The Black Lives Matter movement will be awarded this year’s Sydney Peace Prize. The award, which Australia’s Sydney University has offered since 1998, normally goes to an individual peacemaker who promotes human rights and using nonviolence as a means of combating injustice, making the University’s choice of the Black Lives Matter movement as the award recipient unprecedented.
“This movement resonates around the globe and here in Australia, where we have become inured to the high incarceration rates and deaths in custody of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Pat Dodson, the West Australian Laborer senator and the 2008 recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize, said in an interview. “It’s as if their lives do not matter.”
Founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, the Black Lives Matter movement came about following the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. Since then, the organization has become a global crusader against injustice, especially following the election of Donald Trump as president.
The organization has also helped bailout black mothers from jail for Mother’s Day, as well as supported black-owned businesses across the country. “We’re not just about hitting the streets or direct action…it’s a humanizing project,” co-founder Cullors said. “We’re trying to re-imagine humanity and bring us to a place where we can decide how we want to be in relation to each other versus criminalizing our neighbors or being punitive towards them.”
Trayvon Martin’s parents were the recipients of a major honor on behalf of their late son. Florida Memorial University awarded the slain teen with a posthumous Bachelor’s Degree during the school’s annual commencement ceremony last Saturday (May 13).
“To say that we’re thankful is an understatement,” said Martin’s father, Tracy. “I think this shows what this community, how they feel, how they believe in our family, believe in our foundation, how we’ve worked together, it was a heartfelt moment when they called Trayvon’s name to accept the degree for him, it was very touching. This was a day that we planned for as parents, we just wish that we would have watched him walk across the stage.”
Martin received a Bachelor of Science in Aviation, with a concentration in flight education, honoring his dream of becoming a pilot. Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, graduated from FMU two years after he was born. “In 1997 I graduated from FMU with a Bachelors degree in English with a minor in Mass Communications,” she wrote on Instagram earlier int he month. “It’s now 20 years later & now my son #TrayvonMartin will receive his Bachelors in Aviation, something he loved.”
Jay Z is tackling race in the Trump era. The rap mogul is currently working on his third docuseries, “Race With Jay Z,” with National Geographic. The project, produced by Hov and The Weinstein Company, will explore systematic injustices such as incarceration and the wealth gap, social media, activism and family, Variety reported. It will look at how race became “the most pressing issue in the nation” following the election.
The six-part docuseries, hosted by Jay Z, will include documentary, animation and archival footage. It will also feature diverse voices from immigrants, first-generation Americans and others.“National Geographic and Jay Z are the world’s foremost storytellers in their own right, and we’re thrilled to be working with them on such an evocative and meaningful project,” Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, told Variety.
“By using highly cinematic storytelling techniques along with Jay Z’s singular point of view, the series will tell a dramatic, thought-provoking story on race in America.” “Race With Jay Z” is the artist’s latest reported docuseries. His first effort following the story of a teen unjustly incarcerated at Rikers Island, “Time: The Kalief Browder Story,” premiered in March. It was also recently announced that Jay Z is working on a project about the 2012 shooting and killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and the Weinstein Company are partnering on an ambitious series of film and television projects about Trayvon Martin. The indie label and the rap icon won a heated bidding war for the rights to two books — “Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It” and “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.” The 2012 shooting of the 17 year-old Martin sparked a national debate about racial profiling and inequities of the criminal justice system that brought about the Black Lives Matter movement.
The African-American high school student was killed by George Zimmerman, 28, who was a member of the neighborhood watch in his Florida community. He claimed he shot Martin, who was unarmed, in self defense after the two became involved in a physical altercation. Zimmerman’s acquittal on a second-degree murder charge inspired protests around the country.
“Suspicion Nation” is by Lisa Bloom and recounts her experience covering the trial for NBC. She looks at the mistakes made by prosecutors that caused them to lose what she describes as a “winnable case.” “Rest in Power” is by Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. It tells a more personal story, looking at Martin’s childhood and the aftermath of his death.
The plan is to make a six-part docu-series with Jay Z producing as part of a first-look deal he signed with the studio last September. The indie studio will also develop a narrative feature film. The Weinstein Company earned critical raves for “Fruitvale Station,” another true story, about the death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was killed in 2009 by a BART police officer.
Mark Zuckerberg has always encouraged Facebook employees to think for themselves, but one issue is trying his patience.
People have been crossing out “black lives matter” on the walls of Facebook‘s headquarters and writing “all lives matter.”
The founder and CEO addressed the issue at a company-wide Q&A session last week.But it didn’t stop. Zuckerberg wrote a strongly worded memo to employees earlier this week about “several recent instances.”
In his note, the Facebook (FB, Tech30) CEO seemed frustrated by the fact that the act has continued, despite making it clear in the past that it was “unacceptable.”
“I was already very disappointed by this disrespectful behavior before,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But after my communication I now consider this malicious as well …This has been a deeply hurtful and tiresome experience for the black community and really the entire Facebook community.”
#BlackLivesMatter sprung to life as a hashtag in 2012 after the death of Trayvon Martin. The phrase went viral on social media, drawing people into a conversation about police brutality and inequality, and unifying thousands across the country on these issues. Some people pushed back with the slogan “all lives matter.”
“But when someone says ALL lives matter, it can sound like that person is dismissing the specific pain behind the slogan,” CNN’s Donna Brazile wrote last year. “Those who are experiencing the pain and trauma of the black experience in this country don’t want their rallying cry to be watered down with a generic feel-good catchphrase.”
Zuckerberg gave his own interpretation of the movement: “‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t — it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve.”
Some wallsof Facebook’s offices are covered in whiteboards in chalkboards. Usually adorned with signs reading, “write something,” they’re covered in layers of messages, doodles and signatures from employees and visitors.
“Crossing out something means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s,” Zuckerberg admonished.
A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed that the memo had been sent but would not tell CNNMoney if those responsible for the acts had been identified or disciplined.
Here’s the full text of the memo, obtained by Gizmodo:
“There have been several recent instances of people crossing out ‘black lives matter’ and writing ‘all lives matter’ on the walls at MPK.
Despite my clear communication at Q&A last week that this was unacceptable, and messages from several other leaders from across the company, this has happened again. I was already very disappointed by this disrespectful behavior before, but after my communication I now consider this malicious as well.
There are specific issues affecting the black community in the United States, coming from a history of oppression and racism. ‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t — it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve.
We’ve never had rules around what people can write on our walls — we expect everybody to treat each other with respect. Regardless of the content or location, crossing out something means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s. Facebook should be a service and a community where everyone is treated with respect.
This has been a deeply hurtful and tiresome experience for the black community and really the entire Facebook community, and we are now investigating the current incidents.
I hope and encourage people to participate in the Black@ town hall on 3/4 to educate themselves about what the Black Lives Matter movement is about.”
There was a time when Melina Abdullah wanted to be the next Maxine Waters.
A year or two ago, I recognized that those middle-class aspirations are done,” Abdullah says now, in the soothing voice of a therapist or guidance counselor. “You can’t go in and yell at people or camp in front of the mayor’s house and go, ‘Now I’m running for office.’ I had to make peace with that.”
Abdullah lives in a three-bedroom house in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles with her three children. She drives a Volvo. She’s a tenured professor and chairs the Pan-African Studies department at Cal State Los Angeles. She’s a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first black sorority. She was appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to the county’s Human Relations Commission. Abdullah, in other words, has more than a toe in the American middle class.
But Abdullah, who was born in East Oakland and whose dad was a union organizer and self-proclaimed Trotskyist, has chosen to immerse herself in the black working class and its struggles.
She’s not unlike most of the Black Lives Matter leaders — college-educated, middle-class black women who felt compelled to fight against police violence directed at the black community. “Our degrees won’t save us, our middle-class status won’t save us,” she says. “Who’s being killed? Andrew Joseph in Tampa, Florida. His parents are college-educated, middle-class people. Trayvon Martin was killed in a gated community. Aiyana Jones, 7 years old, sleeping on her grandmother’s couch. I have two little girls. How can you sit back? That’s how a lot of us feel. We’re really facing wartime conditions.”
In a nation where black women are still stuck at the bottom of the power structure, Black Lives Matter is the only major national protest movement to be led by them in modern times. It has in the past two years become the most prominent left-wing movement in the country, a persistent topic on the national news and in both Democratic and Republican presidential debates.
The Black Lives Matter movement also could end up having a significant impact on local, state and national elections — which might be cause for concern among politicians like, say, Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The national organization founded by three black women — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi — takes its cue from the local chapters; the L.A. chapter, in which Abdullah is a key figure, was among the first.
The elements of Black Lives Matters’s DNA — young, female, gay-friendly, artsy — set it apart from every previous civil rights movement.
Although the group prides itself on its leaderlessness, Abdullah is one of five or so black women who, having helped start the L.A. chapter, now serve as its chief organizers. Nearly all are rooted in academia or performance art — or both. Their rhetoric leans toward the highbrow, their tactics toward the theatrical.
“We’re fighting against white supremacist patriarchal society,” says Shamell Bell. “That’s why you need black women to fight it.”
Bell, who’s been involved in Black Lives Matter from the beginning, is perhaps its prototypical organizer. A 31-year-old former professional dancer and former student of Abdullah’s, she’s currently a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA. In a movement that draws on each of its members’ gifts and abilities, Bell often leads street protest dances. While occupying the mayor’s front lawn, she taught a group of activists Jerkin’.
Cullors, 32, who coined the now-global hashtag #blacklivesmatter, is a performance artist who studied religion and philosophy at UCLA. When she was just 17, she joined the Bus Riders Union, a somewhat iconoclastic advocacy group in L.A. that pushes for more funding for the bus system and less funding for light rail.
A distinctly working-class nonprofit, the Bus Riders Union was Cullors’ entry into political organizing. She later started Dignity and Power Now, a coalition that fought brutality by sheriff’s deputies who work inside the county jails.
Cullors grew up in 1990s Pacoima, a low-income northeast San Fernando Valley neighborhood, during the height of the federal war on drugs that disproportionately imprisoned thousands of minorities. Cullors’ father and brother were in and out of prison for most of her adult life.
“That really shaped my understanding of what it meant to be black in this city,” Cullors says. “I had a lot of anger. And I was clear that I wanted to do something about it.”
In Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter has emerged as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s fiercest antagonist. Garcetti was elected without much support in the black community, which backed Wendy Greuel. But Garcetti will almost surely need the backing of black voters should he run for higher office, as is widely assumed.
“Whether he’s running for governor or U.S. senator, the political calculus that his consultants are going to use is that the black vote in Los Angeles can put him over the top,” says Dermot Givens, a political consultant. “Which is why he has to do everything he can to solve this situation.”
Garcetti, who appears galled by this vocal new opposition from the left, has dealt with Black Lives Matter rather clumsily.
After 25-year-old Ezell Ford, who’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was shot to death in August 2014 by LAPD officers in South L.A., the group camped out on the front lawn of the mayoral mansion in Hancock Park. Garcetti made the news, along with Black Lives Matter, when he was caught on video trying to sneak away in a black Suburban SUV.
Bizarrely, when the well-to-do, Encino-raised Garcetti finally met with these black leaders in July, he at one point started speaking to them in Spanish. In the eyes of the organizers, it was as if he saw all minorities as the same and dealt with them accordingly.
“[Garcetti] does a really good job at tokenizing people,” says Black Lives Matter co-founder Cullors. “He does a really good job placating. But he doesn’t actually do the work that it takes to change the culture and change policies that are anti-black.”
“There’s been a shift in politics in the black community,” says Givens, who argues that Black Lives Matter has not so much caused this shift as it has reacted to it. “And the mayor is playing old-school politics. He’s surrounding himself with old-school black people who have no idea what’s going on.”
The origin of Black Lives Matter dates to July 13, 2013, when George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Fox is developing a new event series revolving around a racially-motivated police shooting. The project hails from “Love & Basketball” writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood and will star Sanaa Lathan, who starred in the 2000 film.
The untitled event series examines the dangerous aftermath of a police shooting when an African-American cop kills a white teen in Tennessee. Lathan (“The Perfect Guy”) will play an expert investigator who digs into the case, alongside a yet-to-be-cast special prosecutor sent to the town by the Department of Justice. The duo must navigate the media attention, public debate and social unrest that accompany such a volatile case, as they seek justice before the divided town erupts into a race war.
The announcement of the project comes amidst of an uproar of recent media attention on racially-motivated police attacks, most notably the Trayvon Martin case, in which the African American teenager was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. The Fox project, however, features a race-flipped scenario with a white teen being killed by a black cop.
Prince-Bythewood, along with Reggie Rock Bythewood, will serve as writers and exec producers on the 20th Century Fox project, which will be directed by Prince-Bythewood. Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo will also exec produce. Prince-Bythewood’s Undisputed Cinema and Imagine Television will also produce.
The event series reunites Lathan and Gina Prince-Bythewood, who worked together “Love & Basketball.” Prince-Bythewood and Bythewood also worked together on “Beyond the Lights.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the weekend, a young freedom fighter and community organizer mounted an awe-inspiring campaign to bring down the Confederate battle flag. Brittany “Bree” Newsome, in a courageous act of civil disobedience, scaled a metal pole using a climbing harness, to remove the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. Her long dread locks danced in the wind as she descended to the ground while quoting scripture. She refused law enforcement commands to end her mission and was immediately arrested along with ally James Ian Tyson, who is also from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Earlier this week, social justice activist and blogger Shaun King offered a “bounty” on the flag and offered to pay any necessary bail bond fees. Newsome declined the cash reward, asking that all proceeds go to funds supporting victims of the Charleston church massacre. Social media users raised more than $75,000 to fund legal expenses. South Carolina House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, a renowned defense attorney, has agreed to represent Newsome and Tyson as they face criminal charges.
I realized that now is the time for true courage the morning after the Charleston Massacre shook me to the core of my being. I couldn’t sleep. I sat awake in the dead of night. All the ghosts of the past seemed to be rising.
Not long ago, I had watched the beginning of Selma, the reenactment of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and had shuddered at the horrors of history.
But this was neither a scene from a movie nor was it the past. A white man had just entered a black church and massacred people as they prayed. He had assassinated a civil rights leader. This was not a page in a textbook I was reading nor an inscription on a monument I was visiting.
This was now.
This was real.
This was—this is—still happening.
I began my activism by participating in the Moral Monday movement, fighting to restore voting rights in North Carolina after the Supreme Court struck down key protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
I traveled down to Florida where the Dream Defenders were demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, who reminded me of a modern-day Emmett Till.
I marched with the Ohio Students Association as they demanded justice for victims of police brutality.
I watched in horror as black Americans were tear-gassed in their own neighborhoods in Ferguson, MO. “Reminds me of the Klan,” my grandmother said as we watched the news together. As a young black girl in South Carolina, she had witnessed the Klan drag her neighbor from his house and brutally beat him because he was a black physician who had treated a white woman.
I visited with black residents of West Baltimore, MD who, under curfew, had to present work papers to police to enter and exit their own neighborhood. “These are my freedom papers to show the slave catchers,” my friend said with a wry smile.
And now, in the past 6 days, I’ve seen arson attacks against 5 black churches in the South, including in Charlotte, NC where I organize alongside other community members striving to create greater self-sufficiency and political empowerment in low-income neighborhoods.
Marissa Alexander, the Florida mother whose case became a rallying cry for anti-racism activists and survivors of domestic violence, was released today after three years of incarceration.
Alexander had faced up to 60 years behind bars for firing a single shot near her abusive husband, unable to convince a jury she had feared for her life. A hearing Tuesday confirmed the terms: Having pleaded guilty to assault in exchange for credit for time served, she will be subject to two years of electronic monitoring and house arrest, except for approved appointments and employment.
Circuit Court Judge James Daniel acknowledged that the case had drawn national attention but claimed his decision was “not based on any public opinion of any larger issue of public interest or social concern, but on the specific facts of the case.”
Alexander’s case has long sparked outrage about the unequal application of the law for both black Americans and women. Alexander was prosecuted by Angela Corey, who was also the prosecutor in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the February 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. Corey did not appear at Tuesday’s hearing.
“We are thrilled that Marissa will finally be reunited with her children, her family, and her community,” said Sumayya Coleman, co-lead of the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign. “Today’s hearing revealed that Alexander intends to attend school to become a paralegal and she is a wonderful mother to her children who urgently need her. Amazingly, the State continued their campaign of punishment by trying to add two more years of probation.” But the state didn’t get its way.
In November, Alexander pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault with a weapon in exchange for credit for time served. A second trial had been planned for December, when Corey had planned to seek a 60-year sentence, triple the 20-year sentence Alexander got in her first trial.
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign and The Monument Quilt wrote on Facebook that “350 quilt squares containing stories from survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault will blanket the Duval County Courthouse lawn to let Jacksonville and the world know Marissa is NOT ALONE.” A fundraiser on Alexander’s behalf exceeded its goals, raising $58,297 from 1,122 backers on the site GoGetFunding.
“We have always believed that forcing Marissa to serve even one day in prison represents a profound and systemic attack on black women’s right to exist and all women’s right to self-defense,” the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign said in a statement after Alexander’s plea deal.
The incident in question took place in 2010, nine days after Alexander, now 34, gave birth to a daughter. Alexander testified that her estranged husband, Rico Gray, had physically abused her several times and that on that day, he threatened to kill her. No one was injured, but a jury convicted her in about 12 minutes.
Cartoonist and illustrator Barry Blitt is best known for his work with The New Yorker, and his latest cover for the magazine depicts Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a re-imagining of images seen in photos from the Selma-To-Montgomery march events. In the illustration, Rev. King is seen walking — arms locked — with slain Staten Island, N.Y., resident Eric Garner and fallen NYPD officer Wenjian Liuwith, slain Black teenagers Trayvon Martin and Michael “Mike” Brown in the background.
The image is enhanced due to the inclusion of the American flag behind the marchers, and the serene look on the faces of the figures invites a moment of reflection of what was lost. Blitt was inspired to draw the cover for the New Yorker’s upcoming cover story, “The Dream Of Reconciliation,” because of the Selma marches. With King’s birthday on Jan. 15th, and the upcoming recognition of the civil rights leader this coming Monday, the timeliness of the illustration is noteworthy.
“It struck me that King’s vision was both the empowerment of African Americans, the insistence on civil rights, but also the reconciliation of people who seemed so hard to reconcile,” he said. “In New York and elsewhere, the tension between the police and the policed is at the center of things. Like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, Martin Luther King was taken way too early. It is hard to believe things would have got as bad as they are if he was still around today.”
As the nation continues to grapple with the loss of Martin, Garner, Brown, Liu and his partner Officer Rafael Ramos, there is a collective outpouring of grief and questions that are still yet unanswered. Blitt, in his words, seems to recognize the weight of his art and the inquiries it will surely spark in the days to come.