Last month I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Alicia Garza, one the of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter. She spoke on the six month anniversary of the police shooting death of Stephon Clark and after a long day of protests by our local BLM chapter. She was incredible. I continue to struggle with why people do not understand why Black Lives Matter exists and why they are so mad about it, but people are a mystery. Hearing her speak with such compassion, thoughtfulness, intelligence, and logic makes it seem like such a no-brainer. Here is a fantastic video on the founding of the movement:
Alicia was born in 1981 and currently lives in Oakland. She identifies as a queer woman and married her husband Malachi in 2008. He is a transgender biracial man.
As described in the video, the BLM movement began with the acquittal of walking awfulness, George Zimmerman. Alicia wrote on her Facebook, “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter, Black Lives Matter.” Her friend, Patrice Cullors shared the message and added a hashtag which cemented the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
In 2015, Patrisse and Darnell Moore organized a Freedom Ride to Ferguson which Alicia led. That Ride launched chapters across the country.
Alicia has organized around issues such as health, student rights, ending police brutality, rights for domestic workers, violence against trans and non-gender conforming people of color, and anti-racism. Her writing has been featured in Rolling Stone, HuffPost, The Guardian, and The Nation. She has fought gentrification in the Bay Area and even led the initiative that got young people the right to ride San Francisco transportation for free.
She participated in a protest that hoped to stop a BART train for 4.5 hours in recognition of the significant amount of time that Michael Brown’s body was left in the street after being shot by police. They chained themselves inside and out of the train to prevent the doors from closing. The protesters managed 1.5 hours before the police were able to dismantle parts of the train and remove them.
She has won numerous awards including the Local Hero award from the San Francisco Guardian. She’s been given the Bayard Rustin Community Activist Award twice by the Harvey Milk Democratic Club. The three BLM founders, Patrisse, Alicia, and Opal Tometi, were awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2017. Alicia was selected in 2018 to participate in the inaugural cohort of The Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity where she will focus along with 29 others on challenging racism and white supremacy in South Africa and the United States.
I was deeply impressed by her and her charisma was something to behold. She was so incredibly patient and spoke so clearly about a plethora of difficult issues. I am always amazed by people who are competent public speakers, and she was truly excellent.
She was exceedingly patient with some members of the crowd who I felt were deeply disrespectful to her. I was amazed at her ability to provide a compassionate response to people who were clearly only interested in their own agenda. She stayed for hours after speaking to people from our campus community. I was so inspired by her, and I hope you will take the opportunity to see her if she is ever in your area.