Patrisse Cullors talks BLM, police reform and why we need to support black trans women


On Friday, Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors sat down with Mic in a Facebook live video to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement, its reputation across the world, as well as transgender support within the black community.

In 2013, Cullors, along with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, started the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and subsequent movement to combat police brutality.

“We’re in a moment where Black Lives Matter has inundated every part of society,” she said. “I can get in an Uber, a Lyft, anywhere around the world and say ‘Black Lives Matter’ and people will be like, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard of that.’”

As she pointed out, however, the success of the movement has not come without sacrifices. For Black Lives Matter chapters specifically, all of its members are volunteers who often have day jobs and lives to manage. Some of them, she mentioned, have even been fired from said jobs because of their affiliation with BLM.

Cullors is dedicated to more than one organization. She is also the founder of Dignity and Power Now, a grassroots organization based in Los Angeles that is devoted to fighting on behalf of incarcerated people, their families and their communities. Beyond that she bases her activism on an intersectional platform.

“What people don’t realize is not only do black people have to deal with racism, many of us have to deal with patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia,” she said, “while also sacrificing part of their life, sanity, happiness, so they can build something they might not even see right now.”

Cullors recently flexed her activist muscles with fellow organizers Ashlee Marie Preston and Blossom Brown by disrupting an interview at Politicon between radio host Charlamagne Tha God and an MSNBC host.

Ahead of the event, comedian Lil Duval made a transphobic joke about killing trans women on Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club” morning show. On Twitter, the backlash was swift with people using the hashtag #BoycottBreakfastClub to call out transphobia. The Marsha P. Johnson Institute issued an official statement on its Twitter timeline.

“As an institution that serves the black community we demand that WWPR-FM and its parent company iHeartMedia fire Charlamagne Tha God for his consistent misogyny, anti-black and transphobic views,” the statement reads. “He has served as the donkey of the day for far too long and continues to harm the black community and especially ... black women.”

On Thursday, the radio host denounced violence against trans women in a statement.

“‘The Breakfast Club’ is an institution,” Cullors said about the protest. “We have to call out institutions that are violating our human rights, our civil rights and are allowing for people — women, black trans women in particular — to be seen as objects.”

Cullors said the incident serves as a reminder of how much the cisgender black community hasn’t supported black trans people. Even within Black Lives Matter, she noted that there hasn’t been enough inclusion, but she does hope that will soon change.

“We have to follow the leadership of black trans women,” she said. “We say this all the time: ‘[Not] until black people get free, everybody will get free,’ but really, [not] until black trans women get free, everybody will get free.”