Black Lives Matter is an entry point into Black liberation organizing
To: Joy James, Focus
From: Charlene Carruthers
Date: September 17, 10:11am
“Black Lives Matter” represents a convergence of people, ideas, geographies, formations and experiences.
The activity is both hyper-local and internationalist. Be it Twitter conversations between Ferguson and Palestinian activists about how to alleviate pain from tear gas or the 2014 We Charge Genocide delegation of six young people (five whom are Black) to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, where they presented a landmark report of police violence in Chicago, Black Lives Matter consciously weaves a thread connecting the work of those who have come before us and the resistance of those who face oppression on lands most of us will never visit. Earlier this year, I joined an historical delegation of young activists and organizers to the occupied territories of Palestine. We recognize that our liberation is deeply tied to the liberation of oppressed people across the globe.
Black Lives Matter is an entry point into Black liberation organizing, a space for assessment of our material conditions as Black people and a point of critical inquiry for those inside/outside/adjacent to movement building in this moment. Black Lives Matter emerged out of Black pain, death, resistance and visions for transformation. The articulation of the slogan, phrase and rallying cry that began with three Black women is reflective of how Black genius touches the human experience.
The co-founders of Black Lives Matter knew something had to be done, and did it. That is the essence of why Black Lives Matter has become a household name. Words can have material consequences, and in this case words give people open consent to say and do something to change their very own lives. Black Lives Matter flourishes through action. It gives everyday people a vehicle to refuse the inevitability of social death and imagine a different way forward. Black Lives Matter has evolved into more than a hashtag or slogan. It is now a national network within a broader movement ecosystem of individuals and organizations.
As Alicia Garza shared the words “Black Lives Matter” on social media and began to contextualize the meaning of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin for all Black life, I was gathered with the group of young Black activists outside of Chicago who would become the BYP100. It was out of that moment of deep and collective trauma that our group had a moment of clarity about the value of Black life and the need to build an organization for the sake of Black liberation. Since then we have built a national organization that trains, organizes and mobilizes young Black activists through we call a Black queer feminist lens. We create multiple entry points for young Black people including direct-action organizing, public policy advocacy and civic engagement. Through a consensus-driven democratic decision-making process, we struggle through what it means to build a mass organization under the weight of deep trauma and popularized Black pain. The Black genius that emerges here is always evolving and not easily contained.
The mainstream media does not have a full pulse on what is emerging as the “Movement for Black Lives” and neither does the progressive establishment. Black genius is never that simple to understand or contain. While our bodies are seldom valued beyond commodity and pleasure by those who possess institutional power over our lives, our ideas permeate the human tradition of resistance and transformation. The actualization of ideas and action keep this movement alive, and Black Lives Matter as an idea, network and political intervention persists as a primary point of convergence.