For the Founders, Black Lives Matter Network is not ‘just’ about extrajudicial killings and police reform. Rather, it is an intervention: Black Lives Matter demands that American society reconsider how it values Black lives by identifying where and how Black life is cut short by the state, whether in viral videos of police brutality, the self-fulfilling prophecy of the criminal justice system, or in areas where Black communities disproportionally face homelessness, poverty and economic disparity.
Black Lives Matter is our call to action. It is about replacing narratives of Black criminality with Black humanity. It is a tool to reimagine a world where Black people are free to exist, free to live, and a tool for our allies to show up for us.
As we say ‘Black Lives Matter’, you see the light that comes inside of people from Black communities and other communities. People are like, ‘I’m going to stand on the side of Black lives.’ You see people transforming, and that’s a different type of work. For me, that is a spiritual work, a healing work. What a great time to be alive.
Patrisse Cullors, Co-Founder
Black Lives Matter is about changing culture and changing the conversation: If it is true that Black lives matter, then what does that mean for police reform, for our justice systems, for schools, for jobs, for infrastructure, and for economic development? If Black lives matter, then what needs to change in politics and in the media?
In only a few years, it has rapidly evolved well beyond a hashtag, into a social movement that is healing and organising communities across the USA, and has both political aims as well as visionary policy demands.
Vision, leadership, heart and courage
Without justice, peace is hollow and fragile. As societies and human beings, we cannot be at peace when people around us are suffering. Or when rules, institutions and behaviours that shape our daily lives – visible or invisible – tell us that the lives of people around us matter less, or don’t matter at all.
The committee noted that the conversation about Black Lives Matter is an age-old conversation, but commended today’s movement for creating a unique opportunity to change the course of history:
Black Lives Matter offers bold and visionary solutions to build societies where Black people, and by extension all people, are free to live safe and dignified lives. This vision of love, hope, resistance and dissent resonates around the globe and particularly in Australia where the struggle with racism towards our First Peoples, asylum seekers and other excluded and marginalised communities scars our country and tarnishes our international reputation.
To turn a radically inclusive message into a rallying cry for millions of people requires vision, leadership, heart and courage. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi and the many other Black Lives Matter leaders challenge us all to rethink, reimagine and reconstruct the societies we live in. This is an urgent and vital challenge, not least here in Australia, a country that struggles to come to terms with its past and fails to right ongoing wrongs.
This is the first time that a movement and not a person has been awarded the Peace Prize – a timely choice. Climate change is escalating fast, increasing inequality and racism are feeding divisiveness, and we are in the middle of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Yet many establishment leaders across the world stick their heads in the sand or turn their backs on justice, fairness and equality. The power of ordinary people is a phenomenal force for change – now more than ever, popular movements and political resistance is crucial.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network declared “we receive this award with tremendous gratitude and in solidarity with organizers throughout Australia who, in the face of egregious oppression, fightback against the state and proclaim that all Black Lives Matter.”
The Sydney Peace Prize is an affirmation and reminds us that we are on a righteous path. Accepting this award is about our people on the ground striving for justice every single day. It’s truly meaningful to be recognized in this way. We’ll continue to push forward until structural racism is dismantled and every Black life matters. It’s our duty in times like this to keep our eyes steadfast on the freedom we deserve.
Opal Tometi, Co-founder Black Lives Matter and Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)