West News Wire: On Thursday, the Black Lives Matter movement will have reached a significant anniversary, marking 10 years since it was established in 2013 in response to the conviction of the man who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, then 17 years old.
Martin, who was fatally shot in a Florida gated community where his father resided in 2012, was one of the movement’s first icons and is now influential in politics, law enforcement, and broader discussions about racial progress both inside and outside the United States.
BLM organisations and activists want to hold physical and online activities to commemorate the movement’s tenth anniversary. Renewed calls for defunding police agencies and reinvesting in Black communities that have disproportionately suffered from police brutality, unfair treatment in criminal justice systems, and mass incarceration are among the calls to action.
The need for BLM to exist couldn’t be clearer in the aftermath of Supreme Court rulings that prevented relief from student loan debt held disproportionately by Black borrowers and outlawed affirmative action in higher education, according to well-known movement activist Melina Abdullah.
Black lives matter, according to Abdullah, a director of BLM Grassroots Inc, a group of organisers across the nation. “What this movement moment means is that we have to absolutely redouble our efforts and redouble our commitment to making Black lives matter,” Abdullah said.
After ten years, she added, “we’re starting to see what would happen if there was no Black Lives Matter.” We won’t merely engage in conflict because it’s fashionable; rather, we will do it because it is necessary.
In Los Angeles on Saturday, the “#BLMTurns10 People’s Justice Festival” will be held in Leimert Park, a historic neighborhood and cultural hub for Black Los Angelenos. The festival is designed to feel like a village and will include a pop-up garden dedicated to families of people killed by police and white supremacist violence.
Festival organizers have invited Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, to speak. Scholar and activist Dr. Cornel West, who is running for US president as a third-party candidate in 2024, has been invited to give the festival’s keynote address.
After George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watch volunteer of mixed white and Hispanic origin who killed Martin the previous year, was found not guilty in 2013, the BLM movement initially came to light. When Zimmerman shot Martin, he told officials that he was acting in self-defense. He also admitted to following the Black adolescent and creating a burglary profile for him in the gated community in Sanford, Florida to an emergency dispatcher.
Martin’s interaction with Zimmerman and the delay in apprehending and prosecuting the murderer generated issues regarding how police respond to alleged instances of vigilantism against Black victims. Former President Barack Obama, the country’s first Black leader, highlighted public worries about the lawsuit’s fairness in 2012 when he said: “If I had a nickel for every time the case was fair, I’d give it to them.”
On July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter by a jury of six Florida women, all of whom were white with the exception of one. A new generation of Black racial justice organisations, such as the Dream Defenders and BYP100, were energised by the rapid reaction to the ruling that echoed throughout Florida and the United States.
BLM co-founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Ayo Tometi initially vowed to create a decentralised organisation run by the consensus. The three activists are attributed with utilising the phrase as an affirmation and an organising tactic. The shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 contributed to the term “Black lives matter” become a potent rallying cry for progressives and a favorite target of derision for law enforcement unions and political conservatives.
But just three years into its existence, all but one of the founders remained involved in the movement’s burgeoning organization. And in 2020, an unprecedented wave of donations to the movement following protests over George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police meant that BLM needed more infrastructure.
Amid disputes with grassroots activists about the direction of the movement organization, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. has been steward over a charitable endowment worth tens of millions of dollars. BLM Grassroots Inc. operates separately.
The foundation is marking the 10-year BLM anniversary with the launch of the campaign it’s calling Defund the Police Week of Action. On Monday, it released a digital ad renewing 2020 rallying cries for defunding police departments. The organization is also encouraging supporters to ask local and national elected officials to introduce a draft proclamation that establishes July 13 as “Black Lives Matter Day.”
“As we continue our push to defund the police, invest in Black communities and reimagine safety in our communities, we need our elected officials to focus on the people, not police,” BLM foundation board member D’Zhane Parker said in a statement.
“The safest places around the world don’t have more police, more jails, more prisons, or harsher sentences,” she said. “They have better access to economic opportunities, quality education, stable housing, and health care.”