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Spoken word artist Crystal Valentine performs a very emotionally charged poem titled “Black Privilege” in a poetry slam competition. One of the most moving lines in her poem tackled the issue of police brutality against black men, and the scourge of gun violence taking way too many young promising lives in urban communities. She says “Black privilege is me having already memorized my nephew’s eulogy, my brother’s eulogy, my father’s eulogy, my unconceived child’s eulogy. Black privilege is me thinking my sister’s name is safe from that list.” Valentine is one of six performing poets who represented NYU at the poetry slam this year. Her team ended up winning which was no surprise to anyone who listened to her performance.
Ms Valentine makes me proud to be part of a resilient culture who takes oppression and intolerance and turns it into extraordinary talent and beautiful artistry. If you’re not moved by her amazing 3 minute video clip, you should contact a doctor immediately because something is seriously wrong with you. She poured her heart out on that stage layering vulnerability on top of confidence on top of self critical introspection. There aren’t many people who can touch your soul with just a few words. That’s power. That’s talent. That’s the power of blackness.
After the murder of unarmed black teenager Mike Brown by a white Ferguson Missouri police officer, a protest movement began to emerge. The most visible and well organized movement was started by 3 women of color who were fed up with the injustice and wanted to do whatever they could to unite everyone around the idea that black lives have just as much value as any other and highlight the very apparent fact that a lot of police and other people in positions of power do not value black lives. This ugly truth has been verified by extensive studies and backed-up by police arrest/encounter statistics in every police department all over the country. I’ve written a number of blogs about the data and provided source information in every one of them, so if that’s what you’re looking for feel free to look through Socially Urban’s archives. This blog is about the 3 founders of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and how some well-meaning misguided men are questioning the movement because the founders are gay women. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi jumped right in from the very beginning in Ferguson even before the media arrived. They organized, they protested, they marched, they kept everyone up to date on twitter, and dedicated themselves to this movement. Black Lives Matter gave the movement a tangible legitimacy that it seemed to be lacking from the outside looking in.
When the movement went national they added another integral piece to the protest movement’s leadership and his name was Darnell L Moore who also happens to be gay. Keep in mind that none of these people are getting paid or doing any of this for money. Black Lives Matter is a nonprofit protest movement that started very small but quickly
became the catalyzing force behind a well oiled tech-savvy social media explosion that allowed the protesters on the streets in different cities to pool resources and push for specific political changes in the cities where police brutality surfaced and gained national attention. Here’s how Alicia Garza puts it “We were humbled when cultural workers, artists, designers and techies offered their labor and love to expand #BlackLivesMatter beyond a social media hashtag. Opal, Patrisse, and I created the infrastructure for this movement project—moving the hashtag from social media to the streets. Our team grew through a very successful Black Lives Matter ride in Ferguson, led and designed by Patrisse Cullors and Darnell L. Moore.”
Other protest movements and community activist began to use the “Black Lives Matter” slogan and infrastructure in other protest related activities and events. But when they would call for permission they never wanted the input of the founders. They would write articles and stories and completely omit the 3 lesbian founders and Darnell L Moore. Now that all of them are speaking out about it and wanting to bring attention to the work the black lgbt community is doing in the anti-police violence movement. Some are trying to inject their personal homophobia into this situation by questioning the motives of the Black Lives Matters movement strictly based on the sexuality of the BLM founders. altogether. If you’re a black person gay or straight this attempt to divide and conquer should sicken you. Police brutality and how they devalue the lives of black people needs EVERYONE who’s willing and able to fight. Gay activist bring so much knowledge and know-how to the movement because we’ve been relentlessly fighting and protesting for the right to marry for the past decade. They patterned their “right to marry” movement after MLK’s civil rights movement in the late 60’s
and because of that we now have legal gay marriage in 37 states with a case before the Supreme Court right now that will lead to gay marriage rights in all 50 states. You have to question the motivation of someone who’s willing to destroy an entire movement because gay people make them uncomfortable. The gay people protesting right beside you for the same cause is not the enemy. If we start thinking like that, we’ve already lost before we’ve even began. People like Tariq Nasheed who’s been one of the most vocal critics against lgbt people of color, has a history of misogynistic homophobic divisive hate-speech and if anyone cares about the movement against police brutality specifically against black men, they’ll see him for what he really is. A pseudo-intellectual idiot who should’t be taken seriously on any level. His message is outdated and counter-productive, and if listened to will divide and weaken the collective force the “Black Lives Matter” campaign has amassed. But no matter how hard they try to bury the 3 lesbian founders, we will continue to protest, speak-up, and march for what’s right. Whether we get the recognition or not.
Very relevant side note about a civil rights icon who most Americans haven’t heard of:
Martin Luther King’s most trusted adviser was a black gay man named Bayard Rustin. MLK knew Rustin was gay but saw the value he brought to the movement. Without Rustin there wouldn’t
have been a March on Washington, and MLK’s I Have A Dream speech wouldn’t have had the same grandeur and resonance without the image of 250,000 people of all colors uniting on the national mall all the way to the steps of the capital just to hear this extraordinary black leader speak. Whether there in person or watching on tv at home, the entire nation was captivated. That whole event was created and planned by Bayard Rustin. An out gay proud black civil rights hero who deserves to be recognized for his work within the movement.