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Black Lives Matter is a global, chapter-based, member-led movement that began as a hashtag, a response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer, George Zimmerman. #BlackLivesMatter was the social media rallying cry of three black radical organizers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. According to blacklivesmatter.com, “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 folks’ humanity, our contributions to society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” In 2014, following the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, Black Lives Matter galvanized and organized a collective response, called the Black Life Matters Ride. More than 600 people from all over the country gathered to make two commitments: to provide support to the teams in and around St. Louis, and to return to their respective homes to spearhead local activism. Since then, Black Lives Matter has used its protest strategies to disrupt local politics as well as the campaign events of presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump; activists learned to create opportunities to swap strategies, to avoid government surveillance, and to encrypt their smartphone communications. Time Magazine salutes Black Lives Matter's transformation from “an organic uprising” to “organized blocs with specific demands” that attend to issues of police brutality and injustice. Black Lives Matter has about 30 official chapters and by upholding their principles, new chapters can acquire a charter; the network is growing. In 2015, Black Lives Matter was on the short list for Time ‘s Person of the Year. The movement and its local chapters have garnered a wide range of responses to their collective call, from #alllivesmatter to the tragic events at Charlottesville, VA. Despite the counter-protests, Black Lives Matter continues to effect change and to introduce a vocabulary for confronting American society's various social ills.
Born out of a social media post, the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked discussion about race and inequality across the world. In this spirited conversation with Mia Birdsong, the movement's three founders share what they've learned about leadership and what provides them with hope and inspiration in the face of painful realities. Their advice on how to participate in ensuring freedom for everybody: join something, start something and "sharpen each other, so that we all can rise."