Ten years ago, George Zimmerman was acquitted after fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin the year before.
The murder and the trial results sparked "a love letter" to Black people from Alicia Garza, who wrote, "We don't deserve to be killed with impunity. We need to love ourselves and fight for a world where black lives matter. Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter." The Facebook post spurred a viral hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, and that spurred a movement, birthed on July 13, 2013.
Since then, the hashtag has been used in 44 million tweets, according to Pew Research. Many of those were related to police-involved shootings of Black men, like the 2014 police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the police-involved death of George Floyd in 2020, which was the peak year for "Black Lives Matter" in Google Search. Also in 2016, when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt in protest during the National Anthem, there was a spark in the phrase's prevalence.
Through the years, the movement has grown and changed, but on its 10-year anniversary, July 13 serves as a milestone yet a reminder that the group's mission isn't wholly fulfilled yet.
"Then and now, Black children, women, men, and gender non-conforming people are widely perceived as threats rather than human beings that deserve rights, dignity and joy," Black Lives Matter tweeted. "Although the Black Lives Matter movement was born from our collective pain, it has catalyzed a generation of organizers, activists, and agents of our liberation. We will win liberation because we must."
The original purpose of the Black Lives Matter hashtag and the subsequent movement was "to fighting racism and anti-Black violence, especially in the form of police brutality," according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Its 10-year anniversary sparked renewed calls for the same goals.
"10 years later, our vision hasn't changed. Defund the police. Invest in our communities," its website states.
On Thursday, the organization is in the midst of its "Defund the Police Week of Action" centered on promoting the Community Safety Agenda. It also called for July 13 to officially be made National Black Lives Matter Day to honor "the countless Black folks who have been injured, attacked, murdered, and impacted by police and vigilante violence."
Data shows Black people are disproportionately affected by police brutality. Though Black people make up about 12% of the population, they make up 26% of all police killings, according to the 2022 Police Violence Report. That proportion makes them about about twice as likely to be shot and killed compared to white people. They're also more likely to be unarmed and less likely to be threatening someone when killed, the report said.
In recent years, left-leaning groups and activisits have joined in discourse to defund the police, and Black Lives Matter believes it's the reason the point has been put on the political map.
"... One of the main pillars of progress in our short 10 years as a modern-day civil rights movement is that we have made our demand, to defund the police, politically popular and achievable, and a mainstream demand... divest from police and invest in us" said Shalomyah Bowers, a board member for Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.
And although many people have joined in the same mission as Black Lives Matter, its search prevalence and support aren't as they once were.
Pew Research shows about half of the country supports the movement, though two-thirds — 67% — expressed support in 2020. The polling says about 4 in 10 White respondents see the movement as divisive and dangerous.
"What we see in the study is the decline in support for our movement is almost exclusively due to a sharp decrease among White adults — which is not in the least surprising. Perhaps it was just trendy for these folks to protest and make a cool sign in 2020," Black Lives Matter tweeted. "But we’ve never held our breath to see if White people will support our liberation. Historically, White racial resentment towards civil and human rights for Black folks has been sustained and profound."
Still, Black Lives Matter's presence may always remain ingrained in culture and activism until better opportunities, policing and its other goals gain action.
"We still have a lot to do as it relates to ending state-sanctioned violence," Cicley Gay, board chair for the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, told Scripps News. "We have to count our wins, and we have to use those as motivating forces to keep moving forward."
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