Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag when Alicia Garza wrote what she calls ‘a love letter to Black people’ on Facebook, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2013.
In November 2020 Garza came to Intelligence Squared to recount how she and her co-founders built Black Lives Matter into the most influential movement of recent times. The phrase she coined was chanted by millions of people around the world this year in protests against the brutal killing in May of George Floyd by a police officer. But, as she pointed out, hashtags don’t build movements, people do. The work was done not through celebrity influencers or a (usually male) leader swooping down from on high, but by people at the grass roots knocking on doors, building a base, and acting collaboratively to fight the persistent message that Black lives are of less value than white lives.
Drawing on the themes of her new book, The Purpose of Power: How to Build Movements for the 21st Century, Garza set out her commitment to bring real change to those whose economic opportunities have been blighted by racism. She explained how these goals will ultimately be achieved not through protest alone but by ensuring that Black people have power in their lives and in politics. And she asked us to think about our privileges and prejudices and consider how we can all contribute to the change we want to see in the world.
Speakers subject to change.