The Evolution of a Movement - Black Lives Matter

The Evolution of a Movement

Below you’ll find an editorial from the Black Lives Matter Foundation board on the moment we find ourselves in. A moment of rebuilding, reimagining, and working toward a future where Black people can thrive. Read on, then help accomplish our bold vision by taking action or donating here.

The Past: Foundations of Resistance and Rebuilding

Collage of a portrait of Fredrick Douglass and Fannie Lou Hammer

From the courage of Fannie Lou Hamer to the resilience of Frederick Douglass, the history of Africans in the diaspora is a continuous journey of rebuilding toward justice, joy, and freedom. Our journey has been one of perseverance and tireless efforts to restore, reclaim, and renew our identities and communities. From the brutalities of American enslavement, where we were stripped from our homeland to the resilience displayed in events like the rebuilding of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, Black people around the world have continuously demonstrated a powerful and unparalleled capacity for transformation. 

Even in the face of ruthless oppression, our ancestors never surrendered their spirit. They resisted, revolted, and rebuilt. 

Maroon communities, formed by enslaved people in places like Jamaica, Haiti, Brazil, and the Southern United States, are early examples of this spirit of rebuilding. These communities created autonomous spaces of freedom and preserved African traditions in defiance of oppressive powers. The Haitian resistance is a particularly powerful example, where enslaved Africans, through the Haitian Revolution, successfully overthrew their colonial oppressors and established the first Black republic. Similarly, in countries like Ghana and Martinique, the fight for independence was marked by resilience and determination to reclaim autonomy and cultural identity. The radical abolitionists like Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass continued this legacy by fighting for emancipation and laying the groundwork for future generations to build upon.

The Great Migration, when millions of Black people moved from the rural Southern United States to urban areas like Chicago, Detroit, and New York, was a transformative period. This mass movement was driven by the pursuit of economic opportunities in the North and the desire to escape systemic racism, segregation, and violence in the South. This migration set the stage for the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s, another pivotal moment of rebuilding. This cultural movement celebrated Black art, literature, music, and intellectualism, ushering in a new sense of identity and pride for Black people. It was a radical reclaiming of space and voice, a rebuilding of cultural heritage that had been suppressed for centuries.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, led by figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks, brought forth changes through collective action and civil disobedience. The Black Power movement, led by revolutionaries like Huey P. Newton and Elaine Brown, demanded self-determination and economic transformation and continued the work of rebuilding our communities.

The Present: Radical Rebuilding in Action

An aerial photograph of a street march for racial justice

Since our inception in 2013, Black Lives Matter has carried forward the torch of radical rebuilding not out of choice—but as an obligation to build upon and be the modern-day caretakers of this long journey of the past so that the hope for a better future is realized. We honor the legacy of our ancestors by continuing their work and ensuring that the sacrifices they made are not in vain. The work of our global community is rooted in the principles of abolition and radical Black organizing and inspired by leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, who championed the cause of Pan-Africanism and the liberation of African people worldwide. Nkrumah’s vision of a united, self-determined Africa guides our efforts to rebuild not just in response to injustice but in pursuit of a transformative future.

Inspired by—and as a continuation of the radical work of those who came before us—we are demanding a complete dismantling of oppressive systems. We are advocating for defunding the police and reallocating those resources to community-led safety and support systems. We are pushing for policies that address the root causes of inequality and injustice, from healthcare and education to housing and economic revolution. Our present-day rebuilding efforts also focus on celebrating and preserving Black culture. We recognize the power of art, literature, and music as tools of resistance and rebuilding. By uplifting Black voices and stories, we are reclaiming our narrative and asserting our place in the world.

The Black Lives Matter community stands on the shoulders of giants, but like any movement, ours is a product of the times. Tools for mass communication and digital social networks changed the way ideas travel. Digital video and audio forced the world to confront the state violence and white supremacy that Black Communities had been decrying all along. 
When times changed, Black Lives Matter emerged to meet the challenge with something that took the form of a hashtag, a slogan, a call to action, a plea for a fundamental reminder of what should be universally obvious to everyone, and ultimately powerful movement to dismantle white supremacy and build a world where Black Lives don’t just Matter, but where Black people THRIVE. Times continue to change and to meet the moment, we must continue to evolve.

The Future:
Reimagining Liberation

Collage with three images: three black men running joyfully in a field, a father and affectionately holding his baby, and young black people dancing

The future we dream of is one of TRUE liberation, where Black people live free from fear, oppression, poverty, and inequality.

This future is built on the foundations of abolition, mutual aid, and community self-determination. In this future, we have dismantled the systems of oppression and replaced them with structures that care for and protect our communities. We have defunded the police and invested in education, healthcare, and housing. We have advanced models of Black community wealth and a pathway to economic freedom. In the future, we are rebuilding our economies to ensure that Black people have access to fair wages and home ownership.

Culturally, we are continuing the work of reclaiming and celebrating our heritage. Our art, literature, and music are recognized and valued, and our cultural expressions are integral around the globe. We are educating future generations about our history and our contributions to ensure that our legacy is preserved and honored. 

Rebuilding Our Communities

Rebuilding starts at the community level. It means creating spaces where Black people feel safe, supported, and valued. This involves:

  • Investing in Community Resources: Redirecting funds from punitive systems like policing and investing in education, healthcare, housing, and social services. These investments provide the foundation for thriving communities.
  • Supporting Black-Owned Businesses: Creating systems to ensure economic freedom by investing in Black entrepreneurship. This helps build wealth within our communities and creates jobs and the freedom to innovate.
  • Building Safe Communities: Developing community-led safety initiatives that focus on de-escalation and restorative justice rather than punishment because our neighborhoods deserve to be safe from violence and harm.

Rebuilding Our Economies

Economic rebuilding is crucial for achieving true liberation. It involves:

  • Equitable Access to Opportunities: Ensuring that Black people have fair access to employment, and education, and are part of the technological and AI revolution.
  • Wealth Redistribution: Addressing historical and systemic economic disparities through reparations and wealth-building initiatives. This helps correct the injustices of the past.
  • Sustainable Development: Promoting environmentally sustainable practices that benefit our communities and protect our planet for future generations.

Rebuilding Our Culture

Our cultural heritage is a powerful tool for resistance and renewal. Rebuilding our culture means:

  • Celebrating Black Art and Literature: Uplifting the voices of Black artists, writers, and musicians who express the beauty, struggle, and resilience of our people. Cultural expression is a form of resistance and a way to reclaim our narratives.
  • Preserving Our History: Educating our communities about our history and contributions to the world. This includes highlighting the achievements of Black leaders, inventors, and revolutionaries who have shaped our past and present.
  • Maintaining Cultural Pride: Manifesting a sense of pride and identity within the Black community. Embracing our cultural practices, languages, and traditions as integral parts of our collective identity.

Rebuilding Our Systems

At the heart of rebuilding is the dismantling of oppressive systems and the creation of new structures that uphold justice. This involves:

  • Abolishing Systemic Racism: Addressing and dismantling the institutional racism that is part of our legal, educational, and economic systems. This includes advocating for policies that promote racial justice.
  • Transformative Justice: Moving beyond punitive measures to adopt restorative and transformative justice practices that heal communities and address the root causes of harm.
  • Inclusive Governance: Ensuring that Black voices are heard and represented in decision-making processes at all levels of government. This helps create policies that reflect the demands from the streets and the aspirations of our communities.

Rebuilding Our Future

Rebuilding is about envisioning and creating a future where Black liberation is realized. It means:

  • Imagining New Possibilities: Creating a world where Black people are free from oppression and able to thrive in all aspects of life. This involves dreaming big and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
  • Collective Action: Building a movement that is inclusive, intersectional, and global. Recognizing that our struggles are interconnected and that solidarity across borders strengthens our fight for justice.
  • Sustained Efforts: Committing to the long-term work of rebuilding. Understanding that true transformation takes time and requires persistence, dedication, and collective effort.

Rebuilding to move beyond mattering to THRIVING

In 2024, BLM is moving past the bare minimum of ensuring Black Lives MATTER towards a world where we can THRIVE. In order for folks to thrive, basic needs must be met. They need food on the table. Financial security. A roof over their heads. Clean drinking water. Safe communities, free of state-sanctioned violence against unarmed people. BLM’s Thrive Agenda—a bold set of polices that range from housing to climate change, non-profit governance to policing—ensures those basic needs can be met, so that everyone can choose and work towards a life where they’re truly thriving. A world with ample access to art, community, and all the essential intangibles of life. That’s what it means to thrive, and why we must rebuild.

Together, We Will Rebuild

Rebuilding is a revolutionary act. It is about ensuring that Black people have everything we want and need. It is rooted in the defiant spirit of our ancestors and driven by our shared vision for a liberated future. Rebuild with us, let’s create a world where liberation is realized and celebrated every day. Together, we can ensure that Black lives not only matter but thrive.

Help BLM Rebuild. Transform Lives. Become Our Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams.

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