Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Laquan McDonald. Sandra Bland. Walter Scott. Rekia Boyd. Tamir Rice. Most Americans have at least heard their names, and the stories of how they died. We have seen videos and images of their deaths, or of the aftermaths. They are African-Americans who have been killed by police, or died in police custody, in just over a year. There are many more.
We know their names because of the ⌗BlackLivesMatter movement, born after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin. The ubiquity of smartphones and mobile internet access put the tools of the media in the hands of savvy, young, blacks who used them to demand America pay attention to what had long been going on — and going unheralded — in black communities, where the police acted as an occupying force, and court systems turn jails into debtors’ prisons with endless, exorbitant fees and fines.
This was the year that #BlackLivesMatter mattered. It arrived precisely at a moment of crisis that called for a movement that values and demands respect above respectability, doesn’t hesitate to disrupt “business as usual.”