Why We Need BLM More than Ever
by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Four years ago, #BlackLivesMatter resonated with millions as a hashtag created by myself, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Black youth Trayvon Martin. Innumerable marches, protests, sit-ins, interviews, presentations, speeches, and teach-ins later, BLM has developed into a national and international network of Black people and our allies committed to Black liberation and the struggle against white supremacist and patriarchal violence.
BLM has become a resistance movement that has garnered waves of support and wider participation throughout the United States and across the globe from Black people, our communities, and allies. There’s no denying the multifaceted and dynamic movement we’ve become.
BLM serves as a critical channel for Black organizing today and Black liberation struggles. We are the 21st-century call for Black liberation, and while based primarily across the United States, our vision and our work’s purpose has an international lens and reach. In recent years, we’ve organized with Black struggles in Canada, Brazil, and Colombia to demand justice and reparations. We’ve expressed ourselves in solidarity with Venezuela’s grassroots movement—specifically, the Afro-Venezuelan call for maroon-inspired organizing models. BLM is blurring the colonial borders established to divide us, and instead, is weaving together a global network dedicated to Black liberation and improving conditions for Black communities.
In the United States, BLM has reinvigorated and reframed national conversations on systemic racism, the prison industrial complex, and abolition in ways publicly unspoken prior to 2013. BLM has inspired cultural work from political art and philosophical reflection meant for envisioning our future with projects like the annual Black Futures Month.
BLM continues to respond with massive mobilizations and in mainstream media to state-sanctioned violence and the current Trump administration, which is a threat to Black lives everywhere and targets our very existence. We’ve evolved and transformed, and we continue to process our work every day. We recognize our achievements and our shortcomings in the struggles that have yet to materialize concrete systemic changes for Black people.
Undeniably, Black people face the harshest conditions domestically in the U.S. and globally. U.S. state-sanctioned violence continues to indiscriminately affect Black people, with skyrocketing cases of Black people murdered at the hands of police and other armed security forces. Black people are five times more likely than other groups to be incarcerated in U.S. state prisons. Our communities are underemployed. We overwhelmingly lack adequate, accessible, safe housing. We do not receive sufficient resources for education and other social services. Regarding our collective health, Black women have alarmingly high maternal mortality and morbidity rates. The Centers for Disease Control reports that Black women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Likewise, our communities continue to suffer from high rates of diabetes and other preventable diseases.
Recently, a BLM delegation traveled to accompany the 22-day civic strike in Buenaventura, Colombia. We broke bread with Black-led organizations and communities fighting for their right to dignity in an attempt to strengthen our movement beyond borders. It’s important to name the struggle our family is waging in the Global South, as well.
Buenaventura is a majority Black and Indigenous port city that suffers from some of the country’s highest unemployment rates, at 62 percent. Of the population, 80.5 percent live in poverty, and many communities have zero access to clean potable running water. The majority Black population of Buenaventura lives without sufficient resources, despite living in the country’s most profitable port city. Repression in Buenaventura during the peaceful civic strike harkens to the state terror tactics used in places like Ferguson and Milwaukee—with tear gas canisters labeled from manufacturers in Pennsylvania. Similar to Ferguson and Milwaukee, however, the Black Colombian resistance is inspiring and full of resilience.
Our struggle calls for the liberation of Black people. This means we continually fight against the denigration of our human rights and our dignity as Black people. In four years, we have built a Black queer, women, and youth-led movement. However, we have many more struggles to overcome and victories to win. We work to manifest a world where Black people are not constantly fighting to survive, but can thrive in safe and sustainable environments.
Four years later, we still declare with conviction that Black Lives Matter everywhere.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors is an artist, organizer, and freedom fighter. Internationally known as the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse is also the founder and a board member of Los Angeles–based organization Dignity and Power Now, and the Director for Truth and Reinvestment at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. She is also active in many other social justice organizations, including Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity. A self-described wife of Harriet Tubman, Patrisse has always traveled on the path to freedom. Growing up with several of her loved ones experiencing incarceration and brutality at the hands of the state, and coming out as queer at an early age, she has since worked to tirelessly promote law enforcement accountability across the world while focusing on addressing trauma and building the resilience and health of the communities most affected. She lives and plays in Los Angeles.