The Emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement

The Emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement


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Problems and Purpose

It has been four decades since the successful completion of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America. Also, the election of many African American president in the 2008 presidential election was thought by many to be a harbinger to ‘post-racial’ era of American history. Despite these promising developments for the African Americans, there has been continued oppression and violence against the African Americans. The Black Lives Matter movement indirectly rose from the frustrations of African Americans with the exoneration of people who had killed Black people by the American justice system.  The Black Lives Matters seeks to establish whether the American justice system values the lives of African American as it does that of other races. Thus, the movement seeks justice for murder cases in American court that they believe were not ruled in line with rules of justice and fairness. To meet this purpose, Black Lives Matter uses several methods.


Black Lives Matter movement was founded on the inspiration of earlier movements such as the Black Power movement, Civil Rights movement, Anti-Apartheid Movement, hip-hop, Pan-Africanism, Occupy Wall Street, and LGBTQ social movements. Several media houses have lauded the efforts of the Black Lives matter Movement. Elizabeth Day of the Guardian has referred to the Black Lives Matter as the birth of a new civil rights movement (Day 2015). Politico Magazine quipped that Back Lives Matter had infused life and the meaning of dying civil rights movement concerning issues such as the widening income inequality in America. Criminal justice, and police behaviour (Demby, 2014).

Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi (Fessler 2018). The movement began on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter through the hashtag BlackLivesMatter. The hashtag started trending after the acquittal of George Zimmerman who had shot Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, to death in February 2012. The movement gained a national following in 2014 after the death of two African Americans: Michael Brown, resulting in Black Lives Matter protest in Ferguson – and Eric Garner, resulting in protests in New York (Bates, 2018). After winning national support in these protests, the Black Lives Matter movement has organised numerous other protests and demonstrations against the deaths of African American due to police action or during police custody. Some of the African American deaths that have elicited protests and demonstrations from Black Lives Matter include Jerame Reid, Antonio Martin, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Laquan McDonald, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown, John Crawford III, Eric Garner and Dontre Hamilton.

Originating Entities and Funding

The founders of this movement were Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. Alicia Garza is a civil rights activist and editorial writer. Before starting the Black Lives Matter movement, Garza had worked as the director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights in San Francisco Bay Area. She is also a member of several boards of directors of social movement groups. She is on the board of directors of Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity, the Californian branch of Forward Together California, and School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL) in Oakland.

Patrisse Cullors has been named as NAACP History Maker (2015), Mario Savic Young Artist of the year (2007), and Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year (2016) (Meyerson , 2016). Before starting Black Lives Matter, she was the executive director of the Coalition to End Shariff Violence in L.A.  Jails and co-founded the Dignity and Power Now organizations. She is on the board of Ella Baker Centre for Human Rights.

Opal Tometi was born to Nigerian Immigrants. She serves as the executive director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). The Huffington Post has published several of her works. She works in collaboration with staff and communities in Washington D.C., Oakland, New York City, Phoenix, Los Angeles and African American communities in the Southern States. She is responsible for managing the social media aspects of Black Lives Matter movements.

More than fifty organisations are offering financial support to the activities of the Black Lives Matter movement. Some of these organisations include The Ford Foundation and the Borealis Philanthropy. Groups associated with this movement have received $133 million after 2013. Organisations associated with George Soros have donated $33 million to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Participant Selection

The Black Lives Matter website lists thirteen guiding principles that must apply to all people that wish to be part of the movement. These guiding principles are diversity, restorative justice, globalism, queer-affirming, unapologetically black, collective value, empathy, loving engagement, transgender affirming, black villages, black women, black families, and intergenerational. All the participants in the protests and rallies are recruited from the social media.

On their Facebook and Twitter pages, the different chapters of the Black Lives movement states some of the deliberations that they have made concerning issues of social justice with the US legal system as a whole (Tillery, 2018). Until September 2016, approximately 30 million tweets contained the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ (Wortham, 2016). Memes are also used by this movement and there are many circulating memes on Facebook and Twitter that win support for the movement from the online community (Wortham, 2016).

Methods and Tools Used


Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

Black Lives Matter originally used the hashtag BlackLivesMatter to reach their supporters rapidly. Ever since, they used various tactics and manoeuvres to achieve its goals. Black Lives matter employs direct action tactics that force people to address the matter at hand because of the discomfort that the protestors have created in the community. This movement has expanded its follower base through rallies and protests. Moreover, Black Lives Matter has organised die-ins such as the one held at the time of the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon (Walsh, 2015).

Black lives matter uses social media as the main platform for organizing its activities and informing the public of its deliberations and the best course of action concerning certain issues.

Black Lives Matter is a decentralized organization that eschews a centralized leadership model[i]. Each chapter makes its own decisions and organizes its own protests and demonstrations. Since its inception in 2013, Black Lives Matter has opened 30 chapters within the United States and all over the world. Actually, commentators observe that there are two movements that can be credited with the name Black Lives Matter. The first is the movement started by Garza, Cullors, and Tometi while the other one is a loose group of organizations that are clustered around the name.

Black Lives Matter also uses several political slogans as rallying cries during demonstrations. Some of the slogans that this civil rights movement has used include Black Lives Matter, I can't breathe, Hands Up Don't Shoot, Is My Son Next, No Justice No Peace, White Silence is Violence. These slogans are thought to be appealing to African Americans and thus Black Lives Matter protests are more likely to happen in neighbourhoods with a considerable African American population.

Black Lives Matter also uses various tools such as songs and documentaries in the mainstream media to popularize its course and win supporters. Alright, a song by Kendrick Lamar has been used as a rallying cry in many rallies. Bars4justice is a documentary film that features some activists and artists that are associated with the movement. black Lives Matter Movement is a documentary produced in 2016 that features some of the activities about the Black Lives Matter Movement (Siede, 2016).

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Several slogans have emerged to counter the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’. Some of these include All lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, ‘White Student Union’ Facebook Groups, and ‘White Lives Matter’. All these slogans are used by bodies that oppose this movement that is mainly composed of white people (Desmond-Harris, 2016).

Havard-Harris (2018) conducted an online survey on a sample of 2,051 registered voters between 19 and 4 July[i]. The study established that the majority of Americans have an unfavourable view of Black Lives Matter movement[ii]. 57% of Americans have a positive view of the movement while 43% feel that the movement is a menace. In terms of race, the movement’s main support base is African Americans[iii]. 83% of Blacks have a favourable view of this movement compared to 35% of whites who support this movement[iv]. Many people who have a favourable view of the Black Lives Matter movement are in the Democratic Party (65%) compared to Republicans (21%) (Easley, 2017).

Some of the tactics used by Black Lives Matter have been opposed by some African American civil rights movements[v]. Supporters of this movement have engaged in violence and police shootings and have earned the criticism of notable civil rights leaders. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Najee Ali, Rev. Cecil ‘Chip’ Murray, and Barbara Ann Reynolds are all against the aggressive confrontational tactics used by the Black Lives Matter movement (Tucker, 2015).

Critics have blamed the Black lives Matter movement for worsening race relations in the United States of America. Family members of Jamar Clark, who had succumbed to police shootings in 2015, asked the Black Lives Matter to set the boundary between protesting for a cause and inflicting injuries to the community (Clare 2015). White supporters of the police started the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after two police officers shot down Fergusson.

Black Lives Matter is also blamed for creating a hostile work environment for police officers. Commentators have argued that the rising wave of crime and violence targeting police officers are a result of the “Fergusson Effect”. The “Fergusson Effect” is derived from the mass protests that happened in Fergusson in 2014 after Michael Brown was shot down. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that cases of police homicide have increased after the Fergusson protests (Maddow, 2015). 


Analysis and Lessons Learned

Black Lives Matter movement has been hugely successful in drawing a team of supporters from the African American community because of the magnitude of police -related deaths in the Black community. This is a lesson for budding civil rights movements to champion for courses that are relevant to the community or groups of people that they wish to win their support. Also, the success of the Black Lives Matter movement should act as a lesson to other government owned and run organizations to avoid targeting any racial group. Any form of discrimination and violence against any racial group will lead to the emergence of civil rights groups that may choose to retaliate with violence.

The movement has also faced a lot of criticism because of using violent methods that include inflicting injuries and deaths on law enforcement officers. Such a course of action may lock out some portions of the community that would have been supportive if the movement would have used more peaceful means of achieving social justice. Therefore, civil rights movements should use peaceful means of protest to exercise their freedom of expression (Gottfried, 2015). As long as the tactics are peaceful, these civil rfights movements will win the support of many civil rights leaders and movements. Civil rights leaders such as Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Najee, Ali, Rev. Cecil ‘chip’ Murray, and Barbara Ann Reynolds all oppose violence.

Secondary Sources


External Links

Bates, K.R., 2018, July 31. A Look Back at Trayvon Martin’s Death and The Movement it Inspired. Code Switch. Retrieved from

Black Lives Matter. Retrieved from

Clare, R., 2016. Black Lives Matter. The Black Lives Matter Movement in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies, 8(1), 122-125. DOI:

Day, E., 2015, July 19. Black Lives Matter: The Birth of a New Civil Rights Movement. The  Guardian. Retrieved from

Demby, G., 2014, December 31. The Birth of a New Civil Rights Movement: 2014 Was an Epochal Year for Social Justice. 2015 Could be Even More Dramatic. Politico Magazine. Retrieved from

Desmond-Harris, J., 2016 September 14. Everyone should stop it with the “Black Lives Matter”–inspired slogans. Vox. Retrieved from

Easley, J. Poll: 57 per cent have negative view of Black Lives Matter movement. The Hill. Retrieved from

Edwards, S.B., 2016. Black lives matter. ABDO.

Fessler, L., 2018, September 16. How the Leader of Black Lives Matter Defines ‘Power.’ Quartz. Retrieved from

Gottfried, M.H., 2015, October 3. Black Lives Matter’s Twin Cities Marathon  Protest Peaceful. Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Retrieved from

Havard-Harris Poll, October 2018. October 2018: National Poll. Retrieved from

Influence Watch. Black Lives Matter. Retrieved from

King, J., 2018, March 5. How Black Lives Matter has Changed US Politics. New Internationalist. Retrieved from

Lowery, S., 2017, January 17. Black Lives Matter: Birth of a New Movement. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Maddow, R., 2015, August 11. Black Lives Matter Builds Power through Protest. MSNBC. Retrieved from

Meyerson, C., 2016, November 1. The Founders of Black Lives Matter: We Gave Tongue to Something That We All Knew Was Happening. Glamour Magazine. Retrieved from

Patrisse Cullors. Artist, Organizer, Freedom Fighter. Retrieved from

Richardson, V., 2016, August 16. Black Lives Matter Cashes in with $100 Million from Liberal Foundations. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Rogue Nation, 2016, July 20. Discussion Forums. Retrieved from

Siede, C., 2016, May 26. A new BET documentary examines the Black Lives Matter movement. AV TV Club. Retrieved from

Smith, D., 2016, July 5. The backlash against Black Lives Matter is just more evidence of injustice. The Conversation. Retrieved from

Tillery, A., 2018. What Kind of Movement is Black Lives Matter? The View from Twitter. Research Gate. Retrieved from

Tometi, O. Justice, Faith, Joy. Retrieved from

Tucker, B., 2015, October 30. Tactics of Black Lives Matter. KCTS 9. Retrieved from

Walsh, J., 2015, September 30. Mayor Coleman releases a statement on planned marathon protest by Black Lives Matter St. Paul. Star Tribune. Retrieved from

           Wortham, J., September 2016. Black Tweets Matter. Retrieved from



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