Co-founder of Black Lives Matter speaks at Women of Color Conference

Many students shed tears of inspiration and passion on Wednesday at the first Women of Color Conference held in the ballroom of Sonoma State University’s Student Center.

Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, was the guest speaker.

Cullors grew up in Los Angeles, and came out to her family as queer when she was 16 years old. Moving away from home after this, she created close bonds with other young black women who also identified as queer. The summer of 2013 was when Cullors, alongside her two friends, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, initially created Black Lives Matter through a hashtag on social media. They began this movement directly after George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, was found not guilty in the killing of African American teenager, Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Many people have spoken poorly about Black Lives Matter, she said, arguing that it’s racist itself, and suggesting the opposite of equality. In response to those misrepresentations, Cullors discussed what she believes the movement is really about. “Black Lives Matter is not about a single charismatic leader,” said Cullors. “Black Lives Matter is about black folks rising up, saying enough is enough.”

She said she believes it began 25 years ago in Los Angeles when black people rose up after the infamous incident when white policemen brutalized Rodney King. That incident was the wake up call over black people’s mistreatment that had gone on for a long time. The video of King’s beating created a media frenzy, allowing people across the world to see what had happened, she said.

Something Cullors is extremely passionate about is advocating for the fight to not re-elect President Donald Trump. When Trump was elected as 45th president of the United States, Cullors said she broke down emotionally and was worried for her family. 

“With all of my organizing and, sort of, the ways I know how to fight things, I was like, ‘I don’t know how to fight this,’” said Cullors in reaction to Trump winning the election.

Cullors invited her partner, Janaya Khan, on stage to join in opening up the discussion to question and answer session. A student asked about how the media plays a role in the Black Lives Matter movement. Cullors said, “The things we have right now to help us see and know more, we should utilize them. I love that there’s a world of blogs, podcasts out there where folks are able to share their own messages, stories, and news.”

Sunday Simon, a Sonoma State student who attended the conference said,“I feel like there’s very limited times where women of all color come together and talk about issues that mean something to us. For this to go on so we could all be in one setting and have a conversation about what we want to happen, what we want changed, and what affects us, is great.”

Cullors said she believes the people who support Black Lives Matter believe that every person, no matter their color or background, can make a difference. She was extremely inclusive to people of every race, assuring everyone in the room that they, too, can create change.