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#BlackLivesMatter Co-Founder Speaks at Eastern

Published on November 16, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter Co-Founder Speaks at Eastern

Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 12 to discuss the nationwide movement with students.

“Black Lives Matter” started in July 2013 when George Zimmerman was declared not guilty for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL. Shortly thereafter, Garza took to social media and the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was created.

Like so many black Americans, Garza was ashamed of the verdict. “Someone could kill me for walking down the street and get away with it. The verdict said that ‘black lives don’t matter.’” She added, “Every time I look at my brother, I think that could’ve been you.”

Much of Garza’s talk was focused on the backlash the movement receives, in particular from those who say “all lives matter,” not just black lives. “In theory, all lives matter — this is true — but in practice, they don’t,” she said, remarking on the constitutional promise “that all men are created equal.” “In this country, some lives matter more than others.”

“Black Lives Matter emerges from the context of the anti-black racism that is a part of the DNA of this nation,” she said, reflecting on slavery. “We live in a country that suffers from extreme amnesia.”

She went on to describe other acts of racism that the movement is born out of, such as Hurricane Katrina, “when black people were left behind when the flood waters rose”; the murder of Sean Bell, who was shot down by police in New York City the morning of his wedding; CeCe McDonald, an activist from Minneapolis, who was jailed for protecting herself; and other acts of prejudice and police brutality that have received media attention in recent years.

Garza asked the crowd of students to consider the narratives the media portrays. Back to Martin, she mentioned headlines that read “… the Trayvon Martin Trial,” instead of “… the George Zimmerman Trial.” A simple rewording like that frames Martin as the villain. “Martin wasn’t on trial, he was dead.”

To appease resisters of the movement, Garza emphasized that #BlackLivesMatter represents all factions of society that are discriminated against, regardless of skin color. It includes immigrants, the incarcerated, those with disabilities, the queer community and others. “This is not just about talking,” she concluded. “It’s about organizing and exercising collective power. Everyone in this room is an agent of social change. We need to re-inject this country with the humanity that it claims.”

The event was sponsored by Eastern’s Intercultural Center, Women’s Center and Campus Activity Board. Hundreds of students and members of the Eastern community attended, creating a maximum capacity crowd in the Student Center Theatre.

Written by Michael Rouleau