of their existence.
are the present and the future,
in the service of this movement.
entrenched in your ways.
who have a way that they do things,
think about the world,
to listening to what the experiences are
to live in world that's just
in a world that's equitable.
that I'm seeing older people taking
step into their own power and leadership
and be able to listen to you all,
black people free.
you would like this audience
around the world to actually do,
are being forcibly removed
to defend what keeps us alive.
related to black lives.
and demand that they stop doing that.
every single person there as we speak.
you know what I mean?
work in our communities right now
so all lives matter.
what you think they should be doing.
not something where you are, start it.
with somebody else.
letting it be a talk that you had,
and look what's happened.
for being here with us today.
About the Speakers:Alicia Garza - Writer, activist
Alicia Garza launched a global movement with a single Facebook post that ended with the words: “Black lives matter.”
Why you should listen
Alicia Garza is an organizer, writer and freedom dreamer. She is the special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the nation's leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States. She is also the co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, an international movement and organizing project focused on combatting anti-black state-sanctioned violence.
Garza's work challenges us to celebrate the contributions of black queer women's work within popular narratives of black movements and reminds us that the black radical tradition is long, complex and international. Her activism connects emerging social movements, without diminishing the structural violence facing black people.
Garza has been the recipient of many awards for her organizing work, including the Root 100 2015 list of African-American achievers and influencers. She was also featured in the Politico50 guide to the thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015. She lives and works in Oakland, California.
Activist Patrisse Cullors created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter as a tonic against years of injustice by police forces and prisons.
Why you should listen
Patrisse Cullors is an artist, organizer and freedom fighter from Los Angeles, CA. While she is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Network, and she is also a performance artist, Fulbright scholar, writer and mother. Cullors brings her full self to this work and wants to use her talents to both grow the Network and its diverse leadership. Cullors serves the Network primarily on the field team and utilizes her energy for leadership development, political strategy and relationship building with chapters based on commitment and shared reciprocity. She is focused on deepening the Network's political work, both long-term and rapid response, specifically around legislation and policy.
By taking the phrase "Black Lives Matter" onto social media, Opal Tometi helped turn a hashtag into a networked movement.
Why you should listen
Opal Tometi is a New York-based Nigerian-American writer, strategist and community organizer. She is a co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter. The historic political project was launched in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin in order to explicitly combat implicit bias and anti-black racism, and to protect and affirm the beauty and dignity of all black lives. Tometi is credited with creating the project's online platforms and initiating the social media strategy during its early days. The campaign has grown into a national network of approximately 50 chapters.
Tometi is currently at the helm of the country's leading black organization for immigrant rights, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). Founded in 2006, BAJI is a national organization that educates and advocates to further immigrant rights and racial justice together with African-American, Afro-Latino, African and Caribbean immigrant communities. As the executive director at BAJI, Tometi collaborates with staff and communities in Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York, Oakland, Washington, DC and communities throughout the southern states. The organization's most recent campaign helped win family reunification visas for Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake. BAJI is an award-winning institution with recognition by leading intuitions across the country.
A transnational feminist, Tometi supports and helps shape the strategic work of Pan African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights, and the Black Immigration Network international and national formations respectively, dedicated to people of African descent. She has presented at the United Nations and participated with the UN's Global Forum on Migration and Commission on the Status of Women. Tometi is being featured in the Smithsonian's new National Museum for African American History and Culture for her historic contributions.
Prior to becoming executive director, Tometi worked as co-director and communications director at BAJI. Her contributions include leading organizing efforts for the first ever black-led rally for immigrant justice and the first Congressional briefing on black immigrants in Washington, DC. Additionally, she coordinated BAJI's work as launch partner with Race Forward's historic "Drop the I-Word" campaign, working with the campaign to raise awareness about the importance of respectful language and history through the lens of the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Movement and current migration of the black diaspora. Tometi has been active in social movements for over a decade. She is a student of liberation theology and her practice is in the tradition of Ella Baker, informed by Stuart Hall, bell hooks and black Feminist thinkers. She was a lead architect of the Black-Brown Coalition of Arizona and was involved in grassroots organizing against SB 1070 with the Alto Arizona campaign. Tometi is a former case manager for survivors of domestic violence and still provides community education on the issue.
Tometi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Masters of Arts degree in communication and advocacy. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. She currently resides in the Brooklyn, New York where she loves riding her single speed bike and collecting African art.
Mia Birdsong advocates for strong communities and the self-determination of everyday people.
Why you should listen
Mia Birdsong has spent more than 30 years fighting and loving for social justice and liberation. She is the Co-Director of Family Story, an organization working to expand our understanding of what makes a "good" family to include a diversity of arrangements. Before Family Story, Mia was Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative (FII), which uses data to illuminate the initiative low-income families take to improve their lives. At FII, she created and curated the Torchlight Prize, an award for groups of regular people working together to strengthen their own communities. Birdsong also co-founded Canerow, a resource for people dedicated to raising children of color in a world that reflects the spectrum of who they are.
An avid generalist, Birdsong's wide-range of experience includes volunteering and organizing for the prison abolition organization Critical Resistance, years spent in the publishing industry, working in the youth development and health education field as a trainer and educator, apprenticing as a midwife, studying and practicing herbal medicine, building houses, and performing country music.
A frequent speaker and writer on low-income families and communities, social capital, and collective self-organizing, Mia has been published in the Stanford Innovation Review, the Huffington Post, On Being and The Good Men Project. She has also guest lectured at UC Berkeley.
She is a graduate of Oberlin College and an Ascend Fellow of the Aspen Institute. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center and the North Oakland Community Charter School.