• Nadia Fernandes

Black Lives Matter, Explained

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

With the killing of George Floyd on the 25th May this year, the Black Lives Matter movement erupted into unprecedented numbers of protests around the world.


But how did this movement actually begin? And what exactly are their aims?


graphic for blm

Formation


In 2013, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation emerged after the non-guilty judgement of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of African-American teen Trayvon Martin.


The organisation was founded on social media by three female activists - Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi – after the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag began circulating, creating an online community concerned with anti-Black racism.


Garza, Cullors, and Tometi saw an opportunity to grow this platform, and over 7 years an international organisation that attempts to combat systemic racism and police brutality worldwide was established.


Black Lives Matter protest

Aims


Demanding an end to institutionalised racism and police brutality is the principal aim of the BLM Global Network Foundation.


The organisation promotes change in government policy, for example advocating expansions of civil rights and equality, and defunding the police.


Encouraging Black people to run for office and other political positions greatly promotes these changes. The 2020 US election saw the first Black and Asian woman, Kamala Harris, be elected into the office of Vice President – a huge victory for the BLM Global Network Foundation.


These collectively aim to bring recognition to Black stories and issues, reminding the world of the significant contribution Black people have made to our society.



Organisation


The project exists as a decentralised global network of over 40 member-led local chapters. Los Angeles homed the first chapter, which comprised of 30 people - mostly artists, students, and mothers.


Each chapter must uphold the aims of the BLM Global Network Foundation, but they are able to form their own agendas. Members organise and develop local power needed to intervene in violence inflicted against Black people and communities by the state and vigilantes.


Local chapters are predominantly funded through direct donations but can also apply for more funding from the BLM Global Network Foundation, which itself is funded by donations and grants. Following the killing of George Floyd, the foundation received donations from 1.1 million people averaging around $33 each. This money is used to fight campaigns, provide bail funds for Black people wrongfully imprisoned, and more.



Appearance in the media


Since its founding in 2013, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has appeared in films, art, music, literature, and the visual arts. These media outlets allow space for artists to express their frustrations about systemic racism, and can be used to educate those who may not be directly affected.

Social media has always been essential to the BLM movement – after all, it’s where it began. The original #BlackLivesMatter hashtag continues to be just as prevalent today as it was in 2013. In fact, between 26th May and 11th June, it was used 47.8 million times on Twitter alone.


In response to the senseless killings of innocent Black individuals, notably Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the popularity of the BLM movement has dramatically increased during 2020. This has seen a rise in books, novels, and TV shows which focus directly on BLM and Black issues.


Cities across the US have painted murals of “Black Lives Matter” on their streets to show their support for the movement.


In September TIME named the BLM Global Network Foundation co-founders, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, on their annual list of the 100 most influential people.



For more resources, head to our dedicated Racism, Islamophobia & Antisemitism section.

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