The Black Lives Matter Movement
What we believe
Four years ago, what is now known as the Black Lives Matter Global Network began to organize. It started out as a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission was to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
In the years since, we’ve committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.
Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities. The impetus for that commitment was, and still is, the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state.
Enraged by the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, and inspired by the 31-day takeover of the Florida State Capitol by POWER U and the Dream Defenders, we took to the streets. A year later, we set out together on the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride to Ferguson, in search of justice for Mike Brown and all of those who have been torn apart by state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. Forever changed, we returned home and began building the infrastructure for the Black Lives Matter Global Network, which, even in its infancy, has become a political home for many.
Ferguson helped to catalyze a movement to which we’ve all helped give life. Organizers who call this network home have ousted anti-Black politicians, won critical legislation to benefit Black lives, and changed the terms of the debate on Blackness around the world. Through movement and relationship building, we have also helped catalyze other movements and shifted culture with an eye toward the dangerous impacts of anti-Blackness.
These are the results of our collective efforts.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network is as powerful as it is because of our membership, our partners, our supporters, our staff, and you. Our continued commitment to liberation for all Black people means we are continuing the work of our ancestors and fighting for our collective freedom because it is our duty.
Every day, we recommit to healing ourselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported.
We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities.
We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people.
We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.
We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position. To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others.
We see ourselves as part of the global Black family, and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black people who exist in different parts of the world.
We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.
We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).
We cultivate an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism. We believe that all people, regardless of age, show up with the capacity to lead and learn.
State of the Black Union
2014 was a year that saw profound injustice, and extraordinary resilience. Homicides at the hands of police sparked massive protests, meaning that America could no longer ignore bitter truths of the Black experience. Gabriella Naverez, a queer Black woman was killed at 22 years old, unarmed. 37 year old Tanisha Anderson’s family dialed 911 for medical assistance. Instead, Cleveland police officers took her life. Anyia Parker, a Black trans woman was gunned down in East Hollywood. This brutal attack was caught on camera, yet her murder, like so many murders of Black trans women, have gone unanswered. This country must abandon the lie that the deep psychological wounds of slavery, racism and structural oppression are figments of the Black imagination. The time to address these wounds is now.
Freedom Rider, Diane Nash, once unapologetically declared, “We will not stop. There is only one outcome.” Black lives – men and women, queer and trans, immigrant and first-generation – will be valued, protected, and free.
In the face of the tragic killing of Mike Brown, Black youth in Ferguson said no more, sparking resistance against state violence that spread across the nation. For over 160 days we have been marching, shutting down streets, stopping trains and occupying police stations in pursuit of justice. We have stood united in demanding a new system of policing and a vision for Black lives, lived fully and with dignity. Gains have been made, but we who believe in freedom know we cannot rest until justice is won.
The current state of Black America is anything but just. For Black people in the U.S., the shadow of crisis has not passed.
- The median wealth for single White women is $42,600. For Black women, it’s $5.001.
- The infant mortality rate for Black mothers is more than double that of White mothers, due to factors like poverty, lack of access to health care, and the physiological effects of stress caused by living under structural oppression 2.
- 22 states have passed new voter restrictions since 2010, disenfranchising as many as 34 million Americans, most of them Black 3.
- In cities across the country, profit-driven policies fuel displacement and gentrification, leading to the destruction of entire Black communities 4.
- Blacks and Latinos are about 31 percent of the US population, but 60 percent of the prison population 8.
- In our country 1 in 3 black men will be incarcerated in his lifetime 5, and Black women are the fastest growing prison population 6.
- The life expectancy of a Black trans woman is 35 years. The average income of a Black trans person is less than 10K. Trans people are denied jobs, housing and healthcare just for living in their truths.
- It is legal in many jurisdictions to fire LBGT people from employment and deny them access to healthcare and housing.
- Since 1976, the United States has executed thirteen times more black defendants with white victims than white defendants with black victims 6.
- Black U.S. political prisoners have collectively served over 800 years in prison and have consistently been denied parole despite good behavior and time served.
- Increasingly, students in white areas are nourished and taught while Black children are criminalized and judged.
- Black neighborhoods lack access to affordable healthy food resulting in disproportionate levels of obesity and other chronic illnesses.
Our schools are designed to funnel our children into prisons. Our police departments have declared war against our community. Black people are exploited, caged, and killed to profit both the state and big business. This is a true State of Emergency. There is no place for apathy in this crisis. The US government has consistently violated the inalienable rights our humanity affords.
We say no more.
- We demand an end to all forms of discrimination and the full recognition of our human rights.
- We demand an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of Black people and all oppressed people.
- We demand full, living wage employment for our people.
- We demand decent housing fit for the shelter of human beings and an end to gentrification.
- We demand an end to the school to prison pipeline & quality education for all.
- We demand freedom from mass incarceration and an end to the prison industrial complex.
- We demand a racial justice agenda from the White House that is inclusive of our shared fate as Black men, women, trans and gender-nonconforming people. Not My Brother’s Keeper, but Our Children’s Keeper.
- We demand access to affordable healthy food for our neighborhoods.
- We demand an aggressive attack against all laws, policies, and entities that disenfranchise any community from expressing themselves at the ballot.
- We demand a public education system that teaches the rich history of Black people and celebrates the contributions we have made to this country and the world.
- We demand the release of all U.S. political prisoners.
- We demand an end to the military industrial complex that incentivizes private corporations to profit off of the death and destruction of Black and Brown communities across the globe.
This country owes Black citizens nothing less than full recognition of our human rights. The White House’s current racial justice initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, ignores too many members of our communities. It does not address the inhumane conditions we collectively experience living in a white supremacist system. The issues facing Black women, immigrants, trans and queer people must be included and we demand a full expansion of My Brother’s Keeper to do so.
We demand the same inclusion from our movement.
None of us are free until all of us are free. Our collective efforts have exposed the ugly American traditions of patriarchy, classism, racism, and militarism. These combined have bred a violent culture rife with transphobia, and other forms of illogical hatred.
This corrupt democracy was built on Indigenous genocide and chattel slavery. And continues to thrive on the brutal exploitation of people of color. We recognize that not even a Black President will pronounce our truths. We must continue the task of making America uncomfortable about institutional racism. Together, we will re-imagine what is possible and build a system that is designed for Blackness to thrive.
We fight in the name of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, killed by Detroit Police at the age of 7 years old, who never got to graduate from elementary school. We fight in the name of Mike Brown, who was killed by officer Darren Wilson, weeks before starting college. We fight in the name of Islan Nettles, a 21 year old Black trans woman who was pummeled to death outside a NYC police station in Harlem. We fight in the name of Tarika Wilson, who was killed by an Ohio police officer while holding one of her babies, and will never get to embrace any of her six children again.
BLM’s #WhatMatters2022 Goals and Focus
BLM’s #WhatMatters2022 aims to vigorously engage underrepresented communities in the electoral process, educate the Black community about candidates and the issues that impact Black voters most, promote voter registration among Millennials, Generation Z, the Black community, and allies, and combat the increased threats of disinformation during this election cycle affecting BLM constituents and the public at large.
1. Vigorously engage our communities in the electoral process:
Millions of Black Americans are repressed within the democratic process, yet data shows Black voters tipped the balance in the 2018 midterm elections. Moving towards 2022, we seek to increase the power of our voices and votes.
2. Educate our constituents about candidates and the issues that impact us most:
We will amplify and do a deep dive into the issues that affect our communities most and hold our candidates accountable on these issues.
3. Promote voter registration among Generation Z, the Black community, and our allies:
Demographic shifts means that in the 2022 election, non-whites will account for a third of voters and one in ten voters will be members of Generation Z. We will encourage and provide resources for those seeking to vote.
BLM’s #WhatMatters2022 will focus on the following issues:
- Racial Injustice
- Police Brutality
- Criminal Justice Reform
- Black Immigration
- Economic Injustice
- LGBTQIA+ and Human Rights
- Environmental Conditions
- Voting Rights & Suppression
- Government Corruption
- Commonsense Gun Laws
11 Major Misconceptions About the Black Lives Matter Movement
Since the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in 2013 and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, the phrase “black lives matter” has become a rallying cry for a new chapter in the long black freedom struggle. But this new movement’s penchant for disruptive protest and impassioned public speeches about persistent racial inequality have been disconcerting to many Americans, who wonder what the end-game is for this new generation of protesters. Do black lives matter more than white lives? Bystanders ask. Why can’t black people simply address the crime problem in their own communities? Others want to know. And if the problems are really this bad, can’t voting for new political leaders solve them? Sympathizers wonder. These are just some of the many questions surrounding this new movement. But the young people taking to the streets in protest have a righteous cause. They deserve a fair hearing. And we can begin by debunking a few myths about what the Black Lives Matter movement is and what it isn’t.
- The movement doesn’t care about black-on-black crime. The idea that black-on-black crime is not a significant political conversation among black people is patently false. In Chicago, long maligned for its high rates of interracial murder, members of the community created the Violence Interrupters to disrupt violent altercations before they escalate. However, those who insist on talking about black-on-black crime frequently fail to acknowledge that most crime is interracial. Ninety-three percent of black murder victims are killed by other black people. Eighty-four percent of white murder victims are killed by other white people. The continued focus on black-on-black crime is a diversionary tactic, whose goal is to suggest that black people don’t have the right to be outraged about police violence in vulnerable black communities, because those communities have a crime problem. The Black Lives Matter movement acknowledges the crime problem, but it refuses to locate that crime problem as a problem of black pathology. Black people are not inherently more violent or more prone to crime than other groups. But black people are disproportionately poorer, more likely to be targeted by police and arrested, and more likely to attend poor or failing schools. All of these social indicators place one at greater risk for being either a victim or a perpetrator of violent crime. To reduce violent crime, we must fight to change systems, rather than demonizing people.
- It’s a leaderless movement. The Black Lives Matter movement is a leaderfull movement. Many Americans of all races are enamored with Martin Luther King as a symbol of leadership and what real movements look like. But the Movement for Black Lives, another name for the BLM movement, recognizes many flaws with this model. First, focusing on heterosexual, cisgender black men frequently causes us not to see the significant amount of labor and thought leadership that black women provide to movements, not only in caretaking and auxiliary roles, but on the front lines of protests and in the strategy sessions that happen behind closed doors. Moreover, those old models of leadership favored the old over the young, attempted to silence gay and lesbian leadership, and did not recognize the leadership possibilities of transgender people at all. Finally, a movement with a singular leader or a few visible leaders is vulnerable, because those leaders can be easily identified, harassed, and killed, as was the case with Dr. King. By having a leaderfull movement, BLM addresses many of these concerns. BLM is composed of many local leaders and many local organizations including Black Youth Project 100, the Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, Hands Up United, Millennial Activists United, and the Black Lives Matter national network. We demonstrate through this model that the movement is bigger than any one person. And there is room for the talents, expertise, and work ethic of anyone who is committed to freedom.
- The movement has no agenda. Many believe the Black Lives Matter movement has no agenda — other than yelling and protesting and disrupting the lives of white people. This is also false. Since the earliest days of the movement in Ferguson, groups like the Organization for Black Struggle, the Black Lives Matter network, and others have made both clear and public a list of demands. Those demands include swift and transparent legal investigation of all police shootings of black people; official governmental tracking of the number of citizens killed by police, disaggregated by race; the demilitarization of local police forces; and community accountability mechanisms for rogue police officers. Some proposals like the recently launched Campaign Zero by a group of Ferguson activists call for body cameras on every police officer. But other groups are more reticent about this solution, since it would lead to increased surveillance and possible invasions of privacy, not to mention a massive governmental database of information about communities of color that are already heavily under surveillance by government forces.
- It’s a one-issue movement. Although it is true that much of the protesting to date has been centered on the issue of police brutality, there is a range of issues that movement work will likely push in years to come. One is the issue of our failing system of public education, which is a virtual school-to-prison pipeline for many black youth. Another is the complete dismantling of the prison industrial complex. Many of the movement’s organizers identify as abolitionists, which in the 21st-century context refers to people who want to abolish prisons and end the problem of mass incarceration of black and Latino people. Three other significant issues are problems with safe and affordable housing, issues with food security, and reproductive justice challenges affecting poor women of color and all people needing access to reproductive care. As I frequently like to tell people, this movement in its current iteration is just over a year old. Give it some time to find its footing and its take on all the aforementioned issues. But the conversations are on the table, largely because many of the folks doing on-the-ground organizing came to this work through their organizing work around other issues.
- The movement has no respect for elders. The BLM movement is an intergenerational movement. Certainly there have been schisms and battles between younger and older movers about tactics and strategies. There has also been criticism from prior civil rights participants. There is a clear rejection of the respectability politics ethos of the civil rights era, namely a belief in the idea that proper dress and speech will guard against harassment by the police. This is a significant point of tension within black communities, because in a system that makes one feel powerless to change it, belief in the idea that a good job, being well-behaved, and having proper dress and comportment will protect you from the evils of racism feels like there’s something you can do to protect yourself, that there’s something you can do to have a bit of control over your destiny. This movement patently rejects such thinking in the face of massive evidence of police mistreatment of black people of all classes and backgrounds. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of how one looks or speaks. If you ever have occasion to attend a protest action, you will see black people of all ages, from the very young to the very old, standing in solidarity with the work being done.
- The black church has no role to play. Many know that the black church was central to the civil rights movement, as many black male preachers became prominent civil rights leaders. This current movement has a very different relationship to the church than movements past. Black churches and black preachers in Ferguson have been on the ground helping since the early days after Michael Brown’s death. But protesters patently reject any conservative theology about keeping the peace, praying copiously, or turning the other cheek. Such calls are viewed as a return to passive respectability politics. But local preachers and pastors like Rev. Traci Blackmon, Rev. Starsky Wilson, and Rev. Osagyefo Sekou have emerged as what I call “Movement Pastors.” With their radical theologies of inclusion and investment in preaching a revolutionary Jesus (a focus on the parts of scripture where Jesus challenges the Roman power structure rather than the parts about loving one’s enemies) and their willingness to think of church beyond the bounds of a physical structure or traditional worship, they are reimagining what notions of faith and church look like, and radically transforming the idea of what the 21st-century black church should be.
- The movement does not care about queer or trans lives. The opening presenter at the first national convening of the Movement for Black Lives in Cleveland this summer was Elle Hearns, a trans black woman organizer from Ohio. That she was collectively chosen to open the proceedings was a deliberate choice to center both women and queer and trans people as movement leaders. This is a clear break from prior racial justice movement politics. Not only does the Movement for Black Lives embrace queer and trans black people, but it has been at the forefront of efforts to highlight our national epidemic of murders of trans women of color. This year alone, we have had nearly 20 murders. Moreover, the movement does not merely give token representation to queer and trans people. Two of the founders of the Black Lives Matter network, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, are queer black women. And queer and trans black people are not called in merely to discuss queer and trans issues. They are at the table, on the stage, in the protests. These moves have not been without their challenges, and the movement has had to deal with queer and trans antagonism both from the broader public and within movement spaces. But there is a fundamental belief that when we say Black Lives Matter, we mean all black lives matter.
- The movement hates white people. The statement “black lives matter” is not an anti-white proposition. Contained within the statement is an unspoken but implied “too,” as in “black lives matter, too,” which suggests that the statement is one of inclusion rather than exclusion. However, those white people who continue to mischaracterize the affirmation of the value of black life as being anti-white are suggesting that in order for white lives to matter, black lives cannot. That is a foundational premise of white supremacy. It is antithetical to what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for, which is the simple proposition that “black lives also matter.” The Black Lives Matter movement demands that the country affirm the value of black life in practical and pragmatic ways, including addressing an increasing racial wealth gap, fixing public schools that are failing, combating issues of housing inequality and gentrification that continue to push people of color out of communities they have lived in for generations, and dismantling the prison industrial complex. None of this is about hatred for white life. It is about acknowledging that the system already treats white lives as if they have more value, as if they are more worthy of protection, safety, education, and a good quality of life than black lives are. This must change.
- The movement hates police officers. Police officers are people. Their lives have inherent value. This movement is not an anti-people movement; therefore it is not an anti-police-officer movement. Most police officers are just everyday people who want to do their jobs, make a living for their families, and come home safely at the end of their shift. This does not mean, however, that police are not implicated in a system that criminalizes black people, that demands that they view black people as unsafe and dangerous, that trains them to be more aggressive and less accommodating with black citizens, and that does not stress that we are taxpayers who deserve to be protected and served just like everyone else. Thus the Black Lives Matter movement is not trying to make the world more unsafe for police officers; it hopes to make police officers less of a threat to communities of color. Thus, we reject the idea that asking officers questions about why one is being stopped or arrested, about what one is being charged with, constitutes either disrespect or resistance. We reject the use of military-grade weapons as appropriate policing mechanisms for any American community. We reject the faulty idea that disrespect is a crime, that black people should be nice or civil when they are being hassled or arrested on trumped-up charges. And we question the idea that police officers should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to policing black communities. Increasingly, the presence of police makes black people feel less rather than more safe. And that has everything to do with the antagonistic and power-laden ways in which police interact with citizens more generally and black citizens in particular. Therefore, police officers must rebuild trust with the communities they police. Not the other way around.
- The movement’s primary goal should be the vote. Recently the Democratic National Committee endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM network swiftly rejected that endorsement. While voting certainly matters, particularly in local municipalities like Ferguson, movement members are clear that voting for policies and politicians whose ultimate goal is to maintain a rotten and unjust system is counterproductive. Thus the movement cares about national politics, and many participants have sought to make presidential candidates responsive to their political concerns. However, there is deep skepticism about whether the American system is salvageable, because it is so deeply rooted in ideas of racial caste. In this regard, the BLM movement, together with the Occupy movement of years past, is causing a resurgence of a viable, visible, and vocal (black) left in national politics. Moving some issues of import onto the 2016 election agenda should therefore be viewed as a tactic, not a goal. The goal is freedom and safety for all black lives. And that goal is much bigger than one election.
- There’s not actually a movement at all. Until Bernie Sanders sought the attention of Black Lives Matter participants, many were wont to acknowledge that a new racial justice movement even existed. For the record, since August 2014, more than 1,030 protest actions have been held in the name of Black Lives Matter. A new generation of protest music has come forth with songs from Janelle Monae, Prince, J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and Rick Ross. The first national convening in July drew over 1,000 participants. There is a new consciousness and a new spirit seeking justice, and the participants carrying the torch show no signs of slowing down.
Racial data on Coronavirus
We are losing our friends, family, and neighbors at unprecedented and disproportionate rates as COVID-19 tears through our communities.
We will be hit the hardest.
In order to protect ourselves and those we love, we need the government to collect and release demographic data on the coronavirus. Also, the CDC must aggregate and release data to provide the Black community with information and resources targeted to our needs.