The co-creator of Black Lives Matter spoke about how young people can create and participate in movements for social and political change at a webinar Tuesday.
Alicia Garza focused on what it means to build movements for power and how to organize to affect change, which she wrote about in her recent book, “The Purpose of Power.” Rashad Robinson – the president of Color of Change, a progressive nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization – moderated the event, which was hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore.
Garza said she became an author to share her own experiences and perspectives, rather than having someone else tell her story of creating the movement. She said she wanted to share how movements happen to inspire others to make change as well.
“We spend every minute of every day changing the rules,” Garza said. “BLM took off in ways I could never have imagined. I wanted to be able to expose what the offline world looks like using my own life.”
Garza said people should also commit to a movement that has been organized in addition to creating their own. She said she learned this lesson from her mother when she was young, which she said inspired her to engage in activism starting when she was 12 years old.
“There was something really powerful about seeing a problem, making a plan to change it and actually winning that change, and I started to learn what it means to bring people together in order to accomplish that,” she said.
After 20 years in the field, she said she has recognized that at the core of what activists care about and want is dignity and their movement to survive.
“The movement values assure dignity and survival regardless of race, gender, economic status or any other rule that’s been put in place to leave us out and leave us behind,” she said.
Garza said she wants readers of her book to learn how to effectively and strategically fight for power. Power allows people to make choices about how and if they move forward with a movement, she said.
Garza said she invites young people, as change-makers and decision-makers, to think about the purpose of power to fight for it.
“Our task is to build power and transform it, and if that is the only way that we can ensure dignity and survival for everyone, it won’t just come from taking things apart,” she said.
Garza said people should take care of the flaws in aspects of society that need to be fixed and be part of the change the BLM movement calls for.
“If we got rid of every terrible thing in society right now, what would be built in its place and how do we get there?” she said. “That is what movements are here to accomplish and that is the role of a change maker and all of that requires power.”