Initially formed in 2012 as a response to the Trayvon Martin shooting, the group saw little to no national attention until the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. BLM was formed by three highly educated and well documented activists who hailed from the feminist, LGBT, and immigrant rights movements. After the shooting death of Brown, Black Lives Matter took hold as a hashtag on social media with many people not knowing the hashtag already belonged to a formalized activist group. The phrase became ubiquitous during the rallies, riots, and mass civil disobedience associated with the Mike Brown movement. Several activist groups substituted their own causes into the phrase to show solidarity. In October 2014, one of the co-founders of the original Black Lives Matter group authored a scathing article in an online feminist forum decrying the theft of her work and alleging racism by those who substituted their races instead of “Black.” By December 2014 nearly all acts of civil disobedience, criminal activism, and mass protests were attributed to Black Lives Matter. The protests ranged from peaceful “die-ins” to all out riots and criminal activism.
In the early days of Black Lives Matter it seemed the group was ideologically aligned with Black Liberation Theology. However, research into the group’s founders, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, and Alicia Garza showed them to be averse to Black Liberation in the traditional sense. While they espouse certain aspects of the theology, they stand apart in terms of deep support for LGBT African Americans, anti-statism, and women’s rights. The groups’ slogan was carried into the Mall of America and on BART in late 2014 leading to shut downs and mass arrests. During an interview in December 2014, Alicia Garza adamantly reaffirmed the group’s position that removal of “Black” from the phrase and substituting it with another cause conjures images of a non-existent post racial America. Thus doubling down on their intellectual rights and their near conspiracy theory view of America. A deep review of the group’s web presence and interviews shows they adhere to an ideology that places blame on a structural patriarchy and racism that demands the murder of African Americans. It is unlikely the many people who carry signs emblazoned with the near iconic phrase, know of the group’s deeply held beliefs.
Nevertheless, despite the founders’ ideology, thousands of people banter the phrase around at dozens of marches, rallies, and die-ins all related to the Ferguson movement.
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