The Black Lives Matter movement has been connecting communities and bringing forth change since the year 2013. The movement started off as social media hashtag, in hopes to gain awareness about police brutality then slowly grew into a “member-led global network [with] more than forty chapters” (“Herstory”).
These chapters are spread across the United States and Canada in cities such as Los Angeles, California, Birmingham, Alabama, and Toronto, Ontario. Many people, black or not, support the movement in hopes that it will result in a change not only for black people but for minorities and people of color as well. The Black Lives Matter movement continues to thrive and seek change for racial injustice by supporting a local democracy and identifying the negative impact of police brutality on communities.
To be able to understand the Black Lives Matter movement’s purpose and reasoning, a clear definition of what it is would come first. The Black Lives Matter movement, founded by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors, on July 13, 2013, is a campaign against violence and systematic racism towards black people. The Black Lives Matter movement came about after the death of Trayvon Martin by law enforcement officer, George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012.
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The black community has seen this story far too many times and is fed up with the constant injustice being served to guilty police officers. The black community wanted to make a change about police brutality and decided to come together and form an organization that “organizes and builds [a] local power to intervene in violence inflicted on black communities” (“Herstory”). Mass incarceration amongst blacks is already a huge issue in America.
Now, some black people can’t even live to see the back of a cop car because they are being shot and killed out fear and impulse. Law enforcers who “intentionally and systematically target blacks for demise” should be convicted of a murderous felony and be sentenced to prison with a hefty fine (“Herstory”). Unfortunately, that doesn’t occur, and most times officers get a slap on the wrist with benefits such as paid leave. The Black Lives Matter movement does not stand for this and is determined to convict the racist law enforcers, but more importantly, stop the shootings from happening in the first place.
Each social justice movement has a purpose and the focus of Black Lives Matter campaign is to stop unjust behavior against black people in law enforcement. Ashton P. Woods, a Black Lives Matter Houston advocate, states that “we work to save lives and too dismantle systems of oppression and racism. That has been and will always be our mission” (George and Hassan). The Black Lives Matter movement have other guiding principles such as women, queer, and transgender affirmation, but it is mainly a “call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism” (“What We Believe”).
The Black Lives Matter movement strongly believes that to make a change in the anti-Black nation, there must be a level of maturity, openness, and peace within the community. It is hard to fight for the end of violence if one is violent themselves. Peaceful protest and rallies are examples of ways the Black Lives Matter movement voice their opinion while remaining civilized. Keeping the peace is an attribute that all organizers and activists focus on when they plan events to represent the Black Lives Matter movement. It is their duty to ensure a safe and non-violent environment. Unfortunately, there are still some people who intentionally crash a peaceful protest and force violence on others, in hopes to start a riot.
The Black Lives Matter movement tries its hardest to stress its violent intolerance against police, but incidents like the Downtown Dallas shooting goes against the intentions of the BLM peaceful protest. On July 7, 2016, 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson shot a total of twelve officers, killing five in Dallas, Texas at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Quanell X, a community activist, states that this unfortunate event was a result of the “black community [becoming] increasingly frustrated with the continuing cycle of injustice… especially in recent years where the incidents have been captured on video” (George and Hassan).
The implementations of body cameras into police gear was supposed to support the Black Lives Matter movement and help showcase the racism and police brutality going on in our nation, but even with recorded proof the justice system still finds a way to let these murderers run free. The black community is disgusted and fed up with the way they are being treated and how easily police officers are getting out of a horrendous situation.
Over time this frustration starts to build up and people like Johnson act in a negative way and state that they “want to kill white people” (NBC 5 Staff). The Black Lives Matter movement has always been a peaceful movement and do not tolerate brutality against police, innocent or not. The Houston organization’s statement claims there “there is still no justice in bloodshed [or] taking a life” (George and Hassan). Killing police or anybody else to avenge the loss of others goes against the morals of the Black Lives Matter movement and create a contradiction in its purpose. Violence doesn’t stop violence.
The Black Lives Matter advocates and supporters will continue to stress the importance of peaceful calls of action and how it will fuel positivity across the board to ensure change. No More Bloodshed peace and conflict resolution movement make an “effort to unite the community and stop inner-city violence” (George and Hassan). There are many factors in going about change addressing racial injustice, but Quanell suggests a solution to decrease all around violence against the citizens and police. Quanell believes that “sincere and open communication between law enforcement and the black community needs to occur, [along with the need of] the criminal justice system showing consequences for those law enforcement officers who unjustly shoot people” (George and Hassan).
By coming together, both law enforcement and the black community can establish an open relationship where they can tackle the issue of officer-involved shootings and racial injustice together. This democratic involvement will allow many people from different backgrounds to work together to make a change, which drives the Black Lives Matter movement.
Times have changed when it comes to leadership and empowerment in social justice movements. Today’s democratic structure allows any and everyone to work together and get involved. Back in the 1950’s through the 1960’s, popular civil rights’ activists, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were prime examples of social justice leaders. Both fought for similar goals of racial desegregation, even though Martin Luther King Jr. went about it in a peaceful manner and Malcolm X put more anger and aggression into his practices. Both are highly respected and extremely influential when it comes to civil liberties for blacks, but if they were to lead in the 21st-century world, they wouldn’t achieve much success.
Back then it was acceptable for one person to be the superior leader and guide the way to social change, but now we have adopted more democratic attitudes towards making a difference. According to NAACP field secretary, Ella Baker, “the top-down, male-centered, charismatic model of leadership [is a] political dead end. It disempowers ordinary people, [like] women and low-income and working-class people [and] told them that they needed a savior” (qtd. in Ransby). By having this type of leadership, it puts others at the bottom of the pedestal, even though that wasn’t the intention. In today’s world, everyone is involved, and a radical democracy allows for communication to flow from local citizens and organizations to political leaders.
Even though political power is important for making a national change, a radical democracy focuses more on local input than anything else. “When people on the ground make decisions…the results are more likely to meet real needs… that are more sustainable in the long run. People are better prepared to carry solutions they themselves created” (Ransby). This states that more change is likely to come about when local people take action instead of relying on the government. On the other hand, Ransby believes that local leaders can also be dominant, hierarchical, and self- aggrandizing and that establishing group-centered leadership would help keep an honest organization. “Both superior leadership and a radical democracy should come together to form many leaders in the movement” (Dunevant).
This would prove that strong people don’t need strong leaders because they themselves are strong. If each person in the democracy believes this, then it would form an army, which will help force change in the criminal justice system and executive offices. The Black Lives Matter movement “emphasize collective models of leadership instead of hierarchal ones” so that everyone has a voice in the campaign (Ransby). The Black Lives Matter movement is powerful because of its membership, partners, supporters, staff, and you. The continued commitment to liberation for all black people keeps the tradition, that our ancestors started, going and encourages the fight for our collective freedom.
In conclusion, the Black Lives Matter movement works to solicit change for racial injustice by endorsing a local democracy and distinguishing the negative impact of communal police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement has made many actions to try to further their campaign which supports their purpose and local democracy. From peaceful protests, rallies, and organizational programs to executive and international communication and action, the Black Lives Matter movement continues to evolve around the globe.
Programs and creative campaigns, such as Channel Black (that train black millennials to construct, optimize, and implement strategic interventions through media) and Mama’s Bail Out Day (that gather organizations to raise money to help bail out low-income black women on Mother’s Day), help support the Black Lives Matter movement and give black people hope that there are citizens out there that care and are working to make a difference.
All black lives matter in the Black Lives Matter movement, regardless of sexual and gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbelief, immigration status, or location. The Black Lives Matter campaign will continue to encourage black people and fight against police brutality, alongside other social injustices that are influenced by its motive and prosperity. The Black Lives Matter movement is not just a campaign of change for black people, but for people all around the world.
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