The story of Patrisse Cullors: Author, activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter.
Creating one of the biggest social justice movements in history isn’t something everyone can do, yet author, activist and all-around crusader Patrisse Cullors has pulled it off. This summer, the 37-year-old co-founder of Black Lives Matter witnessed the world echo the words she, alongside her co-founders Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi first chanted in July 2013 following the acquittal of African American teen Trayvon Martin’s murderer George Zimmerman.
The death of Trayvon Martin sparked the movement
Since then, the movement, which started as a social media hashtag, has grown from a national to an international symbol for protesting violence and systemic racism against black people. The death of George Floyd on May 26 2020 brought a historic turn for Black Lives Matter and sparked a global war against the racism and anti-blackness that has prevailed across the world for centuries a fight Cullors had been demanding from the age of nine.
“This call, this need and this desire for a Black Lives Matter started when I was much younger,” she revealed in an interview with TIME. Cullors grew up in Los Angeles in the 1990s, a time where police brutality was at a national high. She had yet to reach the age of ten the first time she saw her brothers, then aged 11 and 13, violently slammed into a wall by police officers. One of her brothers was eventually diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness that landed him in and out of prison, where Cullors recalls he was beaten, dehumanised and forced to drink toilet water.
She witnessed first-hand the detriments of over-policing and mass incarceration in not only her neighbourhood San Fernando Valley but the black community in America collectively and as a result, began to push for law enforcement to be held accountable. She has been on the frontline for criminal justice reform for the past 20 years, dedicating her life to dismantling institutional racism and corrupt policing. In March 2020, she led Reform LA Jails’ “Yes on R” campaign, a ballot initiative that passed by a whopping 71% and in 2018, she published a memoir titled When They Call You a Terrorist - a book outlining her own experiences with injustice and journeying the creation of Black Lives Matter.
Cullors, pictured with her co-founders of Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi
Cullors continues to lead the fight against injustice whilst uplifting the black community and campaigning for the importance of black joy.