The Black Lives Matter movement reached a milestone on Thursday, marking 10 years since it was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of the man who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Gunned in 2012 in a gated community in Florida where his father lived, Martin was one of the first symbols of a movement that now wields influence in politics, law enforcement and broader conversations about racial advancement in and outside the US.
BLM activists and organizations plan to mark a decade of the movement with in-person and virtual events. Calls to action include a renewed push to defund and reinvest police forces in black communities that have suffered disproportionately from police brutality, unequal treatment in criminal justice systems and mass incarceration.
In the wake of Supreme Court decisions that hindered student loan debt relief disproportionately owned by black borrowers and banned affirmative action in higher education, the necessity of BLM’s existence could not be clearer, it said. the prominent movement activist Melina Abdullah.
“What this moment of movement means is that we absolutely need to redouble our efforts and our commitment to making black lives matter,” said Abdullah, who is a director of BLM Grassroots Inc, a collective of organizers across the country.
“A decade from now, we’ll get a glimpse of what would happen if there weren’t Black Lives Matter,” she said. “We’re not just going to fight if it’s popular, but we’re going to fight because we need to fight.”
In Los Angeles, the “#BLMTurns10 People’s Justice Festival” will be held Saturday in Leimert Park, a historic district and cultural center for Black Los Angelenos. Designed to feel like a village, the festival will feature 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. The scholar and activist Dr. Cornel West, who is running for the US presidency in 2024 as a third party, has been invited to deliver the festival’s keynote address.
The BLM movement first emerged in 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer of mixed white and Hispanic descent who murdered Martin a year earlier. Zimmerman claimed to authorities that he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin. He also admitted to an 911 call that he had tracked and profiled the black teen as a potential burglar in the gated community of Sanford, Florida.
Martin’s meeting with Zimmerman, as well as the delay in apprehending and charging the shooter for the murder, raised questions about how police are handling suspected vigilance against black victims. In 2012, former President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black commander-in-chief, underlined public concern about fairness in the matter when he said, “If I had a son, he’d be like Trayvon.”
On July 13, 2013, a Florida jury consisting of six women, all but one white, found Zimmerman not guilty of manslaughter or manslaughter. The immediate reaction to the verdict reverberated in Florida and across the US, spurring a new generation of black racial justice groups, including the Dream Defenders and BYP100.
BLM co-founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Ayo Tometi — the three activists are credited with using the phrase as an affirmation and organizational strategy — initially pledged to build a decentralized organization governed by consensus . The August 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, helped make the phrase “Black lives matter” a powerful rallying cry for progressives and a favorite target of ridicule for law enforcement unions and political conservatives.
But just three years into its existence, all but one of its founders remained involved in the movement’s burgeoning organization. And in 2020, an unprecedented wave of donations to the movement following protests over the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department meant BLM needed more infrastructure.
Amid disputes with grassroots activists over the movement’s direction, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. manager of a charitable fund worth tens of millions of dollars. BLM Grass Roots Inc. operates separately.
The foundation is celebrating BLM’s 10th anniversary with the launch of the Defund the Police Week of Action campaign. On Monday, it released a digital ad renewing its 2020 rallying cry for abolishing police forces. The organization is also encouraging supporters to ask local and state elected officials to submit a draft proclamation declaring July 13 “Black Lives Matter Day.”
“As we continue our drive to de-police, invest in black communities and reshape security in our communities, we need our elected officials to focus on the people, not the police,” said D’Zhane Parker, board member of the BLM foundation in a statement.
“The safest places in the world don’t have more police, more jails, more prisons or tougher penalties,” she said. “They have better access to economic opportunities, quality education, stable housing and health care.”
Aaron Morrison is a New York-based member of AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorison.