|Intro||American civil rights activist: Co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement|
|Known for||Co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement|
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||4 January 1981, Los Angeles, United States of America|
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. Most notably, Garza co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement along with fellow activists Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.
Personal life and education
Alicia Garza was born in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California on January 4, 1981. Garza grew up in Oakland in a mix-raced household with a white, Jewish father and a black mother. Beginning in middle school and high school, Garza began advocating for her classmates to have access to information on reproductive health and contraceptives. Alongside her desire for reproductive equality, Garza considered herself a queer social justice activist and a Marxist. Garza graduated in 2002 from the University of California, 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 of murder in the death or Trayvon Martin, 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. She was also struck by the similarities of Trayvon Martin to her younger brother, feeling that it could have been him killed instead. The organization Black Lives Matter was spurred on by the killings of black people by police in recent media and racial disparities within the U.S. criminal legal system. Concerns were over violence from the police, mass incarceration, police militarization, and over-criminalization. In particular, the movement and Garza’s post became popularized after protests emerged in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer.
Alicia Garza’s initial Facebook post responsible for sparking the Black Lives Matter movement
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 and the world. However, Garza does not think of the Black Lives Matter Movement as ever being created. She feels her work is only a continuation of the resistance led by black people in America. The movement and Garza are credited for popularizing the use of social media for mass mobilization; a practice called “mediated mobilization”. This practice has been used by other movements such as the #MeToo movement.
The Movement for Black Lives
The Movement for Black Lives was created by Alicia Garza following concerns over the way that Black Lives Matter had become synonymous with the Ferguson riots. The Movement for Black Lives is the largest group inside the Black Lives Matter movement’s network. This group directs their activism based on Garza’s advocacy style which works outside of the existing power structure. They reject traditional tactics and avoid making connections and compromises with politicians.
Within the group, the power structure is different than most. They wanted to avoid the power structure they felt failed other black activist groups. The group puts those with the most marginalized identities in leadership positions. The group also created the Policy Table in 2015 in an attempt to translate their goals into a policy platform. This involved initiatives that give bail money to black mothers who could not afford it and a land-rights initiative.
Previously, Garza had served as the director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) 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).
In 2015, Garza was selected as the Member’s Choice for Community Grand Marshal at 2015 Pride celebration, as she was considered a local hero in Oakland for her contributions to the LGBTQ community and society at large. Over two dozen Black Lives Matter organizers and supporters marched in the Pride Parade behind Garza, who sat next to trans activist Miss Major, the previous year’s Community Grand Marshal.
In 2018, Garza launched Black Futures Lab, whose goal is to engage with advocate organizations to advance local, state, and federal policies that make black communities stronger. Following the foundation, Garza created the Black Census Project in part with Black Futures Lab in order to assess the complexity of black communities across America in greater detail. Garza divided the Black Census Project into creating separate studies focusing on the black LGBTQ community as well as the black community’s political engagement in the United States.
Garza presented at the 2016 Bay Area Rising event, speaking about the propagation of Black Lives Matter and human rights.
In 2017, Alicia Garza was selected as a guest speaker to speak on behalf of graduating students from San Francisco State University in California. In her speech, Garza decided her speech towards graduating black women as well as praising the persistent black women who came before her, saying they are the reason why women like her can do the activist work of today:
"Were it not for black women, there would be no Underground Railroad, no one to campaign against black bodies swinging from trees like strange fruit, there would be no protest songs like the ones that came from the toes, through the womb up, through the lungs and out of the brilliant mind and mouth of Nina Simone. There would be no black women voting like the 96 percent of us who did vote and said hell no to this administration. There would be no America were it not for black women. This is an ode to black women - because black women are magic. [...] We, I, you and me - we owe everything to black women. [...] Yes - all lives, all contributions. But this? This is bigger than all that. This is about black women, cisgender, transgender, no gender, disabled, queer, immigrant black women who time and time again keep trying to tell y'all and more than that... keep showing y'all. We are magic."
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.
Activism in politics
Supermajority was established in the spring of 2019 and is focused on creating political power for American women. The organization Supermajority was created by Garza, Cecile Richards, and Ai-jen Poo. Supermajority intends to "train and mobilize two million women across America to become organizers, activists, and leaders ahead of the 2020 election" to create a "multiracial, intergenerational movement for women's equality." One of the main goals of Supermajority is to create "'a women's new deal,'" with women's issues like "voting rights, gun control, paid family leave, and equal pay" being seen as "issues that impact everyone" for the 2020 presidency, as well as build a greater platform for women in politics. In the 2020 election, cofounder Cecile Richards says "[the group will be successful] if 54% of voters in this country are women and if we are able to insert into this country the issues that women care about and elect a president who’s committed to doing something about them."
Black Political Power
In 2018 Alicia Garza launched Black Future Labs, directed to supporting the black community achieve more political power. The first project for Black Future Labs was the Black Census Project. This project was the largest survey on Black People since the Reconstruction of the United States. The survey included questions on subjects such as political attitudes, organization affiliation, experiences with racism and police violence, perceptions of social movements, access to healthcare and economic well being, etc. Black Future Labs plans to use the results of the Black Census Project to determine pressing legislative and policy issues.
2016 Presidential Election
While Garza has been critical of Donald Trump, she has also been critical of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, saying "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, but promised to do everything in her power "to make sure that we are not led by Donald Trump" and she voted for Clinton in the general election.
2020 Presidential Election
Alicia Garza gave a speech to a crowd of 200 students on the 2020 elections in celebration of Black History Month. She spoke about how the Black Lives Matter Movement is misinterpreted as being anti-white, anti-cop, or a terrorist organization. In this speech, she showed support for the Green New Deal, condemned voter suppression, and called for more voter involvement.
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, Cullors, and 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.
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.