Black Lives Matter is an activist movement which began as a hashtag (#BlackLivesMatter) when in July 2013, George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager killed in Florida.
The Black Lives Matter movement became more widely acknowledged and popularized after two high-profile deaths of unarmed African-American men (Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY and Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO) in 2014 and in which police officers involved in their deaths were not indicted. Due to the deaths of other unarmed African Americans at the hands of the police, ongoing local and national protests and other actions have brought awareness of the issues and the movement to the general public.
While Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag on Twitter and other social media, it has since evolved into a “movement.” As of August 2015, more than 1000 Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been held worldwide. Recently, four Black Lives activists released “Campaign Zero,” which includes ten policy solutions developed in collaboration with activists, protestors and researchers across the country, integrating community demands, input from research organizations and the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing guidelines.
13 and up
Questions to Start the Conversation
- What do you think about the Black Lives Matter movement?
- Why do you think the movement is called Black Lives Matter? What does it mean?
- What kind of change do you think the activists want to see?
- How have you seen technology and social media used to promote an issue or cause?
- What issues of injustice are important to you and would you consider engaging in activism?
Questions to Dig Deeper
(See the More Information section for articles and information that address these questions.)
- What are some of the challenges that law enforcement personnel face in their jobs?
- Of the policy solutions proposed in Campaign Zero, which do you think will have an impact and why?
- Why has there been controversy about using the term "All lives matter" instead of or in addition to "Black lives matter?"
Ideas for Taking Action
Ask: What can we do to help? What actions might make a difference?
- Educate others about the Black Lives Matter movement by sharing information on social media, having individual conversations or organizing an educational event in the school or community.
- Get involved in local activism on these issues.
- Use social media to create a public awareness campaign about Black Lives Matter or another issue that is important to you.
- Find out what children know and use the summary to expand their knowledge. Ask what else they want to know and investigate together to learn more.
- When discussing the topic, ask children open ended questions that deepen the conversation. Do not judge their responses and listen thoughtfully.
- Think together about a child-level action they can take; this can be something they do on their own or something you do together or as a family.
- Black Lives Matter: From Hashtag to Movement (ADL Current Events Classroom lesson, grades 9-12)
- #BlackTwitter After #Ferguson (Video, New York Times)
- Campaign Zero
- Ferguson and beyond: how a new civil rights movement began – and won't end (The Guardian)
- President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing Report (Department of Justice)