by Kathie MM
In celebration of Black History Month, this post honors Alicia Garza (included in EP’s second list of 100 peace and justice advocates), a model of the characteristics that define peace activists.
Nonviolence: Alicia’s main goal is the elimination of violence, particularly the forms of structural violence that are the source of most other forms of violence. She notes, for example, “The fact that we have half-a-million black immigrants living in this country, living in the shadows, who are undocumented, is a product of state violence. The fact that black queer and trans folk… are being targeted for various forms of harassment, violence, and in some cases, elimination, is state violence.”
Inspiration: Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman on murder charges for killing Trayvon Martin, Alicia declared a truth that had never occurred to many colorless people: “Black Lives Matter.” The movement that grew out of that declaration has inspired activists around the world to confront a wide range of social problems.
Tolerating struggle: Alicia has devoted herself to the movement tirelessly. “If I’m clear about anything today…[it] is that we are really in for an uphill battle…This country in particular is having a very, very difficult time with addressing the root causes of the problems that we face and until we actually get to that point, unfortunately I do believe we’re going to have a lot more chaos and confusion.”
Empathy and compassion: Alicia tells us: “[to several deadly police shootings] is one of complete dismay and disgust. My prayers go out to their families and loved ones, who are having to watch the death of their loved one over and over again on multiple news stations.” Her deeds prove her words.
Integrity: “Her activism reflects organizational strategies and visions that connect emerging social movements without diminishing the specificity of the structural violence facing Black lives.”
Courage: It takes courage to combat racism in a racist society—especially perhaps for a woman of color—and courage to declare oneself gay, and to be openly committed to a trans partner. Alicia has done all these things.
Purpose-driven life: “That really is our work – to make sure that the movement is everywhere … in hospitals and healthcare, in schools, in our workplaces, in our churches,” she says. “That’s what’s going to really accelerate the pace of the change that we seek.”