Black History Month highlights and uplifts the stories and contributions of an often marginalized, oppressed and silenced group. There has long been a concern for the lives and future of Black people, but recently Black Lives Matter has been successful in leveraging the issue to mainstream media and prioritizing accountability.
The Civil Rights Movement left a revolutionary legacy of pursuing justice, progress, and power for black people. Fifty years later, Black Lives Matter emerged from the shadows of that legacy but in light of the urgent demand for change and action against racism, police brutality and mass incarceration.
While there’s no question that Black Lives Matter will be remembered within the history of black activism, it remains to be seen precisely how.
Black Lives Matter is still an early movement, growing and quickly expanding. As the young voice of a new generation, the movement has been seen as the child of the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, as its founders have made clear, it is much more than “reforms of policing.”
This movement represent a longstanding struggle for the full recognition “of our rights as citizens; and it is a battle for full civil, social, political, legal, economic and cultural rights…”, as the group co-founder Opal Tometi wrote in Time magazine. Equally or more important, it’s also a demand for recognition of their dignity, humanity.
This dignity has been consistently denied and violated through systematic police brutality, racial profiling, other forms of state-sanctioned violence, and institutionalized racism. The murders of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland confirm as much.
As does the man-made water pandemic in Flint and the egregious roll back of voting rights and access to reproductive healthcare.
These murders spurred passionate online and offline protests across several cities as exemplified by the passionate content produced under hashtags such as #BaltimoreUprising, #SayHerName, and #BlackLivesMatter.
New York City is one of those places that echoed most of these mobilizations. The majority were taken in rallies in solidarity with Eric Garner death on the hands of a police officer while selling cigarettes. Also, it showed strong solidarity to Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Millions March, or Sandra Bland, Island Nettles, and other black women lives.
Although, manifestations in New York City against racism and police brutality goes as back as 1999, when unarmed Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by four police officers. Since then, the situation, the message, the place (Union Sq), all are not that different like history repeating itself.
These events have been attended by a large group–from a broad range of backgrounds, ages and races.
This gallery contains images I took during some of these events that took place over the city that show the diversity of this movement, but especially women pouring their support or pain.
Academic research has shown that from all kinds of violence women are always among the most affected and Black Lives Matter is not the exception. Black women are the ones who have suffered the immediate loss of their loved ones -husbands, sons, grandchildren.
They have also experienced the sociological consequences violence such as trauma, loss of income, health issues, stigma, domestic violence and homicides.
In addition, structured racism places women in a situation vulnerable to poverty, unemployment, limited education and poor health.
Not surprising, the Black Lives Matter network, a national network made up of more than 30 chapters was founded by three women, two of them Queer. As they explain in their site, the movement “goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within Black communities” and affirms diversity in its broader sense.
The movement has been associated with Black males what activist find unfortunate.
However, Black Lives Matter -since its inception- has been a space to battle the intersectionality of racial, economic but also gender justice, meaning Black lives along the gender spectrum like women, queer and Trans.
Case in point is the #SayHerName movement, an affinity movement within Black Lives Matter that demand the recognition and support to lost black lives and violence against women, girls and trans people.
Another misconception from Black Lives Matter has came unfortunately from the media coverage. The protests in New York produced a lot of media attention, but many focused on the traditional imagery associated with heated protests.
Yet, for the most part these were predominantly peaceful and calm. The images published showing apparent violence, arrests or blood contrasted harshly with what I found: an atmosphere of solace and soothing.
It felt like a collective mourning, grief, a healing process taken to the streets.
At one instance officer Mahon came to me and asked me “If you have a family, would’nt you have done the same?”, referring to Darren Wilson killing Mike Brown in Ferguson. “You should’nt have said that, you know you can’t,” a woman officer told him while taking him away.
I found the non-verbal gestures, their faces, their eyes to convey more the essence of the moment than any other image of confrontation may have captured.
It was through the micro, the subtle but powerful gazes, hugs–lost amid the multitude–that the movement revealed its anger, outrage, frustration and hope.
Black Lives Matter is very concerned on how media is covering the movement but moreover on how it will be portrayed in history.
As the group co-founder Alicia Garza told Advocate Magazine: “I’m so excited to tell my child that I was alive for this moment. I’m excited about the story that I will tell them. And it’s still being written, as we speak.”