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Alicia Garza on Creating Black Lives Matter and Promoting Positive Change

Alicia Garza recounts how she and her Black Lives Matter co-founders built BLM into the most influential movement of recent times

Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag when Alicia Garza wrote what she calls ‘a love letter to Black people’ on Facebook, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2013.

In November 2020 Garza came to Intelligence Squared to recount how she and her co-founders built Black Lives Matter into the most influential movement of recent times. The phrase she coined was chanted by millions of people around the world this year in protests against the brutal killing in May of George Floyd by a police officer. But, as she pointed out, hashtags don’t build movements, people do. The work was done not through celebrity influencers or a (usually male) leader swooping down from on high, but by people at the grass roots knocking on doors, building a base, and acting collaboratively to fight the persistent message that Black lives are of less value than white lives.

Drawing on the themes of her new book, The Purpose of Power: How to Build Movements for the 21st Century, Garza set out her commitment to bring real change to those whose economic opportunities have been blighted by racism. She explained how these goals will ultimately be achieved not through protest alone but by ensuring that Black people have power in their lives and in politics. And she asked us to think about our privileges and prejudices and consider how we can all contribute to the change we want to see in the world.



Alicia Garza

Co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and principal at the Black Futures Lab

Organizer and political strategist. She is the principal at the Black Futures Lab and the Black to the Future Action Fund, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and the Black Lives Matter Global Network, the Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the US National Domestic Workers Alliance, and host of the podcast Lady Don’t Take No. Her latest book is The Purpose of Power: How to Build Movements for the 21st Century.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Writer and broadcaster

Broadcaster, writer and social advocate. She is author of You Must Be Layla and the critically acclaimed essays It's Not About The Burqa and The New Daughters of Africa.


Speakers subject to change.