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As she sees it, Ferguson is the cradle of the movement, and no chapter of the organization exists there or anywhere in the greater St. Louis area. That contentious distinction between the organization and the movement is part of the debate about what Black Lives Matter is and where it will go next. The central contradiction of the civil-rights movement was that it was a quest for democracy led by organizations that frequently failed to function democratically.
New scholarship began charting the contributions of women, local activists, and small organizations—the lesser-known elements that enabled the grand moments we associate with the civil-rights era. In particular, the career of Ella Baker, who was a director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and who oversaw the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, came to be seen as a counter-model to the careers of leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Baker was emphatically averse to the spotlight. Barbara Ransby, a professor of history and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who wrote a biography of Baker, told me that, during the nineteen-forties, when Baker was a director of branches for the N.
The folk who were getting rounded up and thrown in jail had to be included. That response was seen as indicative of a generational divide. But the divide was as much philosophical as it was generational, and one that was visible half a century earlier. Garza, Cullors, and Tometi advocate a horizontal ethic of organizing, which favors democratic inclusion at the grassroots level.
In a way, they created the context and the movement created itself. They wanted to continue to do this work together, and be connected to activists and organizers from across the country.
These are laid out in a thirteen-point statement written by the women and Darnell Moore, which calls for, in part, an ideal of unapologetic blackness. Yet, although the movement initially addressed the killing of unarmed young black men, the women were equally committed to the rights of working people and to gender and sexual equality. She also dismisses the kind of liberalism that finds honor in nonchalance. I want you to see all of me. Obama, as a young community organizer in Chicago, determined that he could bring about change more effectively through electoral politics; Garza is of a generation of activists who have surveyed the circumstances of his Presidency and drawn the opposite conclusion.
I met up with Garza in downtown San Francisco last August, on an afternoon when the icy winds felt like a rebuke to summer. A lively crowd of several hundred people had gathered in United Nations Plaza for Trans Liberation Tuesday, an event that was being held in twenty cities across the country.
The names of Grant, Martin, and Garner—who died in , after being put in a choke hold by police on Staten Island—are now part of the canon of the wrongfully dead.
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According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, between and there were fifty-three known murders of transgender people; thirty-nine of the victims were African-American. Garza addressed the crowd for just four minutes; she is not given to soaring rhetoric, but speaks with clarity and confidence.
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For Garza, the assurance that black lives matter is as much a reminder directed at black people as it is a revelation aimed at whites. The message of Trans Liberation Tuesday was that, as society at large has devalued black lives, the African-American community is guilty of devaluing lives based on gender and sexuality. The kind of ecumenical activism that Garza espouses has deep roots in the Bay Area. In , in Oakland, Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party, which was practically defined by hyperbolic masculinity.
Four years later, he made a statement whose message was, at the time, rare for the left, not to mention the broader culture. In a Party newsletter, he wrote:. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations, that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society.
As was the case during the civil-rights movement, there are no neat distinctions between the activities of formal organizations and those incited by an atmosphere of social unrest. That ambiguity can be an asset when it inspires entry-level activism among people who had never attended a protest, as happened in Ferguson. But it can be a serious liability when actions contrary to the principles of the movement are associated with it.
Several months later, the footage provoked controversy. A week after the march, a troubled drifter named Ismaaiyl Brinsley fatally shot two New York City police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, as they sat in their patrol car, before killing himself. Some observers argued that, although Brinsley had not identified with any group, his actions were the result of an anti-police climate created by Black Lives Matter.
All of this was accompanied by an increasing skepticism, across the political spectrum, about whether Black Lives Matter could move beyond reacting to outrages and begin proactively shaping public policy. The current Presidential campaign has presented the movement with a crucial opportunity to address that question. At the same event, activists interrupted Bernie Sanders. This was the kind of freestyle disruption that caused even some African-Americans to wonder how the movement was choosing its targets.
At the time, it did seem odd to have gone after Sanders twice, given that he is the most progressive candidate in the race, and that none of the Republican candidates had been disrupted in their campaigns. Garza argues that the strategy has been to leverage influence among the Democrats, since ninety per cent of African-Americans vote Democratic.
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He also released a statement on civil rights that prominently featured the names of African-American victims of police violence, and he began frequently referring to Black Lives Matter on the campaign trail. An attempt to disrupt a Hillary Clinton rally early in the campaign, in New Hampshire, failed when the protesters arrived too late to get into the hall.
Where Is Black Lives Matter Headed? | The New Yorker
But Clinton met with them privately afterward, and engaged in a debate about mass incarceration. She has met with members of the movement on other occasions, too. Just as the movement was enjoying newfound influence among the Democratic Presidential contenders, it was also gaining attention for a series of febrile Twitter exchanges.
Last month, it was announced that Garza would speak at Webster University, in St. Almost from the outset, Black Lives Matter has been compared to the Occupy movement. Occupy was similarly associated with a single issue—income inequality—which it transformed into a movement through social media. Its dissipation seemed to prove that, while the Internet can foster the creation of a new movement, it can just as easily threaten its survival.
Black Lives Matter would appear to face similar concerns, though in recent months the movement has tacked in new directions. In November, the Ella Baker Center received a five-hundred-thousand-dollar grant from Google, for Patrisse Cullors to further develop a program to help California residents monitor and respond to acts of police violence.
Last year, Mckesson, with Elzie, Brittany Packnett, and Samuel Sinyangwe, a twenty-five-year-old data analyst with a degree from Stanford, launched Campaign Zero, a list of policing-policy recommendations that calls for, among other things, curtailing arrests for low-level crimes, reducing quotas for summonses and arrests, and demilitarizing police departments.
To date, neither Clinton nor Sanders has endorsed the platform, but both have met with the activists to discuss it. Mckesson is one of them. I was always after something.
I kept putting things off, hoping for a better future. Matthew Once I learned about my relationship with God--through His Son, Jesus Christ--and the true meaning of what He does for us, I realized that we could have the peace of God right here, right now.
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Even when we made mistakes, God was there to forgive. My story is not so much about what I experienced in my two and a half years in prison and seven years on parole, but my life before and after. The most dramatic time in my life came just before I was sentenced. That's when I found salvation. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. It took me thirty-five years, but I finally found peace through Jesus Christ. The decades of the wild life I led, along with the few times when I was close to finding the right path, weave an amazing story.
I'm not proud of the many problems I created for myself--the incredibly stupid things I did--but I'm not running from them or trying to cover them up either. In fact, by telling my story here, I hope you, dear reader, can learn the lessons I learned without going through the trials and dangers I faced. Ultimately, this story isn't about me. It's about Jesus Christ and how He willingly and faithfully pulled me out of a lifestyle that had little hope.
I can never repay that love and faithfulness, but I'm not supposed to. That's the beauty of grace.