By: Alyson Jurgovan
SPEED kicked off Social Justice Week with a bang by organizing and hosting an event featuring one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza.
The evening was full of engaging opportunities including a dinner with Garza, a speaking event and an interactive question and answer portion, followed by a mixer and meet and greet with Garza.
Maya Tatum-Lattimore, SPEED’s event manager, began working on plans the event earlier last semester.
“Social justice week is a really big event for the year so we were just sort of brainstorming and thinking of major things that were going on in the city, but also world-wide things that were happening…Black Lives Matter is one of the biggest movements that is happening right now,” Tatum-Lattimore said.
What started as a hashtag in 2013 is now a global network with 39 chapters with specific criteria, including one in Chicago that works with other local activist groups.
In response to the Zimmerman verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin, Garza wrote a love letter to all black people and posted it on Facebook. In that letter, she used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag for the first time, which has since turned into one of the largest activist movements in recent times.
The outreach of the movement and organization has spread like wildfire to countless individuals, organizations and institutions. However, Garza insisted, “Hashtags don’t start movements, people do.”
During the speaking portion of the event, Garza touched on an array of poignant topics including, but not limited to, heteronormativity, xenophobia, ableism, crimes of poverty, the dynamics of capitalism, white supremacy, basic principles like how to be good to each other and the systemic and intentional targeting of black lives.
“To me it was like surreal. This is history in the making right now,” said Erika Williams, SPEED’s marketing director.
The Black Lives Matter hashtag progressed quickly and significantly into an organization that thrives not from a central headquarters, but from the members and activists that participate in that movement.
“The important thing about movements is not the people who started them, but the people who are involved in them and what people are actually fighting for…we’re just ordinary people trying to do extraordinary things,” Garza said. “We’re going to continue to organize in our communities and bring people together to understand the root causes of the problems that are happening in our communities and build a vision together for how we want to solve that.”
Marshall Wilder, a Roosevelt senior, said that the event invoked a sense of pride and inspiration in him.
“There’s definitely a sense of obligation that I feel coming out of this…What can I do next? I think Roosevelt University is making me proud in my last few days,” he said.