The death of another unarmed black man at the hands of a police officer put the Black Lives Matter movement in the spotlight.
When George Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25, community activists used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter as a vehicle for large-scale protests.
But what is the story behind the movement?The first message
“Black lives matter” was first used as a call to action in July 2013 on Facebook.
A black woman from the United States named Alicia Garza used the phrase in a message she called “a love letter to black people.”
“I continue to be amazed at how important the lives of black people are. – Alicia Garza, Facebook publication 2013
Garza wrote the letter after the person accused of killing a 17-year-old boy in Florida, Trayvon Martin, was found not guilty.
In 2012, an unarmed teenager by the name of Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on the way home from the corner store in Sanford, Florida (Ben Gabbe / Getty Images for Paramount Network)
Garza’s friend Patrisse Cullors then used these words to create a hashtag: #BlackLivesMatter.
A new organization is born
Following the post, the two women – as well as a third activist named Opal Tometi – created the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization.
Black Lives Matter co-founders Alicia Garza, left, Patrisse Cullors, center, and Opal Tometi arrive at the Glamor Women of the Year Awards in Los Angeles in 2016. (Jordan Strauss / Invision / The Associated Press)
According to the official Black Lives Matters website, there is now a “member-led global network” of over 40 chapters.
However, many people who are well-known BLM activists are not officially part of any Black Lives Matter organization.
The hashtag – and the movement behind it – took on a life of its own, but only became truly viral a year after its creation.
The hashtag goes viral
The hashtag gained popularity after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
In 2014, protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, overturned a police car after a white police officer was authorized to shoot an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown. (Jim Young / Reuters)
The unarmed teenager was shot dead by an officer named Darren Wilson.
He was never charged with a crime and people took to the streets to protest.
It was around this time that the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter really took off.
Power in a hashtag
According to the researchers, the hashtag #BLM is often used to combat racial inequalities and police violence, to organize demonstrations and to highlight specific incidents of violence against blacks.
Not everyone who uses the hashtag supports Black Lives Matter.
Some people use it to challenge the movement and its supporters on social media.
Others use the hashtag to defend organizations and individuals criticized by the broader BLM movement, such as the police.
BLM in Canada
Today, there are Black Lives Matter organizations across Canada, including Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Why does the movement exist in Canada?
According to an analysis of CBC statistics from 2000 to 2017, blacks and Aboriginal people are more likely to be killed by police in Canada than whites.
For example, almost 40% of those killed by police in Toronto during this period were black, even though they represented only about 8% of the city’s population.
Watch the video to hear a black historian and young activist reflect on the growth of the BLM movement:
TOP PHOTO: (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press, Philip Street / CBC)