”Black Lives Matter” is celebrating the sixth anniversary of the mass protests that began as an online campaign against police killings of black people in the U.S.
The movement began with famous hashtag “BlackLivesMatter” on Twitter in a year after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a police officer who shot dead an Afro-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, in 2012.
After similar deaths of black people such as Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, Black Lives Matter (BLM) which began as an online campaign turned into massive protests in the country.
Due to the chapter-based organization structure of the movement, it became a national movement fast and later became an international movement through social media and demonstrations.
BLM, as Black-centered political will and movement that raises concerns about “systematically targeting for demise of Black people” has become a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters in its 6th year.
BLM’s message on lives
“The hashtag ‘Black Lives Matter’ reflects the message that Black lives matter, too – in other words, that Black lives ALSO matter. It was never a statement about only black lives mattering,” Karen Ross, an academician with the Department of Conflict Resolution at University of Massachusetts, told Anadolu Agency.
In an interview on the occasion of the 6th anniversary of the movement, Ross who also conducted a research with leaders of the movement said social media provided an opportunity to BLM on disseminating the message and reaching out people.
“Connecting them with other BLM groups and with the national network; providing a platform for disseminating information, and challenging counter-narratives disseminated by mainstream media,” she said by referring that social media served several roles for the movement according to her research with local BLM leaders.
Touching on the structure of the movement she stated that like Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, BLM is a decentralized movement that generated in a large spectrum of meaning.
“BLM leaders have characterized the movement as ‘leader-full’, in other words, as a decentralized movement with many local, grassroots leaders. This differs from how we might think of traditional social movements that were perceived as having a central, charismatic leader as the ‘face’ of the movement.”
Speaking on mobilization issue within the movement, she noted that demonstrations and protests were multifarious rather than mobilizing people in just one way such as bringing people against “common enemy”.
OWS was an influential, decentralized protest movement that began on Sep. 17, 2011, in New York, against economic inequalities.
“Fighting like hell”
Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of BLM, on Saturday wrote a letter, titled “Six years strong”, published on the BLM’s website, on the occasion of the anniversary of the movement.
In her letter Cullors stated that they found #BlackLivesMatter as an online community to help fighting against anti-Black campaign and for contributing voice for Black people.
“We are building grassroots power with Black communities who have been left out the political process. We are building new spaces and places that tell Black stories and remind the world our everlasting contributions,” she said.
Mentioning the development in Black communities since 2013, she highlighted that activists, organizations, communities, “are moving forward towards justice, towards visions, towards a world.”
“We have fought like hell for our freedom and we will continue to fight like hell,” she wrote at the end of the letter, by mentioning rights that Black people deserve more than they have been given.
Black Lives Matter was co-founded in the summer of 2013 by three organizers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi as an online campaign with hashtag #BlackLivesMatter after police officer George Zimmerman’s acquittal for shooting dead Black teen Trayvon Martin.
A year after the beginning of the online campaign, the movement held its first mass non-violent protest in 2014 after the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.