When Patrisse Cullors helped begin #BlackLivesMatter as a hashtag in 2013, it sparked a national movement that would last for years to come.
In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin murder and subsequent acquittal of his killer, Patrisse Cullors partnered with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi to take action.
Responding to the narratives swirling on digital platforms, Cullors began using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter after Garza used the statement on Facebook. The slogan helped put a fine point on the issues as Cullors, along with partners and community, began building the framework for large-scale conversations addressing police brutality, reimagining community safety, community reinvestment, and the impact of systemic injustices on Black and Brown communities.
“Black Lives Matter is our call to action,” said Cullors. “It is a tool to reimagine a world where black people are free to exist, free to live. It is a tool for our allies to show up differently for us.”
As an advocate for her brother, Cullors witnessed firsthand his brutalization in the Los Angeles County punitive system which greatly informed her perspective on prison abolition. Her work as an educator, author and activist has created a groundswell of interest in and understanding of the abolitionist movement while elevating conversations about defunding the police to an international level.
Cullors not only helped found the Black Lives Matter movement, she also founded Dignity and Power Now which successfully ensured a civilian oversight board would be commissioned to provide a layer of accountability and public engagement in managing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
She also serves on the board of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and recently released a new book, 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World: An Abolitionist’s Handbook intended to further the conversation around radical shifts in public safety.
“We will not stop fighting until every single Black life is provided the type of love and support we so desperately deserve.”