Feminist Hero Friday: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tomei (Founders of #BlackLivesMatter)

By Michelle Kiang

February 12, 2016

“Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.  It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.  It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.” - Alicia Garza

In order to create social change, we must carefully think about whose stories we know, whose names we know, and who gets to become a hero. We need to ask ourselves why we remember, and know, and sanctify some activists, leaders, and organizers but not others.

When #BlackLivesMatter first appeared on my computer screen and for years following that moment, I did not know that the movement, the hashtag, and the call to action was founded by three queer Black women. Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi created #BlackLivesMatter, the largest, and most well-known justice movement currently happening in the United States of America. Yet, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi are not household names.

In “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement,” (which you should DEFINITELY read) Alicia Garza writes:

“When you design an event / campaign / et cetera based on the work of queer Black women, don’t invite them to participate in shaping it, but ask them to provide materials and ideas for next steps for said event, that is racism in practice.  It’s also hetero-patriarchal. Straight men, unintentionally or intentionally, have taken the work of queer Black women and erased our contributions.  Perhaps if we were the charismatic Black men many are rallying around these days, it would have been a different story, but being Black queer women in this society (and apparently within these movements) tends to equal invisibility and non-relevancy.”

In an era where social media rules and the Internet unites, we forget that there are people doing necessary work to activate and facilitate movements like #BlackLivesMatter, which aim to change policy, perception, and interrupt violence. The founders of #BlackLivesMatter are our feminist heroes because their endless dedication to organizing and activism, their effective strategizing, their immeasurable brilliance, their call for a Black liberation movement that is intersectional and inclusive, and their love for their work inspire us to be active participants in ending oppression for marginalized peoples and push us to think about the importance of Black liberation and celebration impacts us all. The work of Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi is expansive and it is changing our world, it’s about time that their names became household names.

These are the brief bios of three faces, voices, and names you need to know and remember (also, you should check out their work, and what THEY have to say about their work by clicking on their twitter bios):

Patrisse Cullors is an artist, organizer and freedom fighter living and working in L.A.

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“I identify as an organizer versus an activist because I believe an organizer is the smallest unit that you build your team around. The organizer is the person who gets the press together and who builds new leaders, the person who helps to build and launch campaigns, and is the person who decides what the targets will be and how we’re going to change this world.” - Patrisse Cullors


Alicia Garza is the Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance living in San Francisco


“When Black people get free, everybody gets free...We’re not saying Black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways.  We remain in active solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation and we know that our destinies are intertwined.” - Alicia Garza in “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement”

Opal Tometi is a Nigerian-American writer, strategist, and community organizer living in New York


“Black Lives Matter is really an affirmation for our people. It’s a love note for our people, but it’s also a demand. We know that the system was not designed for justice for us.” - Opal Tometi in this interview

So, click on their Twitter accounts, click on their websites, read their bios, follow them, remember them.