"What Does Black Lives Matter Mean?"

I am a member of The Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League. We are an auxiliary group of young professionals that have a passion for creating positive change in the black community. We accomplish this by hosting a variety of events, special programming and service projects. A couple of weeks ago we hosted an event––Panel Discussion: Black Lives Matter Movement - What Does it Really Mean? The panel included a variety of speakers and activists from throughout the Chicago land area. This discussion started to make me think about the way I look at the world and how the Black community is viewed across the country. Because the topic was formed and focused around Black Lives Matter, that made me think about what the organization does, in my opinion, and how their work is perceived around the nation. 


So, what does Black Lives Matter really mean? And what does it mean to me? That sparked something in my brain. I wanted to learn more and be more engaged in this conversation. I will be honest, one thing that I did not know, until a few weeks before the panel discussion, was that ‘Black Lives Matter’ is so much more than just a hash tag. ‘Black Lives Matter’ is an actual organization. Why is this important? This is important because most people associate this movement with the hash tag. Aside from Twitter and Instagram, the group has a voice outside of social media. 


As taken from their website, “#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder.” Black Lives Matter is an organization that works for the validity of Black rights and social justice. What does this mean to the population at large? When speaking with people of all races, many people don't know exactly what the founders and members of Black Lives Matter do. I can only speak from the action that I have seen taken place in Chicago, but change is being made. I am not sure about if the change is being made with policy makers, but community engagement is taking place. Black Lives Matter members perform service projects all over the city, especially the areas that are heavily occupied by crime and poverty. They foster support by showing young people they have value and teach them how to fight for change. 


This brings me back to the question of “What does Black Lives Matter mean?” To me it means teaching and showing others that we (Black people) are valuable and have a purpose. We are the same as everyone else in the world, our skin just looks different. Black lives should be treated as equally and seen as just as great as everyone else. We are loved for the cultural contributions, such as fashion, music and hair, we bring to society; we are phenomenal athletes. It seems like outside of these things we don’t seem to matter. This is something that I want to change. We can protest as much as we want, but I don't think the government is hearing our cry. We need to start making policy and change leaders listen to us, so we can see a change happen around the country. Fatal acts against Black people cannot continue to happen. 


I don't want to be defined by the color of my skin, but I will proudly acknowledge that I am Black and speak to it when I have to. I am proud to be Black, but I don't always want to say that I am Black, after all I am a person, right? 

By: Rachel M. Roberts via EIC Le'Keshia Smith