Patrisse Cullors was just a teenager when she watched police handcuff and haul her mentally ill older brother, Monte, to prison.
However, it was much later that she learnt how they kept water from him and tied him up, drugging him until he was incapacitated, beating and choking him until he passed out.
Yet it is black activists who are the ones who are called terrorists.
“It was predictable. Black activists throughout time have been called terrorists, even though we’re fighting for America’s democracy”, Patrisse said.
First by Bill O’Reilly, who likened Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan, and then from the lips of the FBI, who cracked down on dangerous ‘black identity extremists’.
Patrisse uses her new memoir, When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, to reclaim the discussion.
“It was important to question: What is terror? Who is committing terrorism? Is it really black activists or is it really the police who have plagued our communities for decades?” she asks.
Patrisse lays down the statistics: in 2016, hate crimes in the US rose 6 percent in 25 of the largest cities, and black people were the most common target. In California, a human being is killed by a police officer roughly every 72 hours. 63 per cent of these people are black or Latino. Black people, 6 percent of the Californian population, are targeted and killed at five times the rate of whites.
Patrisse wants to set the record straight on the “mixed messages” around Black Lives Matter – and clear up the story of how it begun.
It took one comment on social media for the fury that had been bubbling under the surface in black communities to explode into Black Lives Matter.
A jury had just acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trevor Martyn in 2013 when Alicia Garza, another co-founder of Black Lives Matter, wrote this fated Facebook post:
“I continue to be surprised at how little black lives matter.
Black people, I will NEVER give up on us. NEVER.” Underneath, Cullors replied to the post: “#BlackLivesMatter”.
A year later, those three words took a life of their own after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a modern civil rights movement was born.
Photo Credit: Sydney Peace Prize foundation