Art work credited to Michael White
*This is part of a series showing undying support to the Movement for Black Lives, which consist of various activist groups & organizations, such as Black Lives Matter, actively fighting for black liberation and social mobility. We give thanks to Dream Defenders, Race Forward, Black Youth Project 100, Blackbird, Million Hoodies, OBS: the Organization for Black Struggle, Ferguson Action, Southerners on New Ground, Project South, and countless other collectives fighting against social and economic injustice:
Black lives matter.
Seemingly the most controversial and polarizing combination of words since the call for “Black Power” itself. It’s a battle cry almost exclusively tailored to fit urban angst and rage. A call to bomb the system and a plea to ending systematic injustices. Moreover, due to it being so uniquely shared amongst blacks and non blacks, it has intense rivals on each side of the spectrum.
Created by, Alicia Garza, Patrice Cullors, and Opal Tometi as a hashtag in 2013 after the acquittal of neighborhood watch zealot and all around douche George Zimmerman, who gunned down Trayvon Martin. One single phrase condensing prompted an outpouring of fury over similar cases of blue on black murder; Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson most notably. #BlackLivesMatter manifested itself into a new form of social media activism, where people could express their trepidations and connect personal inner indignation at home with those actually on the front lines of protest. This caused an outpour only caparable to Arab Spring in 2011, where social media helped to boost the awareness of conflicts and ills all while connecting those involved into a centralized network for community organizing and action.
Since the Ferguson protests, members of BLM have rallied against what seems to be an endless list of murders perpetrated by the police against black males and females. Recently they began to openly challenge elected officials and statesmen over past and present statements. Here’s the problem, BLM overall is a network with zero structure or chain of command, much like the Occupy Movement of a few years ago. So the question must be asked.
Is this a mob or a movement ?
We ALL know (hopefully) the origins of Black people in the Americas, but naturally with such an ugly history came pockets of social activism both successful and non. The last 500 or so years in a racial petri dish produced the environment for generations of social injustices and conflict. The Trans-Atlantic Trade which led obviously to slave revolts. The Abolitionists Movement, shit even the Civil War, have been the exact precursors to the formation of Jim Crow and consequently what became of the Civil Rights Movement.
Unlike the hasgtag warriors, the civil rights call to action in the 1960’s had recognizable leadership in insitutes such as African American churches and The Nation of Islam as well as groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Not to mention, the actual living icons and soon to be martyrs Dr. King, Malcolm X, and President John F. Kennedy.
I say that to reach this brief point. Organizers are not the same as the face of a movement, which BLM lacks severly. Being a face of the civil rights movement more than likely lead to death in someway or another, where as being a face in the BLM movement means you were more than likely killed or unjustly incarcerated. Those two sound the same but are totally opposite. It’s the difference between being proactive and being reactive. The rage feels similar but it’s divergent. Just for comparative purposes, Medgar Evers fought for integration and voting rights in Mississippi and was assassinated for what he lived for; proaction. Walter Scott , on the other hand, was unjustly killed by police after attempting to flee and that sparked more protests; reaction.
Nonetheless just like BLM, The Civil rights movement had stark opposition, sometimes from their own. Many people believe that the initial call for integration was the critical tipping point where blacks who were able to separate economically did so, leaving those who didn’t have the means to stay behind to figure things out for themselves. Which outside of slavery could be the single worst thing to happen to the Black community but thats another conversation for another day.
I don’t want to give BLM too much grief though. Their cause is just and frankly, It’s real as shit. Black lives do matter. The movement’s overall existence was born in bred in the same belly of the beast as I. The same neighborhoods where methodical oppression leads to the vicious cycle of drugs, jail, death and repeat. The same streets where it’s easier to get pulled over by police than to hail a cab. The same homes where mothers fear for fatherless children every time they leave. The cities where non profit schools close and for profit prisons are built. This is the place where this new anger is unleashed and the old danger is shared. Furthermore, they give zero fucks about politeness and niceties. It isn’t a question, It’s a demand.
Tef Poe, a St. Louis native, MC, & community activist said
“This ain’t your grandparents civil rights party”.
God damned right it ain’t.