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'A Movement, Not A Moment': Black Lives Matter Marks 8 Years

A woman holds a Black Lives Matter flag during an event in remembrance of George Floyd outside the Minnesota State Capitol on May 24, 2021. (Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman holds a Black Lives Matter flag during an event in remembrance of George Floyd outside the Minnesota State Capitol on May 24, 2021. (Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

Eight years ago this month, a hashtag on social media led to a global movement against systemic racism and police brutality.

In 2013, #BlackLivesMatter was created by three Black women — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi — following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Last year proved to be a watershed moment for the BLM movement when protests erupted across the country and the world after the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota by former police officer Derek Chauvin. The moment sparked a racial reckoning in the United States.

Melina Abdullah, a Black scholar, activist and co-founder of Los Angeles’ Black Lives Matter chapter, says there’s been steady progress in growing BLM worldwide.

“When we first convened to form Black Lives Matter,” she says, “our pledge was to build a movement, not a moment.”

TheLAnd magazine labeled Abdullah the “scourge of the LAPD,” one of her most coveted titles, she says. Abdullah doesn’t view herself as a BLM spokesperson but rather as an organizer who collaborates with thousands of other people in Los Angeles and beyond to transform public safety.

In the U.S. alone, 15 to 20 million people participated in Black Lives Matter protests last year. More than 4,400 cities and towns around the globe have held BLM demonstrations since May 2020. The massive swaths of people who showed up to demand change is encouraging, Abdullah says, but protests are just the start of the work.

“We have to not just say ‘Black lives matter,’ but do work to make Black lives matter,” she says.

For nearly a decade, BLM has been working to “end systems of state-sanctioned violence,” including reducing police departments’ budgets and rerouting the funds to build mental health, education and housing systems “that actually make communities safe,” she says.

The murder of Floyd also came at a pivotal time, she says. His tragic death represents “more than a thousand murders that are on record that happen at the hands of police every single year in this country,” she says.

Abdullah remembers the tenacity of 17-year-old Darnell Frazier, who filmed the viral video of Chauvin on Floyd’s neck and “made sure the world saw what happens at the hands of this kind of violent form of policing that plagues our community.”

In another eight years from now, Abdullah hopes BLM has “fundamentally transformed” policing systems such as qualified immunity and powerful police associations. She believes reinvesting the funds will make communities safe.

Jeannette Muhammad produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtSerena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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