Alicia Garza (born January 4, 1981) is an American civil rights activist and editorial writer from Oakland, California. She has organized around the issues of health, student services and rights, rights for domestic workers, ending police brutality, anti-racism, and violence against trans and gender non-conforming people of color. Her editorial writing has been published by The Guardian, The Nation, The Feminist Wire, Rolling Stone, HuffPost and Truthout. She currently directs Special Projects at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Garza also co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement.
Personal life and education
Garza grew up in a mix-raced household. Beginning in middle school and high school, Alicia Garza began advocating for her classmates to have access to information on reproductive health and contraceptives. Garza graduated in 2002 from the University of California in San Diego with a degree in anthropology and sociology. In 2008, she married Malachi Garza, a transgender male activist.
Black Lives Matter
With Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, Garza birthed the Black Lives Matter movement. Garza is credited with inspiring the slogan when, after the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, she posted on Facebook: "Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter, Black Lives Matter" which Cullors then shared with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Garza's organization Black Lives Matter was spurred on by the deaths of black people by police in recent media and racial disparities within the U.S. criminal justice system. She was also struck by the similarities of Trayvon Martin to her younger brother, feeling that it could have been him killed instead. Garza led the 2015 Freedom Ride to Ferguson, organized by Cullors and Darnell Moore that launched the building of BlackLivesMatter chapters across the United States. Garza self-identifies as a queer woman, and her spouse is biracial and transgender; Garza draws on all of these experiences in her organizing and activism.
Previously, Garza had served as the director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her time in the position, she won the right for youth to use public transportation for free in San Francisco and also fought gentrification and exposing police brutality in the area. Garza is an active participant in several Bay Area social movement groups. She is on the board of directors of Forward Together's Oakland California branch and is also involved with Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity. She is also on the board of directors for Oakland's School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL).
- Garza presented at the 2016 Bay Area Rising event, speaking about the propagation of Black Lives Matter and human rights.
- On May 26, 2017, Garza delivered a commencement speech, which was dedicated to black women, to 35,000 San Francisco State University Graduate students.
Act of protest
Garza participated in an attempt to stop a Bay Area Rapid Transit train for four and a half hours, a time chosen to reflect the time that Michael Brown's body was left in the street after he was killed. The protesters stopped the train for an hour and a half by chaining themselves both to the inside of the train and the outside, making it impossible for the door to close. The event ended when police removed the protestors by dismantling part of the train.
2016 presidential race
While Garza has been critical of Donald Trump, she has also been critical of Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. She declined to vote for Clinton, claiming that "The Clintons use black people for votes, but then don't do anything for black communities after they're elected. They use us for photo ops". She voted for Bernie Sanders in the California Democratic Primary.
Recognition and awards
Garza was recognized on the Root 100 list of African American Achievers between the ages of 25 and 45. She was also recognized on the Politico50 2015 guide to Thinkers, Doers, and Visionaries along with Cullors and Tometi.
Garza has received the Local Hero award from the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She has been twice awarded by the Harvey Milk Democratic Club the Bayard Rustin Community Activist Award for her work fighting racism and gentrification in San Francisco. She has also been awarded the Jeanne Gauna Communicate Justice Award from the Centre for Media Justice.
In 2015, Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi (as "The Women of #BlackLivesMatter") were among the nine runners-up for The Advocate's Person of the Year.
In November 2017, Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi were awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. And in 2018 Alicia Garza was named in the inaugural cohort of The Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity (AFRE). This first cohort of 29 Atlantic Fellows are focused on challenging racism in the U.S. and South Africa and disrupting the rise of white nationalism and supremacy.