Alicia Garza says she never imagined three words from her Facebook status would end up at the center of the 2016 presidential election. In 2013, she was simply posting her instinctive, heartfelt reaction upon hearing that George Zimmerman had been acquitted in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Her post helped coin the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” and quickly made Garza a co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Alicia Menendez sat down with both Garza and Bree Newsome, a filmmaker and activist who made headlines in June when she was arrested for taking down the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina State House. Both women were being honored at the Root 100, an annual event that recognizes the achievements of African Americans.
“At a time when people don’t want to talk about race, they don’t want to talk about the state of black lives, it’s really important to us, through our actions, through the things that we do together, to make sure that decision makers and power brokers understand that we’re not going away,” Garza told Menendez. “And that it’s important to address the issues we care about.”
Activists from the #BlackLivesMatter movement have been successful at getting their voices heard by Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, although it hasn’t always received the reaction they would like.
Following an event in New Hampshire earlier this year, Clinton met with several leaders of the movement about criminal justice reform and suggested they would need a more concrete plan and vision if they really wanted to incite change and affect deep-rooted racism.
“Look, I don’t believe you change hearts,” Clinton said. “I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not.”
Garza told Menendez that she disagrees with Clinton’s assertion. In order to change policies and practices, she said, people have to have a “consciousness and a commitment to making things different,” and an emotional connection.
“The fact of the matter is, if people during the Civil Rights Movement didn’t connect—with black people getting hosed by fire hoses, being beaten by police, being bitten by dogs—if they didn’t connect their heart to that, then there would not have been policy change,” Garza said.
Watch Alicia Menendez’s full interview with Alicia Garza and Bree Newsome.