After the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the spring of 2020, Butler University junior Annie Ventura wanted to address the anger she felt in a meaningful way.
“I was mad, sad, and disappointed about the acts of police brutality and the murders of people of color, particularly Black people,” says Ventura, an International Studies major with a minor in Criminology. “I knew that if I was mad, then there were millions of other people who were, too, because they were personally and directly affected by what was happening. It was a type of anger, disappointment, and sadness that I would never be able to fully understand. So, I wanted to do something that could serve as a beacon of hope and support.”
By early 2021, Ventura and other members of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board (DEIB) of Butler’s Student Government Association had organized for #BlackLivesMatter co-creator Alicia Garza to speak with the campus community during the University’s Founder’s Week. Ventura helped moderate the conversation on February 9, along with Butler senior and DEIB Director Roua Daas. Co-sponsors for the virtual event included the Black Student Union, the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement, Bust The B.U.B.B.L.E., the Efroymson Diversity Center, and the Department of Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies.
In addition to helping launch #BlackLivesMatter, Garza founded the Black Futures Lab to help Black communities be more powerful in politics. She is the Strategy & Partnerships Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the co-founder of Supermajority, and author of the book The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart—which was available free for Butler students leading up to the event.
During the discussion, Garza focused on her desire for more people to believe in their own power to create change, especially if they work together.
“The story that is told so often about #BlackLivesMatter is that we took a hashtag and turned it into a global movement,” she said. “But that’s not at all how change happens. Movements don’t originate from hashtags. They come from people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired—as [civil rights activist] Fannie Lou Hamer was known to say—and they join together to create a force that is bigger than themselves as individuals so that we can all access the world that we deserve.”
Organizing is powerful, Garza explained, but there can also be things that stand in the way of success. She said social movements can be messy because the people who build them are messy, complicated individuals. Even within the same organization, members come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. That’s why in building a movement, Garza said, it’s crucial to take an intersectional approach that doesn’t leave anyone behind.
“I love how Alicia tells her story and situates her own world view in an ever-shifting political and economic U.S. context, where there has been a constant backlash to any hard-fought progress that Black people gained decade after decade,” said Dr. Terri Jett, Professor of Political Science and Faculty Director of the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement. “Her never-ending passion for staying in the midst of the struggle, and yet carving out a space for centering intersectional voices, has been remarkable because it allows for leaders to emerge who would have otherwise been silenced.”