Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi will be awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in November. The prize, which has been awarded since 1998, is Australia’s international peace prize.
The three women began Black Lives Matter in 2013 with the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager. The hashtag and its meaning became nationally known in 2014 in response to the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.
Since, it has become a rallying cry for racial justice, particularly as it relates to police violence against blacks. According to research and data collected by The Guardian, 266 black people were killed by police in the United States in 2016. Police killed 1,092 people total, according to The Guardian. Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be killed by police.
The choice is likely to be controversial. According to a 2016 survey of Americans conducted by the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of whites opposed the Black Lives Matter movement.
It is the first time a movement and not a person has been awarded the prize, which is given out by the Sydney Peace Foundation every year since 1998. Previous winners include Norm Chomsky, Hans Blix and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Naomi Klein, a Canadian author and activist, won the award in 2016 for her work “exposing the structural causes and responsibility for the climate crisis.”
“This is an inspired, bold and urgent choice — and it’s exactly what our moment of overlapping global crises demands,” Klein told The Guardian.
“Black Lives Matter is our call to action. It is about replacing narratives of black criminality with black humanity. It is a tool to re-imagine a world where black people are free to exist, free to live, and a tool for our allies to show up for us,” Cullors said.
“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression,” Alicia Garza wrote on the Black Lives Matter website.
The Sydney Peace Foundation, founded in 1998 by Australian human rights activist and author Stuart Rees, “promotes peace, justice and nonviolence by recognizing the world’s most important leaders for peace with the Sydney Peace Prize,” according to the foundation’s website.