In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin, Los Angeles based activist Alicia Garza made a heartfelt post on Facebook telling the Black community, “Our lives matter.” Within days, fellow activist Patrisse Cullors turned it into the now-famous hashtag and created the first BLM chapter along with Melina Abdullah.
Seven years have passed since #BlackLivesMatter was established, and the name has become synonymous with the pursuit of racial justice. The movement quickly garnered national attention over the years as multiple officer-involved killings of unarmed black men and women incited civil unrest. In a statement, Cullers refers to #BlackLivesMatter as “a movement led and envisioned and directed by Black women…Many of us are queer, we’re moms, and we really started this work because we wanted to see our children survive. We’re laying the groundwork and foundation for a new world, not just for our descendants but for right now.”
The organization is often scrutinized for its alleged controversial and exclusionary approach towards activism. Despite mainstream criticism, the movement has successfully attracted a young audience and openly embraced participation from the LGBT community. Through the use of social media, the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag makes it easier for people to participate in displays of social justice.
The BLM L.A. chapter is the largest and most influential with a membership of 500 people. Through this chapter, they aim to assist families in obtaining independent autopsies in cases of wrongful death and pushing to get police body-cam footage to allow the public visibility to their actions. According to Brown University’s Political Science Professor, Juliet Hooker stated, “It’s only seven years old, and there are these massive protests all over the U.S., all over the globe in solidarity and raising questions about racism in their own local context…That’s an enormous potential transformation in political consciousness.”