History of Black Lives Matter

by Jannie Marvel

Five years ago, in June, 2015, the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) voted to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The resolution (one of four Social Justice statements published that year) encourages UU congregations to partner with local and national organizations and churches to reform police practices, abolish prisons, fight white privilege and racist practices.

“No matter who you are, black lives matter, and a system of fair, transformative, and restorative justice that is accountable to communities is something to which each of us has a right,”  the statement says.
(Read the entire resolution here: https://www.uua.org/action/statements/support-black-lives-matter-movement)

The UUA website reads in part: “The racial profiling, police brutality, voting restrictions, and mass imprisonment of African Americans and other people of color in the United States…. is a moral outrage. As Unitarian Universalists (UUs), our dedication to global justice, equity, and dignity leads us to join hands across lines of race, class, age, and geography and work for an end to the injustices faced by black people in our communities, so that every person is treated equally under the law and has a fair chance at life.”

The Black Lives Matter movement began in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman after he killed Treyvon Martin.  In 2013, three Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — created #BlackLivesMatter. https://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/

Today, with more than 40 U.S. chapters, its members organize and build local power to intervene when violence is inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.

Black Lives Matter has welcomed transgender people, and others who are at the margins. The movement has highlighted the ways Black trans gender women specifically are violated.

Throughout 2013 and 2014, Black Lives Matter spotlighted anti-Black racism and created a national conversation about the state-sanctioned violence Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Mya Hall, Walter Scott and Sandra Bland experienced.

In 2014 when Mike Brown was murdered by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson, BLM members worked more than 15 days in Ferguson organizing and building Black power. Organizers from 18 different U. S. cities went back home mirroring the techniques and beliefs and developed their own Black Lives Matter chapters.

Soon the decentralized Black Lives Matter Global Network infrastructure was created. Its goal is to support the development of new Black leaders and create a network where Black people feel empowered to end state-sanctioned violence against Black people.

(Read the beliefs here: https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/)

  • 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.
  • We embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.