#BlackLivesMatter founder speaks at AU
Patrisse Cullors discussed the importance of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and her experience with racial strife.
#BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Cullors spoke to AU students on Jan. 13 in an event organized by the Kennedy Political Union.
The event, held in the MGC University Club, was overflowing with students. The audio of Cullors’ remarks was projected in the MGC marketplace so that more students could hear her speech.
Cullors discussed the movement’s roots with both the audience and The Eagle by speaking about how the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2014 touched off the start of the movement.
“I think there was a serious sense of shock and disturbance when Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin,” Cullors said in an interview with The Eagle. “But, when he was let off for killing Trayvon Martin, there was a sort of rage and a desire to change this country and its understanding of black people and its relationship to black people, and so, I think that, for us, the Trayvon Martin case was our generation’s Emmett Till, it was this moment where we were like, ‘Nah, we’re not going out like this.”
Cullors, one of three co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter, began her presentation by addressing Tuesday night’s State of the Union, saying that President Obama “could have done better.” She delved into the importance of the election year and took the opportunity to address poverty and racism in the United States, state violence. Cullors also emphasized the need to rehumanize all black people in the view of American society and the importance of including the international community in the conversation around the treatment of black people globally.
“I think a lot of us, for the last eight years, have kept saying, ‘Obama could have done better’. I think we have to remember what country we live in, though,” Cullors said. “We live in a capitalist system, a system and a country that stole people, a country that killed people, and then continued to develop on this land. This is the moment where we need a movement. We don’t need a messiah, we don’t need an individual to save us, we need each other to save each other,” Cullors said.
Before the event, there had been talk of students who had attended the event in order to protest Cullors’ appearance. The AU College Republicans addressed concerns about protesters against Cullors on January 2 in a Facebook post. Cullors addressed the situation herself last night and invited the protesters to have an open conversation with her almost immediately.
“I’m totally down for you to protest me, and we can talk about it if you want to, and I think there’s a Q&A. I’m not going to sit here and talk all night. I think what we’ve lost a lot in this country is rigorous debate, and I welcome it, so if that’s what we gotta do, then let’s do it,” Cullors said.
Cullors encouraged the audience to recall the state violence that had occurred in the last year and the overwhelming number of people who had died, even in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
“Last year, we lost so many black people to state violence,” Cullors said in her address. “How many times did we have to hashtag a name last year? How many times did we have to #BlackLivesMatter not because it was about life, but rather because it was about death?”
Cullors also talked about the importance of the international aspect of the movement. She called students to acknowledge their privilege as Americans and the fact that there are people who are in worse conditions than black Americans all over the world. She emphasized the responsibility to act in solidarity with those people rather than isolated apart from them.
“It’s part of our duty, particularly as black Americans, not to isolate our struggle,” Cullors said in her speech. “It’s very easy to believe our issue is the big issue of black people in America, but it’s a challenge to us to see outside of us, it’s a challenge to us to remember that we’re part of a larger global struggle and that struggle is something that is a legacy for us.”