Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Alicia Garza Discusses #BlackLivesMatter

By Leanna Pough

In a digital era, social media can be the tool to catapult your cause into the minds of the masses. 

By using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi developed #BlackLivesMatter following the death of Travon Martin.
Its creation started a national discussion on race relations in America.

Alicia Garza
According to its website, #BlackLivesMatter is an “online forum intended to build connections between black people and allies to fight anti-black racism, to spark dialogue among black people and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.”

Garza, who spoke to a large and diverse audience in UNC Charlotte’s Cone Center, McKnight Hall, dispelled rumors and false truths surrounding the movement.
Here are a few takeaways from Monday night’s talk:

1.     Social media doesn’t start movements, people do.
#BlackLivesMatter was born in a context, as a call to action for African Americans. Its introduction followed the February 2012 death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed while walking in his neighborhood. In 2013, Martin was put on trial for his own death according to Garza. The shooter, George Zimmerman was acquitted per Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law sparking outrage within black communities. Garza notes, during this controversial time America had seen its first black president and record-setting incarceration rates amongst African Americans. Her response, a love letter to black people. Garza’s approach may be nuance, but she admits, her cause dates back to 1619 when the first African slaves reached Jamestown, Va.  Similar to the revolution surrounding Egypt’s Arab Spring, social media merely brought context and light to long-standing issues. “Social media is a tool.” Garza explained.

2.     #BlackLivesMatter isn’t a terrorist organization.
Often considered radical or compared to revolutionary groups like the Black Panther Party, #BlackLivesMatter does not advocate harm and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into a specific type of resistance. Garza explained, #BlackLivesMatter originated in love as a reminder to blacks that they matter, they aren’t dysfunctional or required to be angels. Her goal, to provide African Americans with something every human desires, to be seen, to give the black community the voice and platform to be heard.
 “All lives matter, but only the black ones are being degraded,” Garza stated.

3.     Organize and start a conversation
Garza does not consider the #BlackLivesMatter movement the new Martin Luther King Jr. or leader of the people. #BlackLivesMatter is a fight for dignity and freedom whether it be against state violence, police brutality or social injustice. It’s a fight against profitable gains at the expense of people of color.
“Blacks only account for 13 percent of the population, we can’t exclude anyone,” Garza said.

Garza currently serves on the board of directors for the School of Unity and Liberation in Oakland, Calif. She has received numerous awards for her work in the Black and Latino communities, including the Local Hero Award from the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Jeanne Gauna Communicate Justice award. She is a two-time recipient of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club Bayard Rustin Community Activist Award, too.

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Leanna Pough is a UNC Charlotte alumna and communications coordinator in the Office of Public Relations & News Services.

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