Alicia Garza

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Person.png Alicia Garza  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Alicia Garza.jpg
BornJanuary 4, 1981
Alma materUniversity of California/San Diego
Member ofBBC/100 Women/2020, Black Lives Matter, WEF/Young Global Leaders/2020
Professional activist and one of the founders of Black Lifes Matter.

Alicia Garza is an American activist and writer known for co-founding the international Black Lives Matter movement.

Early life and education

Garza was born to a single mother in Oakland, California, on January 4, 1981. Her first four years were spent in San Rafael, living with her African-American mother and her mother's twin brother. After that she lived with her mother and her Jewish stepfather, and she grew up as Alicia Schwartz in a mixed-raced and mixed-religion household. Garza identifies as Jewish. The family lived first in San Rafael and then Tiburon, and ran an antiques business, assisted later by her brother Joey, eight years her junior. When she was 12 years old, Alicia engaged in activism, promoting school sex education about birth control. Enrolling in the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), she continued her activism by working at the student health center and joining the student association calling for higher pay for the university's janitors. In her final year at college, she helped organize the first Women of Color Conference, a university-wide convocation held at UCSD in 2002. She graduated in 2002 with a degree in anthropology and sociology.


School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL)

In 2003 Garza returned to the Bay Area, where she began a training program in political education with the School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL) that taught young people of color how to organize, by placing them with local community based organizations in West Oakland. Garza began working with Just Cause Oakland,[1] where she met her partner Malachi Garza, a transgender man and a community activist.

People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO)

Completing her internship at SOUL, Garza joined a campaign that researched the relationship between increasing economic security for People Of Color, and increased community security.[2] She said in an Interview with Vanity Fair: “Building economic opportunities in local communities is a better alternative to dealing with crime and violence, than increasing police budgets”[2]

People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER)

After leaving PUEBLO, Garza began working with the UC Student Association for a year promoting activism to university students. In 2005 she joined People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) in Bayview–Hunters Point.[1]

POWER is a "multi-racial and multi-lingual grassroots organization of African Americans and Latinas committed to winning economic, environmental, racial, and gender justice. Rooted in issues-based campaigns, leadership development and movement building, POWER builds the collective strength of working-class families to control the destinies of their communities and workplaces."[3]

National Domestic Workers Alliance

Following a brief sabbatical, Alicia Garza joined the National Domestic Workers Alliance creating a program focused on Black domestic workers.[2] Shortly before this, Garza founded Black Lives Matter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.

Black Lives Matter

With Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, Garza birthed the Black Lives Matter hashtag.[4][5] Garza is credited with inspiring the slogan when, after the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, she posted on Facebook: "I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter... Our lives matter." Cullors shared this with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. The organization Black Lives Matter was spurred on by the killings of Black people by police, racial disparities within the U.S. criminal legal system, mass incarceration, police militarization, and over-criminalization.[6] In particular, the movement was born and Garza's post became popularized after protests emerged in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown.[7]

Garza led the 2015 Freedom Ride to Ferguson, organized by Cullors and Darnell Moore, that launched the building of BlackLivesMatter chapters across the United States and the world.[8] The movement and Garza are credited for popularizing the use of social media for mass mobilization in the United States; a practice called "mediated mobilization". This practice has been used by other movements, such as the #MeToo movement.[9]


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