Chapter 7: Black Lives Matter

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Image by Emercado2020, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

A. Warm up

Think about the questions below to prepare you for the topic. Talk about your ideas with your classmate(s).

  1. Have you seen the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” on social media?
  2. What do you know about the Black Lives Matter movement?
  3. Have you heard of the expression “go viral” related to something on social media? What do you think this means?

B. Vocabulary Preview

Search for definitions and/or translations of the words. Review the new terms with your instructor and classmates.

  • unjustly (adverb)
  • activists (noun)
  • hashtag (noun)
  • go viral (verb expression)
  • anti-Black racism (noun)

C. Read all about it!

Black Lives Matter

On February 26th, 2012, a 17 year old African-American teenager named Trayvon Martin was walking home to his father’s house.  A man named George Zimmerman, who was also a neighborhood watch community member (a volunteer who watches the neighborhood), noticed him, followed him, and called 911, reporting a ”suspicious person” in the area. The 911 operator had told Zimmerman to stay on the phone and wait until the police came, but he did not listen. Zimmerman shot and killed the young teenager and claimed that he was protecting his property.  Martin had no weapon and posed no threat. He died unjustly for being Black, male, and wearing a hoodie a few steps away from his home.

Zimmerman was tried in court but not charged for murder. Three activists: Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. After hearing the news that Zimmerman had not been charged for murder, Garza wrote a post on Facebook that read: “Black people. I love you. I love us. We Matter. Black lives matter.” Cullors added a hashtag to that statement and it soon went viral. They are the original founders of The Black Lives Matter movement, a human rights movement to change the conditions that Black communities experience.

In a radio interview, Cullors shares that the fight to stop the murder of Black people in our communities is not new but the level of attention and awareness from more and more people around the United States and beyond is. The United States has a long and painful history of slavery and oppression. The hashtag and slogan of the Black Lives Matter movement awakened a nation to the action of resistance. In fact, the New York Times writes: it is “the largest movement in United States history.” It is also international. In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police, solidarity actions took place in England, South Africa, Germany, Spain, and Kenya to name a few.

The Black Lives Matter movement is more than a hashtag. In a TED Talk interview, Cullors says: “Black Lives Matter is our call to action. It is a tool to reimagine a world where Black people are free to exist, free to live. It is a tool for our allies to show up differently for us.” It is a call for real change, a call to stop anti-Black racism. There is a real possibility for this type of change when we notice, care and act together to end this unjust violence impacting Black lives. The movement for Black lives is for everybody.

D. Discussion

Talk to your partner(s) about the following questions. Consider choosing roles for the discussion:

  • note-taker (write down key ideas that come up)
  • time-keeper (make sure you are on track with time)
  • facilitator (make sure everyone gets a chance to share)
  • speaker (share the key ideas from the discussion with the larger class)
  1. Who are the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement? How did it get started on social media?
  2. What are some ways in which the movement is unique?
  3. Have you heard about or seen solidarity action for the Black Lives Matter Movement where you live?
  4. How can we take action as community members against anti-Black racism?

E. Topics for Writing

Choose a topic to write about. Be sure to practice the five steps in “Getting Ready to Write” to get started with the topic(s) you choose.

  1. Imagine you are writing to someone who has not heard about the Black Lives Matter movement. Explain what the movement is and the reasons why it is important. Include what information you know about the Black Lives Matter movement in your country if possible.
  2. Social Media can be a powerful tool for change. Tell your reader about a social media movement that you care about that has brought change to your community. Explain what it is, how it started, and why you feel it is important.
  3. Do a search online to find out more about activists Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and/or Patrisse Cullors. Choose one activist or research all three. Tell about their backgrounds, expertise and experiences. How have they been leaders for change?
  4. Write about an activist (a person who is leading change) that you care about. Tell us about the person and about their cause. Explain who they are and what contributions they have made to making change in the world.

F. Project!

Find out about a social justice or social change movement on social media that you are interested in (this could be in English or in another of your spoken language(s) – whichever you prefer!). What is the message of this movement? Who are the leaders of the movement? What are the goals of the movement? Make a presentation about the information you found to your classmates and instructor.

G. Additional Resources