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ENGL314: BLM - The Evolution of a Hashtag: Summary

Student-created guide on the Black Lives Matter Movement for ENGL314: The Rhetoric of Social Movements (Spring 2021).

Black Lives Matter Logo

Black Lives Matter Graffiti Art International Open Call. Deadline: December  5 | Glasstire

BLM Protest Art

US 'Black Lives Matter' protests go global | Financial Times

Mike D’angelo screams near a street sign that has been renamed ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza’ near the White House in Washington, DC

Art World Launches Initiatives to Support Black Lives Matter Movement –

A mural devoted to George Floyd in Oakland, California.

Global businesses embrace Black Lives Matter movement - Personnel Today

Protestors at a Black Lives Matter protest in London, 2020

A giant

"Black Lives Matter" painted on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, NY.

Black Lives Matter Protest

What is the BLM Movement?

Directly from the official BLM website, the movement is described as follows:

"#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives."

The main goals of this movement include:

"We are expansive. We are a collective of liberators who believe in an inclusive and spacious movement. We also believe that in order to win and bring as many people with us along the way, we must move beyond the narrow nationalism that is all too prevalent in Black communities. We must ensure we are building a movement that brings all of us to the front.

We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. Our network centers those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.

We are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.

We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation."

A Letter from Black Lives Matter Global Network Co-Founder, Executive Director, and Board President Patrisse Cullors

6 Years Later and Black Activists Are Still Fighting

As human beings we usually fight for the things that move us out of complacency. We fight for clarity and truth telling. We fight for a world that we want our children to live in. A world we want our communities to thrive in.

I’ve always fought for my family. My community. For Black poor people.

That’s why when Trayvon Martin was murdered and in 2013 when George Zimmerman was acquitted my body and spirit was moved into action. I couldn’t imagine how in 2013 a white passing person could kill a young boy and not be held accountable. I didn’t want George Zimmerman to be the period to the story. I didn’t want his name to be the name held up over and over again by the media, by his fellow white supremacists.

That’s why when I saw the phrase Black Lives Matter spelled out by Alicia Garza in a love letter towards Black people – I decided to put a hashtag on it. Alicia, Opal, and I created #BlackLivesMatter as an online community to help combat anti-Black racism across the globe. We firmly believed our movement, which would later become an organization, needed to be a contributing voice for Black folks and our allies to support changing the material conditions for Black people.

For more than 500 years Black people have been fighting for our freedom. We have fought back against slavery, Black codes, Jim Crow laws, policing, incarceration, some of the highest unemployment rates, consistent homelessness, dying while giving birth, being murdered for being trans or non-binary. We have been the consistent moral compass in a country that has thrived on harming the most vulnerable of its population.

Every Black person who has fought for our dignity deserves the deepest bow of gratitude. Six years later and Black activists and organizers are moving forward towards justice, towards visions, towards a world where our families and communities are no longer the sacrifice for a better America, for a better world. We are doing that through our continued fight against elected officials, be it Democrat or Republican, who don’t share a vision that is radical and intersectional. We are building grassroots power with Black communities who have been left out the political process. We are building new spaces and places that tell Black stories and remind the world our everlasting contributions.

In the last six years many of us faced down tanks, rubber bullets, were forced to do jail and prison sentences, have been surveilled, lied on, called terrorists, been given false labels by the FBI, and some of us have lost our lives. These six years have been the most profound six years of my life and the most traumatic and destabilizing six years of my life.

I know I can speak for most of us. We have fought like hell for our freedom and we will continue to fight like hell. Because we deserve more than what we have been given. Because we deserve the healing and the transformation and most importantly we deserve to be free.

Black Lives Matter protest, diversity

Man holds "People Over Property" sign at a protest spurred by the death of George Floyd. 

In this photo from Aug. 28, 2020, demonstrators gather near the Lincoln Memorial as final preparations are made for the March on Washington, in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.

Demonstrators march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. 

Black Lives Matter demonstration in Toronto

Content Statement

This library guide on #blacklivesmatter was created by a student in Spring 2021 for ENGL314: The Rhetoric of Social Movements. All information and commentary in this guide are the results of their research. For questions on the assignment or the course, please contact Dr. Danielle Clapham in the Department of English.