February is Black History Month, where as a country we celebrate, recognize, and educate ourselves on the events and achievements within the African-American community. From grassroots organizing and political activism to artistic accolades and educational awards, there are a huge number of individuals and communities to be honored. Patrisse Cullors, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Global Network, is one of those people.
Cullors grew up in Los Angeles in a neighborhood called Pacoima with her mother and older brother, Monte. She met her birth father when she was around 8 years old and would spend time with him and his family some weekends. As a child, she witnessed both her father’s and brother’s abuse by law enforcement—largely due to mental illnesses they suffered. Her family was also a part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which became difficult for Cullors as she grew older and started to step into her queer identity. Her early family experiences played a large role in her future activism.
From an early age, Cullors valued education and was involved in leadership and community organizing at school. She has earned a Masters in Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California and uses her artistic talents to share heartwarming and heartbreaking stories of the Black community. She is an author of her life’s memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, and continuously contributes to educational articles written in respected journals.
The BLM organization is what Cullors is most widely known for. Teaming up with fellow community organizers Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, the three individuals began the movement after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Cullors created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which took social media by storm and became a global movement almost overnight. Cullors’ continued fight in this movement is partially inspired by Monte’s abuse during his time in the Los Angeles County jail.
Cullors had accomplished so much throughout her life, including pushing for groundbreaking federal legislation targeted at improving maternal mortality rates. She has received numerous awards, most recently being named in TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020 and their 2020 100 Women of the Year. The Los Angeles City Council has declared February 2 as “Patrisse Cullors Day” in honor of her leadership and work in BLM. She has been and continues to be an incredible example of what it means to stand up and fight for justice.
To learn more about Patrisse Cullors, please visit her website: https://patrissecullors.com/. Her book is available to order there as well.
Written by Kathryn
2021 Graduate Intern