When George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, three women got together and decided enough is enough: it was time to make America and the world recognize that Black Lives Matter.
Stating from the get-go that “This is not a moment, but a movement,” Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi have stuck by their word and, three years later, arguably made 2015 the year of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The year that even in the midst of counter-efforts like #AllLivesMatter and #CopsLivesMatter, these women indirectly made mainstream media talk about black lives — the black lives that were heinously stripped from this earth by the hands of overzealous officers, allegedly of the law. The year that student activists on campuses across the United States like Yale, Princeton, the University of Cincinnati, and Mizzou took a page out of Alicia, Patrisse, and Opal’s book and made a list of demands their college administrators must meet to demonstrate a commitment to diversity and the development of safe spaces for students of color on predominately white campuses. The year that blacks in Brazil felt empowered by the example these women set in American to take on their government and demand a change from the status quo in São Paulo where the number of youth killed by police violence are three times more likely to be black than white.
This is also the year — and the first time in recent history — that presidential candidates have been forced to place the concerns of the black community on the list of key issues for their national agenda. In October, members of the Black Lives Matter movement met with Hillary Clinton about “de-centering the police as the key mechanism to ensuring safety in communities,” as Deray McKesson, one of the leaders of Campaign Zero, a group aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, explained to Politico at the time. And when the Democratic National Committee extended the offer for a special town hall for presidential candidates to discuss racial injustice, Black Lives Matter said no thanks, we want a full presidential debate devoted to our cause.
Further, in the face of claims of being a terrorist group and false controversy surrounding Shaun King, these women have refused to resort to the same vitriol coming from the right wing. Instead, they have remained steadfast in their purpose and calculated with their words and actions, exposing the real domestic terrorists in our country.
Above all, what these founders of the Black Lives Matter movement have done is refuse to let anyone forget the threat facing our community. In a news cycle that changes by the minute and a society easily distracted by the next tragedy, these women have forced African-Americans across the country to remain active days, weeks, and months after the outrage over a black death typically subsides. And they’ve also disallowed white America to brush our concerns under the rug, expecting us to simply “get over” the injustices we’ve endured for far too many years. For years, people have been asking who will lead the next generation of activists. Who will be the millennial Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X? We know have an answer to that question and their names are Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.