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Black lives matter has seen a new wave of protests and demands for justice with the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. With Black Lives Matter campaigning for justice and the elimination of systematic racism towards the Black community, the campaign has been going strong ever since 2013 when the first instance of the #BalckLivesMatter social media hashtag occurred.
The movement itself has found it’s meaning by defining their movements as “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
Let’s see how Black Lives Matter evolved from a simple hashtag into the international demand for justice it has become today.
In 2013, a teenage black boy by the name of Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman who claimed he was acting in self-defense. Given the evidence of the case and the fact that martin was unarmed, many believed he was unjustly killed. After Zimmerman was found not guilty, Alicia Garza posted on Facebook stating, “black lives matter.” With the help of Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, the three Black women came together to create the famous #BlackLivesMatter movement that started the campaign.
As the movement started to take off as the hashtag began to spread, the Black Lives Matter movement became much more real in 2014. After a number of past injustices involving police brutality were being brought up on top of recent killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. With the hashtag spreading, the BLM movement came to life as physical protests and gathers began to unfold under the banner of Black Lives Matter. These events helped to spark BLM events on local levels where many communities came together to peacefully protest and start a conversation about the injustice face by the Black community.
In many ways, 2015 was a time when the injustices of previous years were brought to life and new injustices against the black community were still occurring. Many more protests occurred that were designed to highlight and stand against police brutality in regard to the Black community. Some specific deaths include Walter Scott, Meagan Hockaday, and Freddie Gray. These three were all killed by police officers and sparked outcry from thousands across the country. 2015 was also the year when a special emphasis was placed on Black women and transgender Black women as they were facing some of the most injustice out of any group in the country.
2016 saw one of the most infamous movements within the BLM movement as Colin Kaepernick took his infamous kneel during a national anthem at an NFL game. Among many other athletes taking this stand against racism in America, the movement continued to grow and flourish with a number of other protests. In July of 2016, there was a number of protests across the country that were all highlighting the death’s of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile.
2016 was likely the year that most people really started to get involved with the Black Lives Matter movement as it really hit the main stream with big athletes taking a stand on the movement. A number of news outlets and major networks began to cover the protests and stances of the movement as it became something that many people were becoming passionate about. Going forward, the BLM movement would become intertwined with social justice in many ways.
In 2017, many of the Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations began to take a unique shift in retaliation to previous injustices. Instead of just occurring when a member of the Black community was killed by police, the movement now moved to look at past grievances and cases where the community felt justice was not served. In particular, the shooting of Pedro Castile that occurred in 2016 came back up as a point of protest after the officer was found not guilty of his murder. In 2017, the Black Lives Matter movement also began to clash with certain groups that stood against certain messages of the movement.
2018 marked the 5-year anniversary of the BLM movement as it shifted from a hashtag into a national movement calling for change. The founders believe Black Lives Matter was able to help other movements like Me Too get off the ground as people became more willing to share their voices and do whatever was necessary to make themselves heard. The hashtag itself had seen over 30 million mentions on Twitter alone and helped to show that their voice was being heard and that people all across the country were beginning to demand justice.
2019 may not have been a major year for the BLM movement, but it certainly continued the work of the organization as it always has. The death of Isaiah Lewis stands out as his killing by police officers marked yet another instance of police injustice towards the Black community. In 2019. A number of high profile celebrities began to really show their support for the movement by sharing their own thoughts and helping to inspire others to act against injustice.
After the death of George Floyd in May of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement saw traction like never before with protests and even riots taking place with thousands upon thousands of people demanding justice. Unlike many other cases, this movement was also taken part of by the interaction community where countries around the world called for an end to systematic oppression and racism.
2020 has been a year full of surprises and upset that has not been seen before, and the message of Black Lives Matter is at the heart of most of it. As we look forward, we can learn from the past and take past messages to help inspire a change for the better.