Whenever marginalized groups are oppressed in any society, are mercilessly discriminated and are not given due rights, their fits of anger and frustrations reach a boiling point and they refuse to be treated like this, ultimately standing up to claim their rights. Hence, giving birth to civil right movements. The US history is filled with rows between black and white Americans which gave rise to some popular civil rights movements led by leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King that protested the oppression of black Americans.
The latest movement of this series is the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement that was born in 2013 when a 17-year-old black teenager by the name of Trayvon Martin was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder while his murderer, George Zimmerman, was not held responsible for the crime that he committed.
Soon it was formulated as an international activist movement by the Afro-American community and has been campaigning against the violence towards black people since its inception in 2013. The movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media and within no time became nationally recognized for its street demonstrations. It gained momentum in 2014 following the deaths of two other African Americans namely Michael Brown and Eric Garner that resulted in massive protest and unrest in Ferguson and New York respectively.
Since the Ferguson protests, participants in the movement have demonstrated against the deaths of numerous other African Americans by police actions or while in police custody. In the summer of 2015, Black Lives Matter began to publicly challenge politicians including the politicians in the 2016 United States Presidential elections to state their positions on the BLM issues. As far as its organizational structure is concerned, overall, the BLM movement is a decentralized network and has no formal hierarchy or structure.
According to its founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, the movement draws its inspirations from the following quote by Ella Baker,
“Oppressed people, whatever their level of formal education, have the ability to understand and interpret the world around them, to see the world for what it is, and move to transform it.”
Black Lives Matter is seen as an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
3-What Does #BlackLivesMatter Mean?
When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state. They are talking about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of their basic human rights and dignity. Upon these grounds, the BLM upholds following key agendas:
- How Black poverty and genocide is state violence?
- How 2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.
- How Black women bearing the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families is state violence.
- How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.
- How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.
- How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.
- How Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state-sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy, and that is state violence.
The BLM’s philosophy revolves around following guiding principles:
They are committed to acknowledging, respecting and celebrating difference(s) and commonalities.
They see themselves as a part of the global Black family and are aware of the different ways they are impacted or privileged as Black folk who exist in different parts of the world.
Different syndicates working the very direction are:
They are committed to building Black women affirming space free from sexism, misogyny, and male-domination.
They are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “their” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.
They are committed to embodying and practice justice, liberation, and peace in their engagements with each another.
They are committed to work collectively, lovingly, courageously and vigorously for the freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people. As they forge their path, they intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded through a beautiful struggle which is restorative and not depleting.
They are guided by the fact all Black lives, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location.
They are committed to practice empathy by engaging comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
They are committed to fostering a queer-affirming network. When they gather, they do so with the intention of freeing themselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or, rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they disclose otherwise.
They are unapologetically Black in their positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, they need not qualify their position. To love and desire freedom and justice for themselves is a necessary prerequisite for wanting the same for others.
They are committed to embrace and making space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead. Since they are committed to being self-reflexive and doing the work required to dismantle cis-gender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black transgender women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
They are committed to making their spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. With a commitment to dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” and requires them to mother in private even as they participate in justice work.
They are committed to foster an inter-generational and communal network free from ageism. As they believe that all people, regardless of age, have an adequate amount of capacity to lead and learn.
As of now BLM has hosted numerous national conferences focussing on the issues that are of critical importance to Black people and claim that they are working hard for the liberation of their people. They further claim that they have connected people across the country and are working to end the various forms of injustice impacting them. In turn creating space for the celebration and humanization of Black lives.