01 Jan 1970 |

Black lives




By Ras Abimelech

The Creation of a Movement
Black Lives Matter was created by Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of our sisters, as a call to action for Black people, after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. .

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folk’s contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

We were humbled when cultural workers, artists, designers and techies offered their labour and love to expand Black Lives Matter beyond a social media hashtag. Opal, Patrisse, and I created the infrastructure for this movement project moving the hashtag from social media to the streets.

Our team grew through a very successful Black Lives Matter ride, led and designed by Patrisse  Cullors and Darnell L. Moore, organized to support the movement that is growing in St. Louis, MO, after 18-year old Mike Brown was killed at the hands of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.


We have hosted national conference calls focused on issues of critical importance to Black people working hard for the liberation of our people. We have connected people across the country working to end the various forms of injustice impacting our people. We have created space for the celebration and humanization of Black lives. Activists at the centre of the unrest that became known as the Black Lives Matter movement want to channel the outrage and the energy of marches into political clout.


Leaders who emerged from protests that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, launched Campaign Zero in August. Campaign Zero wants to seize on an “opportunity and a moment in history where we can ensure that sacrifices people have and continue to make on the street can translate into policy changes, especially during an election year,” she said.

The campaign, similar to other activists’ websites including Black Lives Matter.com and Ferguson Action, seeks to advance a political platform that includes tackling institutional racism in courts and police departments.
We are still living on the plantation land, slaves with some civil rights, a right to work for the master, a right to be educated by the master, a right to worship your master and right to die for your master without question.

Black Lives Matter activists have had some success, Johnson said. They have met with two leading presidential candidates, pushed their issue in front of a national audience through the presidential debates, and likely influenced some police departments to adopt increased use of body cameras. The activists have had less success changing laws and policies that govern the investigation and prosecution of police-involved shootings, he said. The political influence of the Black Lives Matter movement, as with any interest group, will be measured by its ability to change the national conversation, get existing laws changed or new laws passed, and persuade political leaders to adopt their issues, said Jason Johnson, a political science professor at Hiram College in Ohio.


The Democratic National Committee has issued a statement of support for a presidential town hall meeting hosted by Black Lives Matter activists, including Campaign Zero leaders. The Republican National Committee, which says it doesn’t support or oppose town halls, has explained the rules of hosting such an event to activists. But neither party has agreed to change its formal debate schedule to add a debate focused on race issues, as some activists have asked. Activist Elle Hearns, 28, a strategic partner for the Black Lives Matter network, an organization that has 27 chapters in North America , said town hall meetings with individual candidates won’t give voters a clear view of the differences among the contenders.


“We really know these candidates are going to target black voters and black votes so that’s why a debate is really essential,” Hearns, who is black, said. “There’s no other space or platform that will provide voters the opportunity to really connect to why they should support one of these candidates over the other.” So far, the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have met with some Black Lives Matter activists.


But, Black Lives Matter protesters have also interrupted campaign appearances of both Clinton and Sanders with chants for change. Other activists and Campaign Zero organizers have yet to meet with any of the Republican candidates. Organizers and activists have also not endorsed any 2016 presidential candidates. The movement’s slogan has decidedly emerged in the political discourse. During the Democratic debate in October, CNN aired a recording of a young black man who asked the candidates: “Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?” “Black lives matter,” Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, replied.

“We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system.” Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley answered next. “

Black lives matter, and we have a lot of work to do to reform our criminal justice system, and to address race relations in our country,” he said. Clinton addressed the need to tackle mass incarceration and improve early childhood education. Last week, Clinton went further by outlining a new criminal justice reform agenda calling for an end to racial profiling by law enforcement and eliminating sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine.

Republicans candidates have also referenced the Black Lives Matter movement.
Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and the only black GOP candidate, told CBS News during a visit to Ferguson that the Black Lives Matter movement is “bullying people” and that he preferred them take out the world “black” from their name. “Of course all lives matter,” Carson said. “Of course we need to be concerned about everyone. Of course we need to extend respect to everyone.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, told Think Progress he would meet with Black Lives Matter activists, but called their message “disgraceful.”


“If you look at the Black Lives Matter movement, one of the most disturbing things is more than one of their protests have embraced rabid rhetoric, rabid anti-police language, literally suggesting and embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers,”

Cruz told the publication. “That is disgraceful.”
Carson and Cruz did not respond to requests for comment. The Republican National Committee also declined to comment on Campaign Zero.

Campaign Zero suggests ways government should change policies, including an end to “broken windows” policing, which targets people who committed minor offenses as a way to prevent more serious crime, tougher rules for police use of force and more training to root out racial bias among police. The group evaluates in a political tracker on its website which candidates align with their goals. Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio garners some Campaign Zero approval for his support of limits on asset seizure by police. Rubio’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Democrats O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton all have some views supported by Campaign Zero, according to the site. Angela Rye, 36, a Democratic strategist, sees Campaign Zero as a valuable tool that she hopes political strategists will use to ask candidates and lawmakers for concrete changes. Rye, who is black, served as the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus and worked on the House Committee on Homeland Security. She said the killings and arrests of people of colour across the country should be at the top of the nation’s political agenda.


People of colour account for about 30% of the U.S. population, but 60% of those incarcerated, according to the Centre for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute that publishes studies on a range of issues. Black men are also six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, and Hispanic men are 2½ times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, according to The Sentencing Project, which advocates for fixing racial disparities and criminal justice reforms.



“I’m frustrated as a black woman who continues to watch young people succumb to gun violence,” Rye said. “The most critical issue of our time is literally our survival. You have to have a clear agenda that you can articulate, requesting specific actions for elected officials and, or candidates to immediately push. That’s why Campaign Zero is so important.”

Ultimately, Johnson said, politicians will have to confront the issues of racial inequity in the criminal justice system raised by Campaign Zero and others in the Black Lives Matter movement. “There is going to be another murdered, killed, abused black person every six weeks,” Johnson said. “So (activists) have the ability to keep this in the public consciousness in a way that Occupy Wall Street could not.”