American history is rooted in a culture that dehumanizes people of color. Throughout history, African-Americans have had to fight for their rights. From slavery to MLK, and now black lives matter; movements have been essential in the progress of equality for African-American lives. Today, in 2016, we are still fighting for human rights and so the question arises: why are we still fighting?
If you look at ladies such as Dorothy Height, Mary McLeod Bethune, Nina Simone, Rosa Parks or Ella Baker and compare them to others such as Laverne Cox, Amandla Stenberg, Bree Newsome, Michelle Alexander, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors you will notice that although times have changed, our desire for freedom has not. As Ella Baker once said, “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killings of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.”
Black woman have played a prominent role in the advancement of black lives and culture. For instance Nina Simone, a civil rights singer, created music that addressed the Birmingham bombing, the assassination of Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King Jr. Dorothy Height, the former president of the National Council of Negro Women, was an activist for black women, demanding that there be an increase in opportunities. We can not forget Rosa Parks, who refused to offer her seat to a white passenger on the bus thus leading a reform in segregation through the organization of boycotts. There was also Mary McLeod Bethune who was the president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women. She served as the advisor of minority affairs for President Roosevelt, started the National Council of Negro Women and was the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration to help the youth find job opportunities, especially black young adults. Lastly, Ella Baker who organized the Young Negroes Cooperative League in NYC, was the national director of the NAACP, and was a part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Currently, black woman are still pushing for black lives. Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors have started a movement in the black community called Black Lives Matter. Laverne Cox has become an advocate for black transgender lives; her document Free Cece, has addressed issues within the black and Trans community. Amandla Stenberg has become a very important voice for the black youth. She is a black feminist, who also happens to be an actor from Hunger Games, calls out culture appropriation and discontinues Eurocentric beauty standards. Stenberg has even asked, “As culture shifts and racial tensions are tested through the vehicle of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it is important to question: Do female black lives matter too?” Bree Newsome is another courageous lady; she climbed up a pole to remove the confederate flag before being arrested. Newsome has shed light on the racist culture associated with the confederate flag and why we should not stop until it is removed permanently. Michelle Alexander shed light on the cruelties and harsh realities of the justice system and how it has impacted the African-American community. Her book, the New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, explores how the government disproportionately and wrongfully treats black men.
A huge difference between the civil rights movement and black lives matter movement is social media. We live in an era where our phones are constantly in our hands; thus we hold the power of media at our fingertips. Black lives matter was started by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. This movement is meant to fight against violence towards the African-American community. Likewise, the civil rights movement was meant to end segregation and discrimination towards black individuals.
Thankfully the help of social media, has allowed us to expand the ways in which we fight for our rights. Recordings of violent acts spread like wild fire; just like black encouragement and self-love takes over social media. Hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackGirlMagic, #blackout, #MelaninGirls, and #MelaninMonday flood the internet. If you were to type any of these hashtags and search them on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram or any other social media platform then you will find images, words of encouragement or injustice within the black community. “Black Twitter” has become a way for the black community to band together online and form unity to speak out against any injustices that we face. This current movement is fighting for freedom and to end mental segregation. As Nina Simone once said, “’Free’ is just a feeling. It’s just a feeling. It’s like how do you tell somebody how it feels to be in love.” Therefore, we will not stop fighting until we feel free.