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Credit: Giovanni Solis

The Woman Who Gave 2020 Wings

I am sure you have heard about the Black Lives Matter movement, but have you heard about the three founders? Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi are the three Black women who formed the Black Lives Matter Network. In 2013, when George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in the Trayvon Martin case, Alicia Garza’s Facebook reaction went viral. She wrote “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter. Black Lives Matter.” Patrisse Cullors added the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter. Opal Tometi contacted Alicia Garza, and the three started what has become a global movement.

Patrisse, Alicia and Opal are credited with starting one of the most powerful movements in US history. They have graced the cover of many magazines including Time, Rolling Stone, and British Vogue to name a few. They have made headlines all over the world. #Blacklivesmatter has been tweeted over 47 million times according to Wikipedia.

Co-founder Patrisse Cullors was invited to kick-off C2 Montreal this morning. She shared that Black Lives Matter was always intended to be an international movement well beyond the US borders. She acknowledged that Black Lives Matter has “shifted the entire culture”.

Black Lives Matter’s mission is to stop over-policing and the over-incarceration of Black people. It is to stop armed police from maiming, killing and abusing Black people. They also fight to provide Black people around the globe with access to food, healthcare, housing and water. Patrisse told the audience that their goal was never about being in the limelight, but rather to help communities build their power.

Patrisse started her work as an organizer and artist 20 years ago. Witnessing the treatment of her family and community by police officers has made her fight against mass incarceration, and over-policing her life’s mission.

At 19, her brother, and first best friend, Monte was diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders while in jail. He should have been hospitalized, but was brutalized by police instead.

Earlier this year, in a particularly moving love letter to her brother Monte, Patrisse created the performance art piece entitled A Prayer to Iyami. She wore 20-pound wings built out of her brother’s old clothes to symbolize her 20-year long fight to get him the care he needed. He is currently receiving treatment.

Patrisse told Rolling Stone magazine “I really wanted a set of wings that felt magical, playing off of Afrofuturism and Afrosurrealism. It felt important to name the harm that I had experienced and my family’s experienced without having to say it, but to show it. And also, to situate this conversation of health and wellness and beauty and the things that we deserve under the backdrop of so much pain and despair. The wings are a transformative visual. They remind, especially human beings, that we have the ability to transform ourselves and the societies that we come from. And the weight of the wings, and having my brother’s clothes on my back, and carrying the weight of almost 21 years of his suffering and the county’s neglect and their inability to really care for him. I’ve carried that from my childhood.”

Patrisse was asked to define intersectionality. It is important to mention that Patrisse is a black queer woman and therefore must be understood as not just one identity, but from “multiple oppressed identities.” The Black Lives Matter movement is “not focused on genitals” and “challenges transphobia”.

Black Lives Matter has used social media to culture shift. Patrisse said “We didn’t have a seat at the table” and therefore social media was an important tool to get their messages out.

Patrisse just signed a two-year deal with Warner Brothers Television to “work on a few projects”. She will tell the story of Black Lives Matter organization, and be able to give voice to “black creatives who have been trapped outside the industry”. It will give her the opportunity to “open more doors for myself and others.”

Patrisse not only has a place at the table, but the voice to decide who gets to sit beside her.

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The Woman Who Gave 2020 Wings