- Co-founder of Black Lives Matter
- Views America as a racist, sexist, homophobic nation
Born in 1981, Alicia Garza is a self-described “queer” social-justice activist who reveres the Marxist revolutionary, former Black Panther, and convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur for her contributions to the “Black Liberation Movement.” Garza is likewise a great admirer of Angela Davis (another Marxist and former Black Panther), Ella Baker (an avowed socialist who had ties to the Communist Party USA and the Weather Underground), and Audre Lorde (a black Marxist lesbian feminist). “These women really attempt and attempted to tackle some of the biggest questions facing our society,” says Garza. “Learning about them and in some cases getting a chance to meet them really underscores that everyday people, when working together with a shared vision, can accomplish extraordinary things.”
In 2013, Garza collaborated with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi to co-found Black Lives Matter (BLM), an online platform designed to stoke black rage and galvanize a protest movement in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the “white Hispanic” who was tried for murder and manslaughter after he had shot and killed a black Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin in a highly publicized February 2012 altercation. Condemning “the anti-Black racism that permeates our society,” Garza describes BLM as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise”; where African Americans are bombarded ceaselessly by “deadly oppression” and all manner of “injustice”; and where “extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes” are disturbingly commonplace.
By Garza’s telling, BLM is, at its essence, “a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement” for those who, as a result of ubiquitous “white supremacy” and “state violence,” have been “deprived of [their] basic human rights and dignity.” This deprivation, she says, manifests itself in a variety of forms—most notably, rampant poverty, “genocide,” and mass incarceration. The fact that “1 million Black people are locked in cages in this country,” Garza asserts, separates many black fathers from their sons and daughters while forcing black women “to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families.”
Averring that blacks “are uniquely, systematically, and savagely targeted by the state,” Garza objects to members of other demographic groups who seek, via slogans like “All Lives Matter,” to analogize their own struggles to those of African Americans. “[S]tand with us in affirming Black lives,” she declares. “Not just all lives. Black lives. Please do not change the conversation by talking about how your life matters, too. It does, but we need less watered down unity and a more active solidarities [sic] with us, Black people, unwaveringly, in defense of our humanity.” The “tired trope that we are all the same,” Garza elaborates, serves only to “perpetuate a level of White supremacist domination.” And while conceding that “non-Black oppressed people in this country” may be “impacted by racism and domination” to some degree, she is quick to add that they also invariably “BENEFIT from anti-black racism.” (Emphasis in original)
Though BLM is intended to represent the needs and grievances of all black people, Garza makes it clear that her organization is especially committed to helping “Black queer and trans folks” because they “bea[r] a unique burden in a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us.” Also getting a special mention from Garza are the “500,000 Black people in the U.S. [who] are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.”
In May 2015, Garza characterized the recent protests and riots in Baltimore—which erupted after a local black criminal named Freddie Gray had died under disputed circumstances while in police custody—as “Black Spring” demonstrations akin to the massive “Arab Spring” actions that had threatened and/or toppled a number of Middle Eastern regimes beginning in early 2011. “What we know,” said Garza, “is that there is a Black Spring that is emerging where communities that have been under the boot of police terrorism, communities that have been attacked by poverty and unemployment, are rising up, coming together and advancing new solutions and new visions and new demands to create a new world where Black peoples’ lives matter…. [W]e’ve had enough.”
In March 2016, Fortune magazine named Garza and her two BLM co-founders to its list of the “50 of the most influential world leaders.”
In addition to her work with BLM, Garza also: (a) serves as the special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which agitates for better pay and working conditions on behalf of nannies, housecleaners, and home-based caregivers; (b) serves on the board of directors for the Oakland, California-based School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), whose mission is to create “a new generation of organizers rooted in a systemic change analysis—especially people of color, young women, queer and transgender youth and low-income people”; (c) works with Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), a group that teaches black activists how to help build a “social justice infrastructure”; and (d) writes for WarTimes magazine, which promotes “antiwar, antimilitarist” efforts to radically transform American society by stoking antagonisms based on “race, class and gender.”
In years past, she was: (a) board chair of the Right To The City Alliance (RTTC), a nationwide network that opposes inner-city “gentrification” that displaces “low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from their historic urban neighborhoods”; and (b) executive director (from 2009-14) of the San Francisco-based People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), a group aiming to “secur[e] living wage employment, job security, affordable housing, and community services” for low-income black and Latino families. Garza boasts that under her leadership, POWER successfully “beat back regressive local policies targeting undocumented people,” “organized against the chronic police violence in Black neighborhoods,” and “shed light on the ongoing wave of profit-driven development” that was allegedly harming poor minorities in San Francisco.
Portraying America as a country awash in sexism as well as racism, Garza laments that black female employees earn “at least” 14% less, on average, than white women, who in turn are paid 25% less than their male counterparts.