By: Enjoli Toliver
What once started as a hashtag turned into an international movement geared towards fighting the systematic oppression of the African American community. The Black Lives Matter movement started in the summer of 2013 after the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. After Zimmerman was acquitted of the charges against Martin, three community organizers came together to launch what we now call : the Black Lives Matter movement.
Although many people know of the Black Lives Matter movement through the many protests located in places like Ferguson and Atlanta, the BLM movement started with just a hashtag. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media was a way for the co-founders to voice out their concerns of the injustice of the frequent killings of African American people, often times young African American men.
The three founders, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi wanted to create a campaign that would ‘rebuild’ the Black liberation movement. According to the BLM website, Garza called the organization an “affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression”.
Since the first use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, the BLM movement has spread to around 30 chapters in several cities and has evolved from just social media to in person protests, boycotts, and non-violent rallies.
However, BLM is criticized as much as it praised throughout society. Most of the criticisms of the BLM included the movement’s inability to focus on violence towards other races. Responses to the hashtag and movement, as a whole, have been groups of other people creating their own rendition of the organization like #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. The BlueLivesMatter’s mission can be found on their official website where it is explained that the movement would not have started had it not been of Officer Darren Wilson’s “heroic actions“ in the Michael Brown case.
Thereafter, both hashtags #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter were criticized for misunderstanding the Black Lives Matter movement’s message.
Other critics call out the BLM movement for its inability to find one central leader. If the movement was just centered on a social platform then a leader wouldn’t be a big concern but with an extremely inclusive organization like BLM, more and more individuals are welcomed to join any social event at any time. This can become a big problem for the BLM movement, and it has, because the actions of one individual would represent the whole movement. This became the case for the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson.
Even though the BLM movement is sometimes seen as an unorganized movement, few would go far as to call it a terrorist group, it is undeniable that the Black Lives Matter has had a huge impact on society. This movement has encouraged people of all races, more specifically the African American community, to become more politically involved in society. From questioning the judicial system when confronting police brutality to raising awareness of gun violence in their neighborhoods, BLM has accomplished what they set out to do: liberate the black community.