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  2. 10. Irresistible calls to action. #BlackLivesMatter leaders raise thoughtful rhetoric to the level of art. Weaving history, economics and global politics with ground-level realities in ways the public can understand is a virtuosa stateswoman's skill. Reinventing how we hear terms like "white supremacy" is a brilliant strategy. And doing so in tones that communicate both love and rage, with a passion that prompts people into the streets, is an immense gift of leadership. For someone like me whose profession is rooted in communication, watching BLM leaders at work is a master class.
  3. 9. Respect over respectability. #BlackLivesMatter activists understand "respectability" will not save us. Decades of politely saying "Excuse me, ma'am, the floor is uneven" and "Pardon me, sir, but this ceiling is made of glass" have generated important progress, no doubt; but in 2015 Black lives are still being ended and Black futures denied because we have failed to reject the legacies of slavery. Black elders came up fighting to secure rights. Many folks in the next generation probably kept quieter than was comfortable to maintain safe and peaceful access to those gains. But BLM carries a new kind of energy as today's young people see their birthright freedoms stolen from them, and find themselves disrespected by small and large actions every day. By grabbing the mic, BLM has alerted us to the real problem: the roof is on fire.
  4. 8. Personal generosity. Leaders like Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi have turned their lives upside down to put our country right-side up. Faced with the opportunity to evolve #BlackLivesMatter from a hashtag into a movement, any one of them could have stepped out of the spotlight and continued an extraordinary career in social justice work. (Or they could have stepped away entirely, having already accomplished more than 99.9 percent of us.) Instead, they have opened themselves to back-breaking schedules, intense and often hateful scrutiny, a coordinated campaign of lies, and the chaos of connecting unexpected events and unknown allies for the common good.
  5. 7. Women and girls in the lead. While the civil rights movement of 50 years ago was as sexist as its time, a broad base of women are propelling the movement of 2015. In the process, they are training up a generation of girls ready to make their voices heard on the issues, both today and tomorrow. Last year a friend wrote on Faceboook: Still reeling from having "The Talk" with Delaney last night. No, not about where babies come from - I wish she didn't know as much about that as most 11-year olds do these days. Instead, I had to share my understanding of why it is that innocent Black boys and men are dying at the hands of police who are not being held accountable by our judicial system. Instead of retreating in pain and confusion, my friend's daughter took to the streets two days later and gave an impromptu speech about Michael Brown's death.
  6. Young girl explains why Ferguson is EVERYONE's problem.
  7. 6. Humanism and faith linking arms. Faith-based organizations and leaders present a conundrum for many social justice activists. People who loudly claim their religion in the public square have often stood on the wrong side of history (witness opposition to marriage equality). Some people of faith who would happily feed hungry neighbors or give sanctuary to refugees wouldn't hesitate to deny civil and human rights, often preaching all of the above from the same pulpit. #BlackLivesMatter resists the urge to parse every seeming contradiction. BLM is a movement of people willing to reach across different beliefs and motivations to end anti-black racism and state-sponsored violence.
  8. 5. In your face...with integrity. When high profile leaders of BLM visit Ferguson, Baltimore or Prairie View, they go to stand with those communities, not in front of them. When they interrupt a conference or rally, it’s to deliver a message about all of us taking responsibility, not to trump up their own celebrity. When they decline a party's endorsement, they're refusing to be occupied for broad acceptance, popularity or political ends. The hubris belongs to those who won't yield the podium and hear what they have to say.
  9. 4. Shining light where others look away. As the U.S. AIDS epidemic captured public attention, some advocacy groups chose blandly appealing poster children - literally, kids with hemophilia - for fear straight people wouldn't care about a disease primarily affecting gay men and drug users. #BlackLivesMatter doesn't sidestep anyone's humanity to avoid the prejudices of mainstream America; in fact, BLM makes a point of illuminating violence against the people we most marginalize. When a black transgender woman is murdered and the media ignores it, BLM demands we #SayHerName.
  10. 3. Immediacy + focus + patience. When your life is under attack you don't stop to create a nonprofit board and seven-year strategic plan before you sound an alarm. #BlackLivesMatter leaders are courageous enough to jump into direct action immediately, and patient enough to sort out BLM structure, sub-goals and other emerging details more slowly. By all appearances, they're taking extreme care with each next step as the movement grows. They've refused to waste time on the many voices emerging from couch and keyboard to criticize the movement for what it's not. Instead, they recently sought the wisdom of Black activists from all over the country who are joining in to shape what BLM is and can be.
  11. 2. Independence from funders. Progressive foundations and other donors are anxious to offer financial support for BLM, whose leaders seem to be putting some of these potential resources on pause. Few slopes are more slippery than the road to becoming a darling of organized philanthropy. One minute you're operating with complete independence and, next thing you know, you're doing what my favorite Blue Scholars' song bluntly describes as Working while we sing the proletariat blues on 501(c)(3) community plantations/Non profit sector propped up to kill the movement for the changes in production relations. #BlackLivesMatter is incredibly savvy at identifying danger zones for colonization. If funders are as smart as the people behind BLM, they'll wait quietly and make their money available how, when and if those leaders say the time is right.
  12. Blue Scholars - Life & Debt
  13. 1. Love. Yes, #BlackLivesMatter is specifically about love for Black lives. And I will refuse every person who volleys back the dreaded "All lives matter" because I believe love for Black lives is already an expression of love for everyone. Maybe white (and Black) unease with the phrase "Black lives matter" comes from the fact it calls our attention to a place where our nation's love is in critical condition. Or maybe it requires us to look more honestly into our own souls with the risk of discovering insights we don't want to confront. What I can say for sure is this: we were born into a racist system so our only choice is whether to resist it or keep creating it. There is no neutral stance. Not to love Black lives is to be complicit in hate.
  14. None of the above content should be interpreted as coming from or endorsed by leaders of #BlackLivesMatter other than elements that link directly to their words. I have not spoken with BLM leaders or activists about their strategies or philosophies - this essay represents only my opinions based on observing the movement through news and social media, public appearances and the occasional brief interaction.