Black Lives Matter co-founder speaks to students

Jessa Reid Bolling, Assistant News Editor

Students packed into the Ferguson Center Theater on Thursday, Oct. 4 to hear Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors speak about changing politics through activism.

The event, entitled “Change Making: Activism and Politics,” was hosted by the Intercultural Diversity Center and D.R.E.A.M. (Drastically Reversing Everything Around Me), a group dedicated to empowering youth to become leaders and seek change in their communities.

Cullors helped found the Black Lives Matter movement, along with organizers Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, in 2013 in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial where he was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The movement gained national attention in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. What began as a viral hashtag online has now grown to over 40 chapters around the globe.

“Not just the country heard us, the entire world heard us,” Cullors said. “Black Lives Matter isn’t just something that we created to live online, it wasn’t just a hashtag movement. We are organizers, we understood that social media was a part of a much bigger picture for how we galvanize and challenge and build a new country.”

Attendees were allowed to ask questions after Cullors’ speech. Cullors’ book “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” was available for purchase at the event, and she signed copies for attendees after the Q&A session.

Teryn Shipman, coordinating student assistant for the Intercultural Diversity Center, said she is grateful for the chance to have Cullors speak at the University about her experience of being an activist and about how anyone can become an activist through their own determination and hard work.

“We need to understand the power that we have within ourselves and our own communities,” Shipman said. “We are powerful and we can use our voices to evoke chance in politics. To hear her experiences about her own story of being an organizer and an activist was really informative and insightful, especially for me as an activist.”

Kelseigh Redmon, a first-year graduate student in communication studies, said she connected personally with the experiences that Cullors spoke about and was inspired to see her turning her experiences into action.

“It was very moving – it was a reflection of things that I’ve felt and gone through,” Redmon said. “To see how she mobilized her feelings is very inspiring.”

Currie Blackwell, a senior human rights law student, said he felt Cullors’ speech encapsulated the way that many people are feeling right now and that her message is one that is needed on campus.

“I thought it was really great having her here specifically on The University of Alabama campus, where we’re talking about racial issues right now,” Blackwell said. “I think having people like her come on campus is really important to us having the really difficult but also really necessary conversations.”