In the words of James Baldwin, an African American writer, to be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage. These words continue to echo in the society today where issues of social inequality are still palpable.
While it is appreciated that significant victories towards social cohesion and justice were realized in the past such as Fair Housing Act, Voting Rights Act, and in Brown vs. Board of Education, neighborhoods and schools are slowly re-segregating while some elements of the Voting Rights Act were recently robbed of their substantial power.
Over 40% of black children are being educated in high poverty schools while the unemployment rate for high school dropouts who are black is 47%. Black people constitute only 13.2% of the entire United States population yet over 37% of them are homeless. Because of felony convictions, 1 in 13 African Americans of voting age is denied of his or her power to do so. I had to take some time out from working with painters bucks county to write this up because it is unacceptable that in this day and age we are still struggling for progress.
The Trial of George Zimmerman
George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer and a resident of Sanford, Florida, shot a 17 year old African American known as Trayvon Martin in 2012, despite the latter being unarmed. Zimmerman was tried in July, 2013 and found not guilty of second degree murder and subsequently acquitted for manslaughter by a jury in Florida. This triggered an explosion of activism which continued in the months that followed.
Shortly thereafter, Alicia Garza, a writer and activist from Oakland, California posted on her social media account about the trial and ended with the following words, “black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.” This post was shared by her friends and began circulating virally across social media circles and the hashtag #blacklivesmatter started to emerge. The days that followed saw Opal Tometi, Garza and Patrisse Cullors formulate ideas that would form the foundation of a campaign aimed at fighting police brutality.
Shooting of Michael Brown
On August 2014, a white police office in Ferguson Missouri shot Michael Brown, an 18-year old, unarmed African American. Following this incident, massive protests broke out in the city and police officers responded with riot gear to try and quell the unrest.
The #blacklivesmatter movement had begun permeating banners and posters at this point in time and people all over the streets of Ferguson were chanting the slogan. The Black Lives Matter Organization founded by Garza and the others named above, now has more than 26 chapters nationwide.
The Operation of Black Lives Matter Organization
Through a database called Mapping Police Violence, the movement collects statistical information on violence and police killings in the United States involving black deaths. Through local communities, the organization includes both men and women in the fight for social justice.
The group also leverages the social media in spreading its message and ideologies as well as highlighting contradictions and inconsistencies between eye witness and police findings. The rate at which the movement is attracting global headlines, we are left to wonder whether this is the new civil rights movement of the 21st century America.