Patrisse Cullors is the voice our generation needs right now. Known as an artist, organizer and freedom fighter, she has always been travelling on the path to freedom after growing up with several of her loved ones experiencing incarceration and brutality at the hands of the state.
Today, she is a young civil rights activist, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter, which first became a worldwide movement after the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter went viral following countless shootings of young black teens including Trayvon Martin Michael Brown.
“Before BLM there was a dormancy in our black freedom movement,” Cullors said in an interview with the Guardian. “Obviously many of us were doing work, but we’ve been able to reignite a whole entire new generation, not just inside the US but across the globe, centering black people and centering the fight against white supremacy.”
Check out @voguemagazine project #AmericanWomen Highlighting women fighting mass criminalization. Photographed by @stefanruizphoto Make up: @lolasbeautymark Blazer: @kutula My @whitpr team secured this hit! Last month, a 16-year-old boy named Anthony Weber was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in the Westmont area of South L.A. The Sheriff’s Department claimed that Weber was carrying a gun and that he matched the description of someone who had earlier pointed one at a motorist. After Weber was killed, the alleged gun was nowhere to be found. The authorities speculated that a neighbor may have taken it in the chaos following the shooting (a witness to the aftermath told a journalist that reports of chaos were vastly overstated). Community members organized protests. There was a town hall meeting in which Weber’s grieving family confronted law enforcement. And then: nothing. “It did a few cycles in the local news, and now it’s over,” says Patrisse Khan-Cullors, author, artist, organizer, and cofounder of Black Lives Matter. “The family is left to deal with the pain of losing a child by a state that is not willing to protect them. We have a public that’s completely desensitized to the killing of black people at the hands of law enforcement.” In the past, Khan-Cullors bemoans, mainstream media outlets might have picked up the story, might even have drawn a connection between Weber’s death at the hands of a sheriff’s deputy and a little-covered speech delivered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions about a week later to the National Sheriff’s Association, in which he went off script to invoke the “Anglo-American heritage” of the office—a phrase that is common parlance among lawyers (our legal system, after all, is largely inherited from England) but in context, one that felt more like an air horn than a dog whistle. “I think many of us knew that if 45 was going to get into office, all eyes were going to be on him,” Khan-Cullors explains about the way Trump has hijacked the news cycle. Link in bio.
Black Lives Matter is a global network that focuses on empowering communities and fights for all black lives – black queer people, black trans-people, black disabled people, black people with mental health conditions and so on. The movement is committed to building a network that addresses trauma experienced within these communities, and creating a culture where each person feels seen, heard and supported.
Patrisse was just 16-years old when she came out as queer. She’s transformed the lives of thousands, possible even millions, as an LGBTQ and civil rights activist, openly speaking about the struggles of being queer, black and poor. Her work was been recognised globally, wining awards such as the Mario Savio Young Activist of the year, yet in the same breath she’s also been called a terrorist – a sentiment she reflects on in her latest book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.
We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities. We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people. We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting. - Patrisse Cullors
In the years since Black Lives Matter first began, the movement has been committed to creating a world free of anti-blackness, where every black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive. BLM believes in a set of guided principles that form the ethos and mission of their cause. This has catalysed other movements and shifted culture with an eye towards the dangerous impacts of anti-blackness.
Patrisse is an advocate for her community and one of the undisputed voices of our generation, and all of this by the age of 34. With this in mind, is it any wonder why our 35 under 35 human rights judge, Sarain Fox, nominated Patrisse as one of our changemakers?
Patrisse has spent her life fighting for freedom and going head to head with injustice. Her work to promote law enforcement accountability not only focuses on putting an end to police brutality, but strategies to heal and address the effects of police violence in marginalized communities. - Sarain Fox on Patrisse Cullors
To learn more about the six-two 35 under 35 changemakers initiative, and to see who else made our list, head here.