Black Lives Matter co-founder and Thurgood Marshall College alumna Alicia Garza gave a talk to a crowd of nearly 200 students, staff, and faculty in the Price Center Ballroom on Feb. 26 as part of both the Marshall College Speakers Series and the celebration of Black History Month., As the second speaker in this years’ series, the activist demystified the Black Lives Matter movement and called for intersectionality and solidarity to address current and recurring social issues.
Recognizing that the evening was also the seven-year anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, Garza began the discussion by asking the crowd for a moment of silence in honor of the Martin family. She then went on to list other black people who have been arguably murdered under objectionable circumstances, specifically Sandra Bland, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, and Michael Brown.
“It’s not just what happens in those instances that Black Lives Matter cares about,” Garza said. “It’s about combating anti-black racism and state violence, which takes many forms.”
Speaking on the topic of the Black Lives Matter movement, Garza also carried out what she called a “myth-busting” of the movement. She stressed that the movement was not anti-cop or anti-white and was not a terrorist organization.
“Nobody is talking about hating anybody,” Garza affirmed. “We’re talking about solving problems.”
In addressing “Blue Lives Matter” as a term that, alongside “All Lives Matter,” has become a reactionary one to “Black Lives Matter,” Garza was notably empathetic to police officers.
“They have hard jobs,” Garza said. “[A police officer is] not supposed to be a social worker, and a therapist, and a drug counselor. That’s not actually your job. But because of the ways that we prioritize resources, we put social services in places where they don’t belong, with people who cannot, by themselves, deliver the services that people need. This creates a pretty untenable situation, doesn’t it?”
In turning toward politics, Garza claimed that voters have “one shot” in November 2020 to obtain the future they want. She voiced her support for the Green New Deal, condemned voter suppression, and called for more involvement in the voting process. Specifically, she called for students to register to vote here in San Diego as opposed to in their hometowns.
“California is one of the first primaries,” Garza pointed out. “If your mail-in ballot goes home, like where you came from before you came here, and you don’t regularly get it, that means you’re probably not going to vote.”
After receiving a standing ovation for her talk, Garza began the question and answer section of the evening, moderated by Thurgood Marshall College Provost Leslie Carver. One question submitted from the crowd asked how to navigate spaces of opposition. Garza responded simply, “Be nice.”
“Solidarity is a verb,” Garza said to the crowd. “It’s not a brand. It’s not a coat that we can put on and take off when it’s most convenient.”
Garza emphasized that the movement to combat systemic problems that have drastically negative impacts on people of color is not an exclusively black movement, but a humanistic one. Garza also answered questions on how non-black allies can support black liberation without appropriating black culture, how to execute activism on a college campus, and how UC San Diego can support the movement.
photo by Tyler Faurot