Black Lives Matter Movement Celebrates 10 Years of Activism, Reiterates Call for Defunding Law Enforcement

by Chloe Baker
racial justice

On its 10th anniversary, the Black Lives Matter movement commemorates a decade since its establishment in 2013 following the acquittal of the individual responsible for the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon Martin was fatally shot in 2012 while residing in a Florida gated community where his father lived. His case became an early symbol for a movement that now holds influence in politics, law enforcement, and broader discussions on racial progress within and beyond the United States.

To mark the milestone, activists and organizations associated with BLM have organized both in-person and virtual events. The renewed call to action includes advocating for the defunding of police departments and reinvesting in Black communities that have disproportionately suffered from police brutality, systemic bias within the criminal justice system, and mass incarceration.

In light of recent Supreme Court rulings impeding relief from student loan debt primarily burdening Black borrowers and prohibiting affirmative action in higher education, the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement’s existence becomes even more apparent. Melina Abdullah, a prominent activist within the movement and director of BLM Grassroots Inc., emphasizes the necessity to redouble efforts and commitment to ensuring that Black lives truly matter. She states, “We’re not just going to fight when it’s popular, but we’re going to fight because we need to fight.”

The “#BLMTurns10 People’s Justice Festival” will take place in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, on Saturday, resembling a village and serving as a cultural hub for Black Los Angelenos. The festival will feature various activities, including a pop-up garden dedicated to the families of individuals affected by police violence and white supremacist acts. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, has been invited to deliver a speech, while scholar and activist Dr. Cornel West, running as a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election, will give the keynote address.

The BLM movement emerged in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer of mixed white and Hispanic heritage who fatally shot Trayvon Martin a year earlier. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and admitted to profiling the Black teenager as a potential burglar, having followed him in the Sanford, Florida, gated community.

Trayvon Martin’s encounter with Zimmerman, as well as the delayed arrest and charging of the gunman, raised concerns about law enforcement’s handling of suspected acts of vigilantism against Black victims. Former President Barack Obama, the first Black president of the United States, further emphasized public concerns about fairness in the case by stating, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

On July 13, 2013, a Florida jury composed of six women, all but one of whom were white, found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter. The immediate response to the verdict reverberated throughout Florida and the United States, fueling a new generation of Black racial justice organizations like the Dream Defenders and BYP100.

The three activists credited with popularizing the phrase “Black lives matter” as an affirmation and organizing strategy initially committed to building a decentralized organization governed by consensus. The shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 further elevated the phrase to a powerful rallying cry for progressives, while simultaneously making it a target for derision by law enforcement unions and political conservatives.

Although one founder remained actively involved, most of the founders distanced themselves from the growing organization within three years of its inception. The unprecedented wave of donations to the movement in 2020 following protests over George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police highlighted the need for enhanced infrastructure within BLM.

Amid disagreements with grassroots activists regarding the movement’s direction, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. has taken responsibility for managing a charitable endowment worth tens of millions of dollars. BLM Grassroots Inc. operates independently.

To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of BLM, the foundation has launched the Defund the Police Week of Action campaign. As part of this initiative, a digital ad echoing the rallying cries for defunding police departments from 2020 has been released. The organization also encourages supporters to urge local and national elected officials to introduce a draft proclamation designating July 13 as “Black Lives Matter Day.”

D’Zhane Parker, a board member of the BLM foundation, emphasized the importance of focusing on the well-being of the people rather than law enforcement, stating, “The safest places around the world don’t have more police, more jails, more prisons, or harsher sentences. They have better access to economic opportunities, quality education, stable housing, and healthcare.”

Aaron Morrison is a member of AP’s Race and Ethnicity team based in New York. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorison.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about racial justice

What is the Black Lives Matter movement?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is a social activism movement that emerged in 2013 following the acquittal of the individual responsible for the death of Trayvon Martin. It advocates for racial justice, protests against police brutality, and seeks to address systemic issues affecting Black communities.

What is the significance of the 10-year milestone for the Black Lives Matter movement?

The 10-year milestone represents a decade of activism and highlights the enduring commitment of the Black Lives Matter movement to fight for racial equality and justice. It serves as a reminder of the movement’s impact on politics, law enforcement, and broader conversations about racial progress.

What are the main goals of the Black Lives Matter movement?

The Black Lives Matter movement aims to combat police brutality, advocate for the defunding of police departments, and reinvest in Black communities that have been disproportionately affected by systemic racism. It also seeks to address unequal treatment in criminal justice systems and challenge mass incarceration.

How is the Black Lives Matter movement commemorating its 10-year anniversary?

The movement is commemorating its 10-year anniversary through a series of in-person and virtual events. These events include the “#BLMTurns10 People’s Justice Festival,” featuring speeches, cultural activities, and discussions on racial justice. Additionally, there is a renewed push for action, such as advocating for defunding the police and urging elected officials to recognize “Black Lives Matter Day.”

What is the role of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc.?

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. manages a charitable endowment and provides organizational infrastructure for the movement. It works alongside grassroots organizations like BLM Grassroots Inc. to advance the goals of the movement, raise awareness, and support initiatives related to racial justice.

How has the Black Lives Matter movement evolved since its inception?

Since its establishment, the Black Lives Matter movement has grown in prominence and influence. It has mobilized activists, inspired protests, and fostered important conversations on racial equality. The movement has also faced challenges, including debates over its direction and the need for increased infrastructure to handle the wave of donations received in recent years.

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EqualityAdvocate July 13, 2023 - 9:20 pm

Finally, a movement that ain’t afraid to challenge the system! BLM fightin’ for what’s right, pushin’ for equality & dismantlin’ systemic racism. It’s about time we address these issues head-on! #BLMTurns10

FreedomFighter July 14, 2023 - 7:04 am

BLM’s 10th anniversary, a reminder of the struggle. They’ve faced opposition, but they keep marchin’ on, demandin’ justice for Trayvon Martin and countless others. The fight for racial justice ain’t over yet, but BLM be leadin’ the way!


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