#BlackLivesMatter, a human rights movement, was founded in 2013 by three Black Queer women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc., is a global organization in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The mission of the foundation is “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.” There are 40 BLM chapters in the United States, and many programs such as #WhatMatters2020, focused on the 2020 presidential election and Arts+Culture which uplifts Black artists.  

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) was formed in December of 2014 as a space for Black organizations across the country to debate and discuss the current political conditions, develop shared assessments of what political interventions were necessary in order to achieve key policy, cultural and political wins, convene organizational leadership in order to debate and co-create a shared, movement-wide strategy. 

In the Classroom

Educators such as Dr. Frank Leon Roberts and Dr. Frank Tuitt advocate for bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to the classroom, in order to create educational opportunities in which racially minoritized students can engage in learning that suggests their lives and their lived experiences really matter. Tuitt suggests that this work is “often difficult for most educators to translate into practice because their faculty preparation likely trained them to think of the classroom, and the knowledge constructed in that space, as race-neutral.” Issues of race and equity permeate every space on our campus. Focusing on Black Lives Matter in the classrooms of traditionally White institutions (TWIs*) has the potential to improve the educational outcomes for all students. 

In the article Transforming the Classroom at Traditionally White Institutions to Make Black Lives Matter, Tuitt, Haynes and Stewart introduce a framework to develop inclusive spaces for all students to engage in learning. The seven key principles include:

  • Intentional praxis
  • Voice and the lived experience
  • Interdisciplinary and diverse content
  • Anti-racist equity-mindedness
  • Identity-affirming and socially just learning environment
  • Courageous transparency
  • Resilient emotional labor of love 

Some faculty have consolidated resources for activists, members of the press, the general public, students and scholars, which directly address the history of race in their areas. The #TulsaSyllabus, created by Dr. Alicia Odewale and Dr. Karla Slocum, provides readers an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the context of race in Tulsa. Similar to recent #CharlestonSyllabus and the #FergusonSyllabus, this resource provides an important backdrop on race relations in Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma right as Tulsa is the subject of nationwide attention and the center of discussions for both acts of racial violence and spaces of Black wealth and freedom. 

Engaging in this work, instead of standing by and leaving students to navigate the racially charged moments by themselves, involves reading, self-educating, and deeply reflecting on the cultural conditioning that has led us to this moment. Listen to Black students on our campus, who are asking for learning environments free of microaggressions and tokenizing, and for anti-racist training for faculty and staff. Explicitly address your commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement in your syllabus, your rules of engagement and the content for your course. And lastly, as the principles above illustrate, remember that this work requires courage as well as resilience. 

*Tuitt advocates for the use of “traditionally” as opposed to “predominantly” white institutions because “PWI [predominantly White institution] would not include those higher education institutions whose campus populations have been predominantly white but now have students of color in the numeric majority. I argue that even though institutions like MIT and Berkeley have more students of color than Whites on campus, the culture, tradition, and values found in those institutions remain traditionally White”. From Making Excellence Inclusive in Challenging Times