'Black Lives Matter Began As A Love Letter To Black People'

'Black Lives Matter Began As A Love Letter To Black People'

Alicia Garza, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, spoke at the University of Richmond last week.
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Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke on Tuesday at the University of Richmond. I was very interested to hear what she would say because of the climate of this campus. A few weeks ago, the opinion article, "#DearWhitePeople stop hiding your racial indifference," was published on The Collegian, and I feel as though it accurately portrays some of the racial inequalities on campus. It's an interesting look into how an an anonymous app allows for students to talk about their thoughts surrounding similar issues about this movement.

Because let's be real: a lot of people on this campus have never been in this sort of situation of living in fear for their lives simply because of the color of their skin. This isn't to say that people on campus haven't faced oppression or that they don't understand the issue (though I do think that's a prevalent issue), but they've never faced the circumstances Garza was talking about. And I'll be honest, neither have I. I face white privilege every day, but I'm trying to understand it more clearly on a societal level. But based on some of the interactions I've had at Richmond, I think it can be said that there are many who don't even try to understand the privilege they have and are quick to make assumptions about movements protecting basic human rights.

I was interested as to what Garza would say because of the environment she was entering. Would she acknowledge that she was at a school stereotyped as 'rich white kids'? Would students who were required to go to the event protest and argue, similarly to how they did when we had a peaceful protest on campus in the fall regarding the Black Lives Matter movement? Would Garza talk about her personal experience or try to push the movement onto those who weren't already a part of it?

I came in as an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement and left even more a fan. Garza held herself as soft-spoken, passionate, but not loud, not preachy, and the ultimate message she promoted was one of love. How could you argue with love?

Her words expressed a sense of peace and love for all and acknowledged the classic arguments she had heard through her time as a part of this movement.

She spoke about how hashtags don't start movements, people do.

"There's no way I could've started this by myself. You know why? Because black people have been struggling since 1619," she said.

She said the project began as a "love letter" to black people. A simple recognition that an adult had killed a child and got away with it. She spoke calmly and simply.

"The project was a way to say 'Black folks, we're good.'

"We're not problems to be fixed or eliminated.

"It doesn't matter if you sag your pants or wear them around your waist, you are still worthy," she said.

"Of life. Of deserving to live and not live in fear of being killed based on the color of your skin.

"Somehow we've gotten to a place where we shoot first and ask questions later," she said in reference to that we search for reasons why Trayvon Martin died instead of why a man killed him for no apparent reason and faced no penalties.

I sat in the audience, smiling not because any of this was good. It was sad beyond belief, but I hoped that something would hit a nerve with those in the audience that came in skeptical of the movement and wanting to doubt her. I smiled because hopefully, this would be the first step in an open dialogue at the University of Richmond.

Because so often, the space for an open dialogue is what's needed, which was actually the purpose for the origins of Black Lives Matter.

"All lives do, in fact, matter," Garza said, "We fight like hell to make sure they matter in practice.

"We just spoke from our hearts. From our experiences with black death.

"We wanted to create space to tell our own stories on our own terms.

"You can't tweet your way to power-- it's a consolidation of individual efforts where we grappled with our real contradictions as people."

The acknowledgment that the redundant argument "all lives matter" was powerful and real. It was applicable to our campus.

"Right now, some lives matter more than others," Garza said.

While some feel that the movement is accusatory, Garza emphasized that "White supremacy isn't to be inflammatory. It is to name the disease that is killing every single one of us, just in different ways."

I sat in amazement at her eloquence as she spoke about love for all. She spoke about the need for equal pay not just for women, who make 78 cents on the dollar to men, but for black women who make 64 cents. And Latinos make 58 cents, and it's even fewer for indigenous women or trans women. Arguments that surround the Black Lives Matter movement consist of illogical thoughts that it's only for black people or that it's full of violence or that it's putting the lives of black people ahead of others.

To which I'd like to reiterate Garza's words, "We are not separating people. ... Not a movement for black people, it's for all of us to get right."

Black Lives Matter is about love and equality for all. It's about acknowledging that white privilege exists and that black people face problems none of us will ever be able to understand on a personal level, but fighting to make sure we're not a part of the problem, but contributing to the awareness of this privilege and to the solution. It's about stepping outside of your comfort zone and understanding the societal system that exists in our favor. It's about not feeling as though you're being accused, but that you're a part of something that was taught to you since you were young and changing from it. It's understanding that we are part of a disease that favors white people and working to change it.

We are all ignorant to some of these issues, but instead of arguing against our ignorance, let's try to solve some of the ignorance.

It's about working to be a part of this "love letter."

Cover Image Credit: thegoodfight.fm

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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The Gap Between Knowledge And Action

Let's talk about action. There seems to be a mass phenomenon of disconnect between knowledge and action. Why is it that increased knowledge is not motivating people towards increased action.

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In the world today, there are all sorts of social and political movements. Though society has always been flawed with endless problems, people are more aware of these problems today than ever. The rise of the internet, smartphones, and social media has created a new social climate of awareness as a result of greater interconnectedness. But how is it that the public is growing more aware, yet nothing seems to be changing?

I began really thinking about this perplexity recently, as I listened to a TedTalk discussing global warming. According to public polling from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Americans agree that global warming is occurring. But according to the same polling, only 40% of Americans think climate change will affect them personally and are adjusting their lifestyles because of it. This is the gap between knowledge and action. Two-thirds of Americans acknowledge climate change, but only less than half are doing something about it. Something is being lost in translation, but what is it?

This phenomenon extends far beyond climate change though. Poverty. Hunger. Displacement. Lack of access to clean water. Sexual inequality. Like I said earlier, there are an endless array of problems the world faces, and we are more aware of them than ever, but how do we link knowledge and action?

We know that most issues that have risen due to globalization, affect the people who contribute to the problem the least, the most. Global warming is disproportionately affecting those in poverty who can't afford to recover from wildfires in California, stronger hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, or increasingly severe droughts in Syria. People in Flint, Michigan or Karachi, Pakistan lack clean water because of the actions of people far richer than themselves. Is a lack of personal victimization the reason? Is raised awareness and stagnant action a symptom of a bigger issue of lacking compassion or are people just lazy?

As a nineteen-year-old college student, maybe I'm naïve, but I refuse to believe that the U.S. and global, society as a whole is lacking in action because they are lacking in compassion or because third world problems "are not their problems." Philosopher, Christopher Heath Wellman, put it best when saying to "[n]otice how awkward it is to protest that those of us who are privileged cannot be obligated to change the system because we are impotent in the face of its enormity, while simultaneously suggesting that those who are starving to death are entitled to no assistance because they are responsible for the political and economic institutions which led to their ruin" in regards to world hunger.

You may be thinking, "OK but how can I make a difference, as just one person?" What Wellman meant in his quote was that you alone cannot make a difference for people starving in another country, but neither can they. It's only when we come together as a society and commit to action can we overcome these issues. Perhaps this is my Global Studies major speaking, but we are all citizens of the world, not just citizens of the U.S. and we must allow our compassion accordingly. No one has any choice in where, what circumstances, or what society they are born into so to refuse action which would help victims of circumstance would be an ignorant form of elitism.

This problem isn't exclusively on the national and global scale either; everyday people see problems in their personal lives and yet, only a small minority take action. Take, for example, people who stress about procrastination, but never change their time management habits. People who make the same New Year's Resolution every year because they never follow suit. Smokers who want to quit but don't try. Students who complain about poor grades but don't make time to study. Even in our own personal lives, knowledge rarely seems to prompt action.

I don't have an easy fix for this. And I don't hold the solutions to global warming, poverty, hunger, lack of access to clean water, or sexual inequality. But I do know that it doesn't need to be this way. It's often said that recognizing you have an issue is half the battle, the next half is action. Every day, our knowledge of the world and everything which inhabits it is increasing, the time for action is now. If we all, individually, take it upon ourselves to care for one another and work towards a better world, in small ways, I believe that together, we can make anything a reality.

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