Black Lives Matter – 10 Years Later

Black Lives Matter – 10 Years Later

By Victoria Falk, An Exclusive

This Black History Month is an appropriate time to look back at the Black Lives Matter movement’s impact on the world and examine its relevance today. Three African-American females, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, are credited with co-founding the Black Lives Matter social justice movement to fight racism in the United States. They were outraged by the turn of events in the Trayvon Martin case, where Trayvon, an unarmed Black teenager, was shot and killed in February 2012 by a vigilante who was acquitted after claiming self-defense. The former neighborhood watchman was released from prison despite public outcry, leaving many African Americans despondent that justice failed.

Instead of simply wallowing in disappointment, the Black female activists combined forces and gave birth to Black Lives Matter, which developed into a significant, powerful, international movement over the years. It started with social media posts shared with “#BlackLivesMatter.” It grew into a global movement with people from all around the world, as far-reaching as Ghana, West Africa, and London, taking to the streets in non-violent protests to declare that Black lives mattered. Black Lives Matter activists shined a light on the prevalence of institutional racism in America and called for defunding of the police. Most of the protesters were Black millennials, who identified themselves as democrats. Support for Black Lives Matter increased as more tragic cases of unarmed African American men and women were killed by the police surfaced into the news, with rogue police officers repeatedly avoiding punishment.

Supporters of the movement included people of all different age groups, from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, and across political parties.

However, as growing sentiment favored the Black Lives Matter movement, multiple opposing groups formed simultaneously, who argued institutional racism did not exist and accused Black activists of sparking violent confrontations across the country to gain attention for their cause. These groups criticized Black Lives Matter activists as being racists and sparking conflict. Furthermore, questions emerged about the large donations made to fund the Black Lives Matter movement, with some supporters and opposers alike questioning if the funding was spent inappropriately.

So, what happened to Black Lives Matter? During a recent forum sponsored by New York Magazine, Moderator Lindsay Peoples Wagner, of “The Cut,” poised that question to contributors of “The Cut,” Brittney Cooper and Camonghne Felix, and Editor of “The Cut,” Morgan Jenkins. The ladies began their conversation by remembering Trayvon Martin, who would have been 27 years old this year. They recalled “the pain and despair” they felt when his murderer was acquitted. Brittney Cooper recalled asking herself, “What does having a Black President in office mean when Black people are still being killed like this?” African Americans were faced with the reality that although there was finally a Black man in the White House, former President Barack Obama, Black men were still being killed in the streets due to racial hatred.

In reviewing the Black Lives Matter movement, Brittney Cooper stated, “We moved into creativity.”

The movement leaders found ways to continue supporting the cause without taking to the streets and being visible. “We realized that if you stay that visible, then they can come in and assassinate your leader,” said Ms. Cooper. When Ms. Sasha Johnson, a Black Lives Matter activist in London, was shot in the head in May of 2021 and had to fight for her life, awareness of the risks to Black Lives Matter leaders grew after receiving numerous death threats.

Other lessons learned from the Black Lives Matter movement include, “We have to stop being so anti-institution. We have to know where we’ve been, to know where we’re going,” as Brittney Cooper stated. Camonghne Felix added that Black Lives Matter activists who were unaware of the Civil Rights Movement in America were “thinking they were creating something new.”

They fell into the trap of believing things that people did in the past did not bring us any progress. We have to read more. My generation needs to do a little more listening, a little more reading, and attend workshops.” Felix spoke of Angela Davis, educator, and activist, and how she has learned from listening to her.

While Morgan Jenkins learned to “take it slow, “you risk being judged by criticizing Black people openly. Even our contributors, at times, won’t have an answer. It’s okay to be without answers, without a resolution.”

Brittney Cooper added, “Your leaders will disappoint you. That’s true for us as it was with other movements. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Learn what it’s like to support someone. Be adaptable, committed, and loving enough to move forward.”

Although you do not see Black Lives Matter activists in mainstream media as much nowadays as has been in the past, the movement is indeed moving forward. Critics of the movement wonder if supporters should still consider making donations to the organization and if Black Lives Matter leaders have become “exhausted” and “apathetic.” While Black Lives Matter leaders wonder if mainstream media is willing to show the real platforms of Black Lives Matter and pro-Black activists.

“Affirming our lives felt good,” said Felix. “Although Black people are not necessarily safer, the amount of people who have been made aware of the conditions facing Black America has increased” as a result of Black Lives Matter. “It feels like people are quick to forget, but the issues are still lingering on,” expressed Lindsay. Wagner presented a case for reparations, while Cooper suggested universal basic income for all. Felix is “mostly concerned with Black people’s mental health and getting cops and military out of our schools.” Morgan expressed her desire to see less funding go to the police and some of that money to fund community programs instead. Cooper, Felix, Wagner, and Jenkins agreed that there was progress made as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, and there is so much more that needs to be done.

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