By Jessica Heim-Brouwer and Ian Nickens

Two founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garzia and Opal Tometi, held a discussion moderated by University of Missouri professor Cristina Mislán in Jesse Auditorium Thursday night. This follows a semester of protests on MU’s campus. Both women covered a range of race-related issues, such as intersectionality, care within communities, global racism and struggles the movement faces.

The third founding member, Patrisse Cullors, did not attend. Garzia and Tometi addressed the importance of having strong, selfless communities in order to propel their efforts forward. They said maintaining the strength, however, can be challenging in an individualized society.

“Our practice isn’t deep enough. Our bonds can break under pressure,” Tometi said.

Tometi said that they are “in this work as people first,” so checking in with each other is just as important as looking out for ourselves. Both Tometi and Garzia stressed the importance of all members of a community being connected with each other. Tometi and Garzia describe their end goal as creating “a world where many worlds fit.” They realize that everyone who is a part of the Black Lives Matter movement has different opinions, but they do not shy away from political discourse.

“We have the love and respect for someone to really bring it to them,” Garzia said.

The founders addressed the true scope of racism and said that the narrative should be about more than black men being killed by police. Anti-black racism, Tometi said, is a global issue that should not be disregarded, but there are additional issues at hand like wage gaps among races and women. Garzia and Tometi also addressed issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community.

“A movement requires some deep connections across struggles,” Garzia said. To create a change in society, she continued, the rebuilding must begin from where the issues are the worst.

Prompted by an audience member’s question about “black on black crime,” Tometi said that black people experience more intercommunal violence because of poor living conditions they may have.

“Hurt people hurt people,” she said about the crimes, which black people are asked to fix but do not have the resources to do so.

Garzia later responded to a question on the hashtag “AllLivesMatter” and said it is a result of white guilt. She said that it also perpetuates colorblindness, which is a “head-in-the-sand approach” to talking about race.

“If you believe that ‘all lives matter,’” she said, “what are you doing to make that happen?” Garzia added that combating racism effectively will require the help of white people who benefit from systematic white supremacy.

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