Among the nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize — along with Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, the World Health Organization, climate campaigner Greta Thunberg and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams — is the group Black Lives Matter.
My vote for the honor announced in October, if I were able to cast one, would be for this group.
The social justice movement’s goal is to dismantle racism and end the oppression of Black people. It was formed in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrice Cullors and Opal Tometi following the acquittal of vigilante George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Norwegian politician, Petter Eide, explained in his nomination letter that he chose Black Lives Matter for its “struggle against racism and racially motivated violence.” He also underscored the group’s importance to the world. “BLM’s call for systemic change has spread around the world, forcing other countries to grapple with racism within their own societies.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Eide says he received threats and hostile messages in response.
“I have received so many negative responses from individual Americans telling me that Black Lives Matter is a violent and aggressive organization, that they are deliberately using violence as a political communication tool and that nominating them for the Nobel Peace Prize is quite insane,” Eide told ABC News. “They were very nasty, and some of them were also threats. They were hateful.”
But Eide is standing by his nomination, with the support of people like me who have witnessed the transformational power of Black Lives Matter.
Over the past seven years, I have marched while holding signs that name the slain, including Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor – far too many names.
Black Lives Matter rallies are called “protests” because they call for drastic reforms to the criminal justice system.
They’re also, at their most profound level, funeral marches. We gather, with hope, to mourn those whom the justice system has failed.
I marched following the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, when for the first time white protesters joined us in large numbers, and sympathizers marched across the globe. But since last summer, droves of counter demonstrators and hecklers have begun challenging us, and threatening the movement.
The heightened level of chaotic participation and negative attention contributed to summer rioting. However, a report released last September by the nonprofit group Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that an overwhelming 93 percent of protests since George Floyd was killed were peaceful.
I saw how Black Lives Matter managed to achieve widening influence, even while it was hit with lies and scare tactics promoted by the Trump White House. I view that as evidence this movement is on the right side of justice. Martin Luther King Jr., after all, faced the same kind of character assassination.
The Peace Prize nominees that I have named are all meritorious. But Black Lives Matter touched a chord in this land and overseas by making us acknowledge that racism is a scourge on human progress. It has helped expose the inequity that prevents us from achieving equality, solidarity, or universal rights, even action on climate change.
We cry “Black Lives Matter” in solidarity with all who are oppressed, because the human project is unfulfilled until the color line is erased. Racism makes us less human. The Black Lives Matter movement makes us stronger and better.
(Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a writer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a communications fellow at Community Change. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.)