Y’all, I for­got how good it real­ly feels to be in the pres­ence of peo­ple of faith out of the Unitarian Universalist tra­di­tion. Honestly, I was sit­ting in the back of the room singing and just med­i­tat­ing and all of that, and it just feels so good. It feels real­ly good—it feels right. And I am honored. 

So I just want to say good morn­ing, first and fore­most. You know, you all are coura­geous peo­ple of faith. And it’s real­ly a gift to join you all at your General Assembly. It’s my priv­i­lege to be able to share with you dur­ing such an impor­tant peri­od in his­to­ry. And you’re here. You’re here in Selma, Alabama. And the fact that we find our­selves fifty years lat­er fight­ing an eeri­ly sim­i­lar fight. Right? It feels like the cos­mos is urg­ing that we com­plete the work. Right? And the work is sacred. There’s some­thing that’s sim­ply divine about this peri­od that we’re liv­ing in. And we as peo­ple of faith are the ones who dare to not only believe, but we put actions around our beliefs.

We know that jus­tice is not inevitable. It is some­thing that will not be achieved pas­sive­ly. And the Unitarian Universalist tra­di­tion is one that knows that we as stew­ards of faith are called to active­ly bend the arc towards jus­tice. And that’s why to me this day and this peri­od of time, this week­end when we’re com­mem­o­rat­ing our elders, our fore­bears, it’s not mere­ly about a bridge-crossing that hap­pened in the past. We know that. It’s active. It’s liv­ing. And like you all have said, it’s a liv­ing lega­cy. And it’s beck­on­ing us to walk bold­ly in the tra­di­tion of faith-filled resis­tance. Like our fore­bears Diane Nash, Byron Rustin, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Ella Baker, and so many others.

And so to be able to share with you and build with you is not some­thing that I take light­ly. Because I come from a prophet­ic Christian tra­di­tion. My par­ents are Nigerian immi­grants, peo­ple who came to the United States and their first place of refuge was the church. And now my father is the pas­tor of a church in Phoenix, Arizona, which is now home to many dif­fer­ent African immi­grants and some Latino immi­grants, some white folks and East Indian parish­ioners. And my par­ents were the embod­i­ment of a tra­di­tion that says, You belong. And you belong every­where. As a child of God you are endowed with the right to make home and be safe wher­ev­er you find yourself.”

My folks instilled in me such a love for my com­mu­ni­ty, an appre­ci­a­tion of our cul­ture, and such a pro­found sense of dig­ni­ty in spite of any tri­al or tribu­la­tion. They taught me that you actu­al­ly have to live the prophet­ic. You have to be what you wish to see in the world. 

So, how many of you know that the upris­ing we saw in August 2014 and through­out much of the fall was not in response sole­ly to the mur­der of Mike Brown, or Eric Garner, or the non-indictments? Y’all know that? Right? So, how many of you know that it was actu­al­ly a col­lec­tive response to the decades of racial injus­tice and assault that has weighed heav­i­ly on the black com­mu­ni­ty? Y’all knew that? Right? I just want­ed to make sure. You know. So we’re clear. So that when my sis­ters Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and I began Black Lives Matter as a polit­i­cal project back in 2013 in the wake of the mur­der of Trayvon Martin and the sub­se­quent acquit­tal of George Zimmerman, it was because we knew the entire sys­tem was guilty. It was guilty of state vio­lence. And we want­ed our com­mu­ni­ties to give voice to that. While at the same time, it was out of a deep desire to share love with our peo­ple. To remind our­selves that black lives mat­ter. Our lives do in fact matter.

A recent Salon arti­cle com­piled some alarm­ing research. One of the reports they found show that white peo­ple, includ­ing the police, see black chil­dren as old­er and less inno­cent than white chil­dren. And anoth­er UCLA psy­cho­log­i­cal study sur­veyed most­ly white male offi­cers to deter­mine prej­u­dice and uncon­scious dehu­man­iza­tion of black peo­ple. And in that study they found a cor­re­la­tion between offi­cers who uncon­scious­ly dehu­man­ize black peo­ple and those who had used force against black chil­dren in their cus­tody. Now, this same study also found that white female col­lege stu­dents saw black and white chil­dren as equal­ly inno­cent until age nine. But after age nine, black chil­dren were viewed as much old­er than their non-black counterparts.

Then of course there have been oth­er stud­ies that show white peo­ple feel less empa­thy toward black peo­ple in pain than they do for their white coun­ter­parts expe­ri­enc­ing pain. And sev­er­al oth­er reports that find that white peo­ple view lighter-skinned African Americans—and Latinos—as more intel­li­gent, com­pe­tent, trust­wor­thy, and reli­able” than their darker-skinned peers.

Now, these find­ings I’ve shared from these reports are implic­it bias­es. They’re ways of think­ing that inform the way our entire soci­ety works. And what the Black Lives Matter cofounders (so myself, Patrisse, and I) believed when we start­ed this project is that it was time to do with away with respectabil­i­ty pol­i­tics. We will not be blamed for bru­tal­i­ty against us—or mur­der. We won’t be blamed for being poor, or being a woman, or being undoc­u­ment­ed, trans­gen­der, or queer. We won’t be blamed for wear­ing a hood­ie. Or for not being in the right place at the right time.

We knew that we need­ed to move the con­ver­sa­tion about per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty, and even inter­per­son­al dynam­ics around race, to a con­ver­sa­tion about the role of the state in sanc­tion­ing these bias­es and cre­at­ing and pro­mot­ing vio­lence against black bod­ies. And when we began the project, it was our vision that Black Lives Matter would trans­form the way we look at issues of racial injus­tice and police brutality.

Now, the three of us as com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers want­ed to spark a flame. But we also desired to orga­nize, to fun­da­men­tal­ly change our nation and our world. When we cre­at­ed Black Lives Matter project in 2013, it was intend­ed to expand the con­ver­sa­tion, to include all of black life in pub­lic dis­course. Because this bru­tal­i­ty is some­thing our com­mu­ni­ties have been fac­ing ever since we were kid­napped from Africa, enslaved, and then forced to work in the US

Hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is a push­back against the sta­tus quo. We are nam­ing that we are not liv­ing in a post-racial soci­ety. And we decid­ed­ly want­ed the nation to con­front anti-black racism, espe­cial­ly since there’s been the move to a more polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect terms such as peo­ple of col­or,” which to be hon­est is an over­gen­er­al­iza­tion that does­n’t get to the heart of the ways in which black peo­ple are typ­i­cal­ly most acute­ly impact­ed by injus­tice, because our laws don’t take account of struc­tur­al racism.

Now, it’s para­mount that our soci­ety rec­og­nize the role of anti-black struc­tur­al racism in the US. And that our 21st cen­tu­ry mul­tira­cial social move­ments uplift and cen­tral­ize the issues of those com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who are impact­ed and are liv­ing at the mar­gins. We know that if we do, we’ll get clos­er to real jus­tice for all of us. Moreover, it’s been wide­ly doc­u­ment­ed that the gains made by and with the black com­mu­ni­ty have always led to bet­ter stan­dards of liv­ing for all of us. And by all I mean all.

So the chal­lenge for us is to real­ize that anti-black racism oper­ates at a society-wide lev­el. It col­ludes in a seam­less web of poli­cies, prac­tices, and beliefs to oppress and dis­em­pow­er black com­mu­ni­ties. Systemic racism rein­vents itself to con­form to what is pub­licly accept­able, leav­ing the qual­i­ty of black life dimin­ished and more per­ma­nent­ly fixed with each pass­ing decade. And any out­cry or attempt to expose this cycle of oppres­sion is often ignored or dis­missed by broad­er US soci­ety because it seems [ir]rational or insignificant.

Family, we must divest from this struc­tur­al oppres­sion. We must. And this divest­ment has no par­ti­san affil­i­a­tion. And I appre­ci­ate this because as peo­ple of faith our affil­i­a­tions are far deep­er. Our affil­i­a­tions are to a divine knowl­edge of our dig­ni­ty, our own sacred­ness man­i­fest on Earth. And the intent that God would actu­al­ly have us all free. As peo­ple made in the image of the cre­ator, we too are designed to be cre­ators. We are designed to be the archi­tects of our own human des­tiny. And any­thing, any­thing, that stands against that is an affront to all of humanity.

So I believe that com­mu­ni­ties of faith have the texts, have the teach­ers, the prophets, who’ve point­ed to the fact that it is our duty to rad­i­cal­ly love one anoth­er and to com­mit to one anoth­er for the sake of our col­lec­tive lib­er­a­tion. Because whether or not we like it, we are bound to one another.

I want to share a lit­tle bit about myself and the work that I’ve been engaged in. And it’s part of this broad­er move­ment for human rights. And as was men­tioned, a lot of my work has been in the immi­grant rights move­ment. I am a first-generation Nigerian American, mean­ing my par­ents like I said ear­li­er are from Nigeria. They’re immi­grants who moved to Phoenix back in the 80s. And they’re incred­i­bly coura­geous human beings who for much of my child­hood were undocumented.

And so we dealt with dif­fer­ent things like dri­ving while black in Arizona. And I know many peo­ple tend to think of SB 1070 as the first time when racial pro­fil­ing began. But you know, any black per­son will tell you oth­er­wise. For decades pre­ced­ing SB 1070, an undoc­u­ment­ed black women or black man who looked like myself or my father were harassed. And if you were an undoc­u­ment­ed black man or woman in Arizona, the con­se­quences were dire. I’ve had aunts and uncles who’ve been deport­ed to Nigeria. And in fact my best friend came to live with me dur­ing high school because her mom was deport­ed after mak­ing a few tough deci­sions to help make ends meet. She was a black woman, she was a wid­ow, and she had four children—daughters to be exact. And so in essence the orga­ni­za­tion that I have the priv­i­lege of lead­ing, it’s called the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (or BAJI) was built to make vis­i­ble these types of strug­gles and intersections.

Many of you know this woman Audre Lorde, bril­liant queer black fem­i­nist who said, There is no such thing as a single-issue strug­gle because we do not live single-issue lives.” And that’s why my orga­ni­za­tion BAJI is both a racial jus­tice and a migrant rights orga­ni­za­tion. We engage in advo­ca­cy and edu­ca­tion and cross-cultural alliance build­ing in order to end racism, crim­i­nal­iza­tion, and eco­nom­ic dis­en­fran­chise­ment of African American and black immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties. Our head­quar­ters are where I live in Brooklyn, New York, but we also have offices in Oakland, in Georgia, and in Arizona. And we’re also the coor­di­nat­ing body of the Black Immigration Network, which is a nation­al member-based net­work of near­ly forty black-led orga­ni­za­tions that are con­nect­ing, train­ing, and build­ing towards pol­i­cy and cul­tur­al shifts for a racial jus­tice and migrant rights agenda.

So, BAJI’s kind of known for iden­ti­fy­ing root caus­es of forced migra­tion and crim­i­nal­iza­tion, and orga­niz­ing from that place. We rec­og­nize that there are cur­rent­ly 220 mil­lion peo­ple who are not liv­ing in their home of ori­gin. And this is not a nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­non. People are being uproot­ed. They are forced to migrate due to exploita­tive for­eign trade poli­cies, struc­tur­al adjust­ment programs—these pro­grams that look like coun­tries in the Global South being in debt to the Global North, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. 

People are forced from their homes due to land grabs, which in essence if folks don’t know is the leas­ing of large acres of land in the Global South to for­eign investors.” And there are oth­er forces such as war or con­flict, which also force peo­ple to flee. And then there’s also the per­sis­tent envi­ron­men­tal destruc­tion and cli­mate change that is forc­ing peo­ple off of their land.

And I think it’s real­ly impor­tant that we under­stand and see the con­nec­tion between immi­grant rights and racial jus­tice. Not only because it’s how BAJI sees it, but because this inter­sec­tion­al approach, and one that says that racial jus­tice must fore­ground the black expe­ri­ence, allows us insights that the main­stream is miss­ing. For example—and I’ll go back to Arizona. I know you all were there recent­ly, just a few years back. We had SB 1070. And soon after this racial pro­fil­ing law, there was a ban on eth­nic stud­ies. And right after that, there was a ban on affir­ma­tive action. Many peo­ple don’t know that. All of which were gains black peo­ple cham­pi­oned and won, but were reversed in a con­text that said immi­gra­tion has noth­ing to do with black peo­ple and that this is about law and order. 

The fact is that as the con­ser­v­a­tives, or regres­sion­ists as I like to say (That’s my new term: regres­sion­ists.), as they’ve set their eyes on oth­er com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, they haven’t tak­en their gaze off of black folks. They’re only adapt­ing their strat­e­gy for the demo­graph­ic con­text. And in the [process] they’re cre­at­ing a nor­mal­iza­tion of their approach. When we peel back the lay­ers a bit fur­ther, we find that many of those push­ing these regres­sive anti-immigrant laws have ties to the KKK and many con­ser­v­a­tive white suprema­cist think tanks. They have a vest­ed inter­est in pit­ting our com­mu­ni­ties against one anoth­er for social con­trol and for cor­po­rate profit.

So, as one of the cofounders of Black Lives Matter I am fre­quent­ly asked, Why are we see­ing such high lev­els of police bru­tal­i­ty in our com­mu­ni­ty?” And I think we should know that it’s because of the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of black com­mu­ni­ties. It’s real­ly clear. Not because of crim­i­nals” or ris­ing crime. It’s because of racist the­o­ries like bro­ken win­dows that allow for hyper-policing.

For those of you who may not know what bro­ken win­dows is, I’ll explain it. It’s basi­cal­ly a polic­ing the­o­ry that is set to address qual­i­ty of life issues. However, its imple­men­ta­tion is rem­i­nis­cent of Jim Crow loi­ter­ing laws which made con­di­tions unliv­able for black peo­ple and serve as a gate­way to harass­ment, arrests, vio­lence, and death at the hands of police and vig­i­lantes. Broken win­dows polic­ing led to the death of Eric Garner in New York for sell­ing loosies in his neighborhood. 

And it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that this the­o­ry actu­al­ly came about in the Reagan-Bush years, in which social dis­in­vest­ment was a major strat­e­gy for neo­con­ser­v­a­tives. One of the major prob­lems with this the­o­ry is that it revers­es the well-understood causal rela­tion­ship between crime and pover­ty. Broken win­dows in essence says pover­ty and social dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion are the result of, not the cause of, crime. And that the dis­or­der­ly behav­ior of the grow­ing under­class” threat­ens to destroy the fab­ric of our cities. So this bank­rupt the­o­ry is lead­ing to the hyper-policing and vio­lence in our neigh­bor­hoods. Things like jay­walk­ing, danc­ing on the sub­way, sleep­ing on a park bench, sell­ing loosies make you a tar­get of the police. 

You like­ly heard of the late broth­er Africa, a Cameroonian immi­grant who was mur­dered by LAPD just this past Sunday. They tased him sev­er­al times, then opened fire while phys­i­cal­ly restrain­ing him, shoot­ing him five times. This hor­rif­ic bru­tal­i­ty is just the lat­est exam­ple of the cri­sis of state vio­lence in black com­mu­ni­ties, result­ing in the death of our broth­ers and sis­ters. We must ensure that all black lives mat­ter, whether you’re an immi­grant, whether you’re home­less, you’re incar­cer­at­ed, or what­ev­er beyond. Brother Africa’s death brings into focus the con­ver­gence of state vio­lence in the lives of black peo­ple. And par­tic­u­lar­ly the impli­ca­tions for black immigrants.

Brother Africa was recent­ly released from fed­er­al prison where he was assigned to a men­tal health unit by med­ical staff that deter­mined he was suf­fer­ing from a men­tal dis­ease or defect that required treat­ment in a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal, which he nev­er received. Disenfranchised of his visa sta­tus, broth­er Africa was then detained by ICE (or Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) until he was ordered to be released. And he was deportable. Without any men­tal health treat­ment, and undoc­u­ment­ed, broth­er Africa was forced to live on Skid Row, where police ini­tia­tives pur­port­ed to make the neigh­bor­hood safer” but ulti­mate­ly killed him. His sto­ry is hor­rif­ic, and we know that accord­ing to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, this sort of extra­ju­di­cial killing of an unarmed black per­son hap­pens every twenty-eight hours.

Now, sad­ly we know that black peo­ple are tar­gets in every phase of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. From pro­fil­ing, to sen­tenc­ing, to the death penal­ty. These sto­ries and the data are appalling. And you all know this well because you all have made stop­ping mass incar­cer­a­tion one of your man­dates. I remem­ber being at some gath­er­ing spaces with many of you all, and espe­cial­ly back in Phoenix, Arizona a few years back. But I still want to share some sta­tis­tics with you, just in case we’ve forgotten. 

So, the US is only 5% of the glob­al pop­u­la­tion. Yet it holds near­ly 25% of the world’s impris­oned pop­u­la­tion. Many also know that mass incar­cer­a­tion cur­rent­ly claims 2.3 mil­lion peo­ple. Which is quadru­ple that of what it was in 1980. The racial dimen­sions are alarm­ing. Black peo­ple con­sti­tute near­ly one mil­lion of the 2.3 mil­lion incar­cer­at­ed. And black immi­grants from Africa and the Caribbean are also over­rep­re­sent­ed in immi­gra­tion deten­tion cen­ters and depor­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings. Black women are half of the prison pop­u­la­tion, although they are only 12% of the female pop­u­la­tion. Twelve per­cent. And black women are also the fastest-growing impris­oned pop­u­la­tion. So those are the facts. That’s what we’re liv­ing in.

And one last thing I want to share with you all is that President Clinton, before he was in office there were prob­a­bly about one mil­lion peo­ple who were incar­cer­at­ed. And by the time he left office there were two mil­lion. It dou­bled. So just sit with that. Because that took place and was the results of our first black pres­i­dent.” And you can also see what’s hap­pen­ing under our sec­ond black pres­i­dent. But I digress. We can do that in Q&A.

But all of this is quite sober­ing. It con­sti­tutes state vio­lence. That’s what we’re see­ing. All these assaults. And state vio­lence impacts our com­plex iden­ti­ties and some­times even cre­ates our identities.

State vio­lence is what allows a group of peo­ple to be marked as ille­gal.” It is what allows for the dis­en­fran­chise­ment of peo­ple who’ve had encoun­ters with the law and then are sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly left out of pro­grams that could poten­tial­ly rein­te­grate them into soci­ety, instead forc­ing them back into activ­i­ties that like­ly got them crim­i­nal­ized and impris­oned in the first place.

State vio­lence is what will send a woman to prison for defend­ing her­self against an abu­sive part­ner while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly leav­ing her chil­dren with­out a par­ent and for­ev­er lock­ing them into a sys­tem of surveillance.

State vio­lence is what forces peo­ple around the globe to make the treach­er­ous jour­ney in order to try to make a bet­ter liv­ing to pro­vide for one’s family.

Now, I’ve been describ­ing anti-black vio­lence as a dis­ease. And police bru­tal­i­ty, mass incar­cer­a­tion, health dis­par­i­ties, high unem­ploy­ment, pover­ty, depor­ta­tion, edu­ca­tion inequal­i­ty, sub­stan­dard hous­ing are all symp­toms of this dis­ease. And we must orga­nize. We must orga­nize cul­tur­al­ly and polit­i­cal­ly against the sys­tems that oper­ate with anti-black log­ic and bias and that leave our lives dimin­ished all across the board.

And address­ing state vio­lence is what led to the cre­ation of Black Lives Matter. The tip­ping point for our move­ment was when peo­ple were will­ing to put their bod­ies on the line and stayed in the streets. I remem­ber speak­ing with many local res­i­dents in Ferguson dur­ing the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride that my sis­ter Patrisse Cullors and broth­er Darnell Moore orga­nized last Labor Day week­end. And peo­ple time and time again while we were in Ferguson were say­ing things to me like, You know, we’re will­ing to die for this.” They were lit­er­al­ly say­ing that. And they meant it. In essence they were artic­u­lat­ing that there were things that got so bad that they had noth­ing left to lose and that they would be bet­ter off fight­ing with their dig­ni­ty intact.

Beloved, there is no sub­sti­tute for peo­ple of con­science ris­ing up to shut it down. There’s no sub­sti­tute. And some­times folks get it twist­ed with hash­tags and social inter­ac­tions. But let’s be clear. We orga­nize our­selves online and com­mu­ni­cate online to have impact in our lives offline. That’s what we’re doing. 

And we’re grow­ing as a move­ment because peo­ple are fed up. And it’s not just black peo­ple, but white folks and oth­er com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, too. People of con­science are see­ing what’s going on and they are in the streets with us. We are com­mit­ted to chal­leng­ing struc­tur­al injus­tices with­out apol­o­gy. And more than that, our com­mu­ni­ties are at a place where we are tak­ing a strate­gic risk, engag­ing in non­vi­o­lent direct action and peace­ful protests to con­front those in pow­er. And as our move­ment grows, we must stay vig­i­lant and know that the state will only con­tin­ue to morph and become more cun­ning in their con­cert­ed assault on our com­mu­ni­ties. And we can’t allow for that.

Now, out of the Black Lives Matter Freedom Rides of Ferguson we have now grown from a polit­i­cal project into a nation­al net­work of twenty-six chap­ters across the coun­try. [applause] Yeah, you can clap for that. It’s pret­ty amaz­ing. And two of those chap­ters are actu­al­ly out­side of the US. And there are many peo­ple in dif­fer­ent coun­tries who are actu­al­ly every day reach­ing out say­ing that they want to cre­ate a chap­ter in their country.

And I think this is impor­tant that we know this, because our chap­ters are always led by peo­ple who are typ­i­cal­ly on the mar­gins of the mar­gins even with­in the black com­mu­ni­ty, and it’s pret­ty astound­ing. They’re also com­prised by peo­ple who are clear that they’re ded­i­cat­ed to jus­tice and self-determination. And as we grow the move­ment, we’ve begun tak­ing time to artic­u­late our guid­ing prin­ci­ples that allow us to be our most pow­er­ful, free, and vision­ary selves.

And some of the prin­ci­ples that guide this Black Lives Matter inter­na­tion­al net­work and move­ment are the fact that we are com­mit­ted to acknowl­edg­ing, respect­ing, and cel­e­brat­ing our dif­fer­ences. We don’t hide from it. We see our­selves as part of a glob­al black fam­i­ly. And we’re guid­ed by the fact that lack lives mat­ter. All black lives, regard­less of actu­al or per­ceived sex­u­al iden­ti­ty, gen­der iden­ti­ty, gen­der expres­sion, eco­nom­ic sta­tus, abil­i­ty or dis­abil­i­ty, reli­gious beliefs or dis­be­liefs, immi­gra­tion sta­tus, or even geo­graph­ic location.

We are com­mit­ted to ensur­ing that Black Lives Matter net­work is a black woman-affirming space free from sex­ism, misog­y­ny, and male-centeredness.

We are com­mit­ted to prac­tic­ing empa­thy when we engage with com­rades, with the intent to learn about and con­nect with their context.

We are fos­ter­ing a queer-affirming net­work. And when we gath­er, we do so with the inten­tion of free­ing our­selves from the tight grip of het­ero­nor­ma­tive think­ing. Or rather, the belief that all of the world are het­ero­sex­u­al unless she or he or they dis­close otherwise.

We’re also com­mit­ted to embrac­ing and mak­ing space for our trans broth­ers and sis­ters to par­tic­i­pate and lead. We are com­mit­ted to being self-reflexive about dis­man­tling cis­gen­dered priv­i­lege and uplift­ing black trans folks, espe­cial­ly black trans women, who con­tin­ue to dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly be impact­ed by trans-antagonistic violence.

And we are com­mit­ted to fos­ter­ing an intergen­er­a­tional and com­mu­nal net­work, free from ageism. We believe that all peo­ple, regard­less of age, show up with a capac­i­ty to learn and to lead. All of us.

And we’re com­mit­ted to embody­ing and prac­tic­ing jus­tice, lib­er­a­tion, and peace in our engage­ments with one another.

Now, the embod­i­ment of these prin­ci­ples allows us to step into the most trans­for­ma­tion­al prac­tice of lib­er­a­tion amongst our­selves and amongst oth­ers in the world. And we believe it’ll take a mul­tira­cial move­ment for black lives in order that we may all achieve full lib­er­a­tion, dig­ni­ty, and human rights. And we believe that it’ll take for­ma­tions and insti­tu­tions like the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, like Black Lives Matter, and the Unitarian Universalists, that have nuanced per­spec­tives and com­pre­hen­sive analy­sis plus lead­er­ship from the mar­gins, like undoc­u­ment­ed folks, like queer folks, like trans folks, and those who are dif­fer­ent­ly abled, so that we can employ strate­gies to build a mul­tira­cial democ­ra­cy that works for all of us.

We know at the end of the day, when black peo­ple get free we all get free. And we know that when black lives mat­ter, then all lives would matter.

Now, we often share a a quotes by our sis­ter Assata Shakur who’s been exiled. And this quote is ulti­mate­ly the pledge and com­mit­ment of the Black Lives Matter move­ment. And she says this. It is our duty to fight for our free­dom. It is our duty to win. We must love and sup­port each oth­er. We have noth­ing to lose but our chains.” 

Now, we can’t stop until we all get free. And we know that we can’t get free until black lives mat­ter. And I know that we were all cre­at­ed to be alive in this time peri­od for this spe­cif­ic work, no mat­ter where we are, no mat­ter your loca­tion. You have a set of expe­ri­ences and gifts that we all need in order for us to get free. And there’s no doubt in my mind and in my heart that we tru­ly are the ones that we have been wait­ing for.

Now, I just want to end there because I want to give some time for Q&A and maybe some com­ments or feed­back to what I’ve just shared. I want to thank you for your gra­cious­ness, your bril­liance, your courage, your per­sis­tence. Thank you.

Opal Tometi: So I was told we have sev­en min­utes for Q&A. Oh man. Okay.

Adja Gildersleve: Let’s get some peo­ple col­or up here in line, too, please.

Gildersleve: So I want to thank you. My name’s Adja Gildersleve, I’m an orga­niz­er with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. And it’s because of you, Alicia, and Patrisse, so thank you so much. And I have a lot of love for you, sister.

I just want to ask what is your response for the folks— It’s usu­al­ly a usu­al­ly the elders and oth­er peo­ple that have cri­tiques about the Black Lives Matter move­ment, that say we don’t have enough strat­e­gy, we don’t have clear lead­ers, and we don’t have enough love, music, and work­shops and train­ings in our move­ment. What is it that you have to say about our move­ment that peo­ple don’t real­ly under­stand, and things that we need to work on, and things that we’re get­ting right, basically?

Tometi: Thank you. Oh, so dope. And I’ll be here, so we can con­nect some more. Thank you. That’s a good ques­tion, and we only have a short peri­od of time so I’ll try and hit a cou­ple points. What I say to folks who think that we’re not inter­gen­er­a­tional, or that we shun elders, or the elders actu­al­ly think bad about us… I actu­al­ly tell peo­ple to look around. To real­ly look around. Because I actu­al­ly am in con­tact with many elders who still men­tor me to this day, who I call on the phone like every oth­er day. And so I think we need to stop look­ing at celebri­ty elders as mod­els of inter­gen­er­a­tional leadership.

And I also some­times get that ques­tion from the media. And I also just don’t like to answer that ques­tion as much in that space because I think they’re look­ing for some­thing that’s more sen­sa­tion­al than I think is worth it. I don’t think it’s worth it. And it real­ly dis­tracts from some of the root caus­es, right. So I want to talk with them about hyper-policing. And they want to talk about some kind of back and forth triv­ial tabloid dra­ma. And I’m like no, we have real issues in our com­mu­ni­ty. Let’s actu­al­ly talk about Bill Bratton and Pat Lynch and not all of the drama.

And then the oth­er thing— I love that you brought this up because we as a move­ment have declared 2015 as the year of resis­tance. So as we declared it as the year of resis­tance, we also took note in that same meet­ing that we decid­ed that and said man, it’s hard to be resist­ing all the time, right? It kind of depletes you. And so we said 2015 will actu­al­ly also be the year resilience. So resis­tance and resilience. So tak­ing care of our­selves, tak­ing care of one anoth­er, real­ly deep­en­ing our roots and cul­tur­al orga­niz­ing and prac­tices that are real­ly nur­tur­ing and heal­ing, and mak­ing sure that we’re an inte­grat­ed move­ment. And that we’re cre­at­ing, as we’re fight­ing and dis­man­tling, but we also real­ly just need to be cre­at­ing. We need to be nur­tur­ing that fem­i­nine ener­gy and wis­dom that tell us to create.

So I would encour­age peo­ple to look for that. And then we have so many amaz­ing cul­tur­al work­ers who are devel­op­ing poems, and plays, and I don’t know if you all saw last month was Black History Month; we renamed it Black Future Month, and it was dope. It was real­ly great. We part­nered with Huffington Post Black Voices and we had twen­ty arti­cles writ­ten by twenty-eight dif­fer­ent orga­niz­ers who talked about var­i­ous issues from repro­duc­tive jus­tice, to LGBTQ rights, to home­less­ness, to HIV/AIDS. And it was bril­liant, so go back and look at that because they were actu­al­ly talk­ing about what it would look like for our lives to be just and full and free in those dif­fer­ent realms, and it was just great.

And at the same time that we did that we also did a poster series that lives on our Tumblr. And we asked dif­fer­ent black artists to envi­sion the future. So it’s #VisionsOfABlackFuture, and they put out these beau­ti­ful, bril­liant images of free, full, dynam­ic, amaz­ing black lives. So I encour­age you to check out that series, Visions of a Black Future. So thanks for that question.

Howard Tolley: I’m Howard Tolley from UU Justice Ohio, where we wit­nessed the killing of John Crawford at the Beavercreek Walmart, and 12 year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland. I’d like to know whether Black Lives Matter is part­ner­ing with the Stop Mass Incarceration call for a nation­al shut down on April 14, call­ing on schoolkids to leave their class­rooms, call­ing on work­ers to walk off the job, on April 14.

Tometi: So, I def­i­nite­ly heard about the call, and we are in sol­i­dar­i­ty with that call. We def­i­nite­ly think that peo­ple need to walk out, to shut it down. And we believe in part­ner­ing with exist­ing insti­tu­tions and mak­ing those types of calls. So I believe many of our affil­i­ates will be tak­ing part in that.

Tolley: Do you have an affil­i­ate in Ohio?

Tometi: We do not. But we’re work­ing with the Ohio Students Association—

Tolley: Yeah.


So you know them, yup. So we’re work­ing there. We’ll see some of them tomor­row, actu­al­ly. So thank you.

Lena Katherine Gardner: Hey, I think we have been warned to talk quick. So, my name is Lena Katherine Gardner. I’m here with Adja from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. You know we face a court date on Tuesday, so folks can tweet about it, I just want to say. And the ques­tion I have for you is one of the things I think we’re strug­gling with in Minneapolis is there’s not actu­al­ly a ton of black folks. And we’re walk­ing this line of how to be in ally­ship with white folks, and at the same time when they come into the space in a room they often try to take it over. And can you just speak to how to real­ly— And so my val­ues is what has helped me to try and move past that and hold peo­ple in lov­ing light and say okay— And can you just speak to that in oth­er spaces, and…yeah, thank you. Thank you for all your work, too.

Tometi: Thank you. It’s all of our work, so I appre­ci­ate you hold­ing it down in a place like that. I know it’s not easy. So, you know, I’m from Phoenix. Uh…not a ton of black folk there, either. I live in Brooklyn now, but I know the feel­ing. I know the feel­ing, all too well. And I was also just recent­ly in Madison, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee. And I don’t know if you all heard, but in Madison, Wisconsin just last night Anthony Robinson, a 19 year-old, unarmed black teenag­er was mur­dered by police. So rest in peace. I just want to bring that to the room, because that actu­al­ly had me messed up last night as I was prepar­ing for this. And because I was lit­er­al­ly just there. And they’re fac­ing a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, where they’re try­ing to orga­nize, not as many black folks in the community.

But what what we’ve found in some spaces that has been work­ing has been real­ly encour­ag­ing white racial jus­tice allies to hold some space for train­ing, for rela­tion­ship build­ing, and doing that work with­in the white com­mu­ni­ty before bring­ing our com­mu­ni­ties togeth­er like that. I think that just has to be done on prin­ci­ple. So you know, groups like SURJ ([Showing] Up for Racial Justice), Catalyst Project—I’m sure folks are in the room here—are hold­ing some work­shops, and I encour­age them to do some more. We got­ta train a lot more white folks. We need to get to scale. Real talk.

So I actu­al­ly real­ly encour­age those spaces before doing that work togeth­er. Otherwise, that inevitably hap­pens. I’ve seen it time and time again, and you’re doing your best to to main­tain that space. But what I would do if that does con­tin­ue to hap­pen, is at the top of the meet­ing or any gath­er­ing have some guid­ing prin­ci­ples. And just be clear. You know, say, If you’re white, don’t talk in this meet­ing.” Or wait till a des­ig­nat­ed time. And every­body just has to be clear and know that those agree­ments are in play. And that’s okay. There’s a time for every­thing, and it’s fine. And I think we’re also liv­ing in a time where we have to be very clear about the need for black lead­er­ship. And to respect that. Keep on. Keep on. I sus­pect that’s my sev­en minutes.