Founders of Black Lives Matter to speak at PSU on Feb. 16
Author: Chris Broderick
Posted: February 2, 2016

(Portland, Ore.) Feb. 2, 2016 — Two of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement will speak at Portland State University on February 16 as part of Black History Month and the “Living the Legacy” series of campus and community events honoring the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Twitter in 2013 in response to the acquittal in Florida of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Spurred by the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Missouri and other deaths of black people, Black Lives Matter has emerged as an international movement promoting social justice and civil rights and condemning racial violence.   

“It is an honor and a privilege to have the founders share their vision of justice for all with our PSU students and broader Portland and regional community,” says Dr. Carmen Suarez, vice president of the office of Global Diversity and Inclusion at PSU. “Their work in engaging audiences in discussions about race relations in America is courageous and born from the pain, frustration and anger over the ongoing state violence, police brutality and social injustice plaguing our country. They also teach us how their activism  became the national movement it is today, and how we must all take action to combat the systemic and institutionalized racism from which these virulent plagues of violence and injustice stem.”

Black Lives Matter has grown to more than 25 chapters across the nation -- including a Portland chapter -- that organize rallies and other events.  The group relies on local chapters to focus on issues such as police brutality, racial profiling and inequities in the criminal justice system.      

Alicia Garza is an Oakland-based activist and director of special projects for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She previously served as executive director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights and has won various honors, including two Harvey Milk Democratic Club Community Activist awards. 

Opal Tometi of Brooklyn, N.Y. is the child of Nigerian immigrants and a longtime advocate for immigration rights and racial justice. She is executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and has presented at the United Nations’ Global Forum on Migration and participated in the UN Commission on the Status of Women. 

Patrisse Cullors, a former Fulbright scholar, is a former community organizer in Los Angeles, where she cofounded the watchdog group, Dignity and Power Now, which successfully advocated for civilian oversight of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office. Ms. Cullors is unable to attend the PSU event.

The organizers will speak at a public event 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 16 at the Peter Stott Center at PSU. Every winter, Portland State hosts speakers as part of events that honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Recent speakers have included activist and author Angela Davis, Dr. King’s daughter and activist Bernice King, and scholar and author Dr. Cornel West.       

Tickets for the event in the Stott Center are sold out, but PSU will livestream it to the Smith Memorial Student Union to accommodate more attendees.  Overflow tickets are free; contact the PSU Box Office at (503) 725-3307 or