Jose Cardenas: good evening and welcome to a special edition of "horizonte."
Video: I carry the member of living under that terror. the terror of knowing that I or any member of my family could be killed with impunity and yet I was called a terrorist.
Jose Cardenas: we will talk to one of the cofounders of the black lives matter about how the movement started and what life is like when you’re being called a terrorist, coming up next on Horizonte.
Video: "HORIZONTE" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS, MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.
Jose Cardenas: thank you for joining us. a new book when they call you a terrorist, a black lives matter memoir tells THE emotional story of one of the cofounders of Black Lives Matter. We’ll talk to that co-founder in a moment but first listen to part of her story.
Video: If anybody you know fails to condemn white supremacy, remember this you don’t condemn it you condone it.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: it is a lot of pressure. i carry the memory of living under that terror. The terror of knowing that i or any member of my family could be killed with impunity and yet I was called a terrorist. The members of our movements are called terrorists. We are not terrorists. We the people. I am not a terrorist. i am a survivor. i am star dust.
Jose Cardenas: joining me you to talk about the book "when they call you a terrorist", a black lives matter memoir. Is author Patrisse khan. Patrisse, those last two lines: I am a survivor. I am stardust which pretty much captures what the book is about. LET'S START WITH THE SURVIVOR part. YOU GREW UP IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA SURROUNDED BY RELATIVELY AFFLUENT WHITE AREAS AND YOU WERE PART OF BOTH WORLDS.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YES, I AM GRATEFUL TO BE ON THE SHOW. THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. I GREW UP IN LOS ANGELES. BUT PEOPLE USUALLY WHEN THEY HEAR LOS ANGELES THEY THINK SOUTH CENTRAL BUT I ACTUALLY GREW UP IN A SUBURB OUTSIDE THE CITY called Van Nuys THAT WAS mostly Mexican immigrants, a few sprinkles of black communities, SOME POOR WHITE folks BUT EVERYBODY within POVERTY. And my EXPERIENCE IN MY COMMUNITY WAS IT WAS OVER POLICED AND SO MANY people in my community IN My FAMILY WERE OVERINCARCERATED.
Jose Cardenas: AND THE FIRST FEW CHAPTERS of the book really do FOCUS ON INTERACTION WITH THE POLICE particularly those INVOLVING YOUR BROTHERS. Especially your brother Monty and your biological father Gabriel.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: THAT is right. I think for me growing up in van Nuys those early years really shaped how I would I understand my work. how I would understand this movement work. i grew up in a neighborhood that the police circled and patrolled every hour on the hour whether it was through cop cars or helicopters. i had my own experience at 12 years old where I was handcuffed by the local police department in my middle school and walked down the hall way in hand cuffs. Up until THAT POINT I HAD watched, MY BROTHERS be directly CRIMINALIZED AND PUNCTURED THE MYTH THAT BLACK GIRLS ARE NOT IMPACTED BY criminalization was UNFOLDLED before MY OWN EYES and in that experience, I think I REALIZED that OUR COMMUNITIES WERE ONLY GIVEN CRIMINALIZATION. WE WERE NOT GIVEN AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMS. We weren’t given care and dignity. We were given A PATH that was SPECIFICALLY ABOUT INCARCERATING OUR COMMUNITIES.
Jose Cardenas: YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR OWN ARREST at the age of 12 WHEN YOU WERE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, which was at Milliken, is that right?
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: A MOSTLY WHITE SCHOOL. THAT ALSO DREW THE CONTRAST BETWEEN HOW BLACKS AND LATINOS ARE TREATED BY THE POLICE AND HOW, FOR THE MOST PART, WHITES ARE. YOU TALK ABOUT ONE OF YOUR FRIEND'S BROTHERS who was a DRUG DEALER AND YOU WERE SHOCKED that HE SAID HE was NEVER CONCERNED ABOUT BEING ARRESTED BY THE POLICE.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: THE MEMORY IS JUST SO ETCHED IN MY MIND. I REMEMBER WALKING INTO THIS HOME, PROBABLY WAS HIS ROOM, BUT ALL I CAN REMEMBER was literally TRASH BAGS WORTH OF DRUGS, whether it was Marijuana or pills and he was sorting it out with money and I had this moment where I was like in my neighborhood if you’re selling a NICKEL BAG THE POLICE ARE THERE. IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD HE IS A DRUG DEALER AND THERE IS NOBODY HERE THAT IS CRIMINALIZING HIM.
Jose Cardenas: ANOTHER ASPECT OF THE INTERACTION WITH I THINK THAT SAME FAMILY YOU TALK ABOUT HAVING DINNER WITH YOUR FRIEND AND HER FATHER AND HE IS ASKING YOU AND HE ASKED HER WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP. A QUESTION YOU WERE NEVER ASKED OR never THOUGHT OF.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: IT WAS A DIFFERENT FAMILY. I WAS VERY CLOSE TO THIS PERSON. AND I WENT TO HER HOME PROBABLY EVERY WEEKEND, HAVE DINNER, AND HANG OUT WITH HER SIBLINGS AND HER FATHER AND MOTHER. IT WAS this VERY NUCLEAR FAMILY DYNAMIC THAT I HAD NEVER EXPERIENCED BUT WHAT I WOULD FIGURE OUT AND FIND OUT IN THAT CONVERSATION WAS THAT, that WAS OUR SLUMLORD AND I THINK I WAS SHOCKED. I COULDN'T FULLY RECKON WITH THIS FAMILY LIVING THIS VERY MIDDLE CLASS LIFE AND ALSO BEING NICE. IT WAS A NICE FAMILY. AND THEN HIM BEING THE LANDLORD THAT WAS ALLOWING FOR, YOU KNOW, OUR BUILDING TO BE DULA DILAPIDATED.
Jose Cardenas: You know, I think people read the title of the book and they assume there’s gonna be a lot of discussion of the founding of the organization. What the organization has done, and there is but you don’t get that till page I think page 166 before there’s even a mention. It’s a very personal discussion of the people around you particularly your mother.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: I WANTED PEOPLE TO GET A batter SENSE OF how I was, how I WAS RAISED. But also the community I was raised in. That it was a community that SO MANY PEOPLE IN POVERTY COULD RELATE TO. I WANTED PEOPLE TO SEE THIS MOVEMENT DIDN'T COME OUT OF A VACUUM. THIS MOVEMENT HAPPENED BECAUSE MANY OF US WERE IMPACTED BY THE STATE OVER AND OVER AGAIN. IT WAS A WAY TO RECONCILE.
Jose Cardenas: Which leads me to a discussion of your biological father, GABRIEL, YOU FIND OUT NOT RIGHT AWAY THAT YOUR MOTHER HAD A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM AND HE WAS YOUR BROTHER.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: I AM GOING TO HAVE A COUGH ATTACK.
Jose Cardenas: THAT HAPPENS. YOU DEVELOPED A VERY, VERY CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM and HE WAS IN AND OUT OF PRISON. THE KINDS OF ACTIVITIES YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT BECAUSE OF DRUG PROBLEMs.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YEAH, BOTH MY FATHERS WERE IN AND OUT OF PRISON, BUT MY FATHER WHO WAS IN AND OUT OF PRISON BECAUSE OF DRUG USE REALLY was IMPACTED BY THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. IT REALLY SHAPED MY OWN EXPERIENCE.
Jose Cardenas: YOU WERE INTRODUCED TO HIS FAMILY MUCH IN CONTRAST TO YOUR OWN YOUR MOTHER'S PARENTS. AS I UNDERSTAND WERE RELATIVELY MIDDLE CLASS, AND ALSO JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES and that was a tension point for you.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YEAH, MY mother was middle class and was relatively sheltered. My FATHER on the other hand, GREW UP IN POVERTY his family immigrated from Louisiana AND THAT EXPERIENCE OF HIM BEING ON DRUGS AND BEING ADDICTED TO DRUGS AND BEING CRIMINALIZED BECAUSE OF IT CREATED AN ENTIRE DYNAMIC IN MY FAMILY WHERE MY MOTHER HAD TO LEARN NEW WAYS OF DEALING. SHE DIDN'T HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO WERE INCARCERATED SO MY BROTHER AND MY FATHER'S INCARCERATION became the entry ground for her own knowledge about mass incarceration.
Jose Cardenas: Your brother Monty’s EXPERIENCEs WITH THE jail systems and with DRUGS, and his own mental illness RUNS THROUGHOUT THE BOOK. THE FIRST TIME THE WORD TERROR or terrorism IS USED IS WHEN SOMEBODY CALLS HIM A TERRORIST. Describe that situation.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: IT WASN'T JUST SOMEBODY. IT WAS THE COURT SYSTEM.
Jose Cardenas: HE WAS BEING CHARGED as a terrorist.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: Exactly, WITH TERRORIST THREATS is what they call it. HE WAS IN A CAR ACCIDENT AND he WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A MANIC EPISODE. And APPARENTLY he either CURSED OUT THE WOMAN OR YELLED at the women. SHE PRESSED CHARGES. BECAUSE MY BROTHER WAS A SECOND STRIKER HE WAS GOING TO GO TO JAIL FOR LIFE. WE DECIDED AS A COMMUNITY TO RALLY AND RAISE MONEY TO GET HIM A PRIVATE ATTORNEY SO that we COULD SEE HIM actually NOT SPEND THE REST OF HIS NATURAL LIFE IN PRISON. HE WAS 26 YEARS OLD AT THAT TIME. THEY DID CONVICT HIM OF TERRORIST THREATS. TERRORIST THREATS IS ACTUALLY A FELONY CONVICTION. IT CAN GET YOU A STRIKE OR SECOND STRIKER A LIFE IN PRISON. THAT EXPERIENCE SHOWED ME HOW LITTLE THIS PLACE CARES ABOUT PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS. HOW LITTLE IT CARES ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORD.
Jose Cardenas: AND THAT EXPERIENCE IS and others as you describe is really telling you what terror really is, it’s torture.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: EXACTLY. I THINK FOR SO MANY PEOPLE THIS IDEA OF TERRORIST IS ETCHED IN OUR MIND AS SOMEONE WHO IS MUSLIM AND ARAB. BUT WE DON'T TALK ABOUT THE WAYS IN WHICH THE Patrisse Khan-Cullors: CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM HAS CREATED and this country has created BLACK PEOPLE AS TERRORISTS. SOME OF THE FOLK WHOSE I LOOK UP TO LIKE ANGELA DAVIS OR SHACKOR who were literally on the front lines of trying to fight for American democracy were named terrorist in this country.
Jose Cardenas: YOU HAD YOUR OWN INTERACTION WITH THE POLICE BEYOND THAT ONE EVENT YOU MENTIONED BEING ARRESTED. TWO POLICE RAIDS WHICH WERE FRIGHTENING AND ILLUSTRATED A COUPLE POINTS ABOUT THE DIFFERENTS BETWEEN HOW OTHER POLICE INTERACT WITH WHITES AND HOW THEY INTERACT WITH BLACKS.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YEAH. I, UNFORTUNATELY, HAVE EXPERIENCED MULTIPLE POLICE RAIDS AS CHILD AND AS AN ADULT.
Jose Cardenas: THOSE ARE THE TWO I WAS REFERRING TO WHEN YOU WERE WITH MARK ANTHONY AND JT.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: Exactly, as an adult I started organizing. EVERYBODY THINGS BLACK LIVES MATTER WAS MY FIRST TIME BEING AN ORGANIZER BUT in fact I HAD BEEN ORGANIZING FOR NEARLY a DECADE BEFORE THAT. I HAD STARTED TAKING ON THE LOCAL LOS ANGELES SHERIFF DEPARTMENT AND WHILE I WAS TAKING ON THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, WE WERE RAIDED TWICE. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT COMMUNITY THAT WAS RAIDED HAD EVER BEEN RAIDED BY THE POLICE. WE KNOW THAT IS PART OF THE SURVEILLING OF OUR COMMUNITY. But IN THOSE RAIDS, I THINK IT WAS KIND OF MY FIRST MOMENT OF REALIZING, OH, THEY DON'T LIKE WHAT WE ARE DOING. THEY ARE AFRAID OF WHAT WE ARE DOING AND THEY ARE GOING TO TRY TO INTIMIDATE US BY ANY MEANS necessary.
Jose Cardenas: AND YOU DRAW THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN BEING AN ORGANIZER which you say you are AND being AN ACTIVIST WHICH YOU SEE YOU aren’t.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: An activist, which I love activist. Activist go to the protests, they sign the petition, but AN ORGANIZER IS THINKING ABOUT THE LARGER strategy or larger GOALS AND CAMPAIGN. AN ORGANIZER IS SHOWING UP AT 6:00 A.M. AND OFTEN LEAVING AT 10:00-11:00 P.M. AT NIGHT. THEY ARE THINKING THROUGH HOW THEY ARE GOING TO WIN. AN ACTIVIST SHOWS UP TO WHAT THE ORGANIZER PLANS.
Jose Cardenas: You mentioned YOUR HISTORY basically IN THIS AREA STARTED IN WHAT? HIGH SCHOOL was it the strategy center that you went too.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: Yeah, I would even argue that. I went to a high school called Cleveland HIGH SCHOOL AND THAT SCHOOL REALLY SHAPED ME BEING AN ORGANIZER BECAUSE IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I AM READING THINGS LIKE BELL HOOKS AND AUDREY LORD AND IN THOSE READINGS I WANTED TO DO MORE THAN just READ. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I WAS GETTING MY LANGUAGE FOR MY EXPERIENCE. I WANTED TO MOVE THAT INTO ACTION. THEN I joined THE LABOR COMMUNITY STRATEGY CENTER. THE FIRST CAMPAIGN I JOINED WAS THE BUS RIDERs UNION.
Jose Cardenas: You already mentioned the campaign involving the L.A. sheriff department. The abuses that were going on. The jail there YOU WERE PART OF THE FOUNDING OF AN ORGANIZATION AND than later a civilian oversight board.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: THAT IS RIGHT. I SPENT 11 YEARS AT THE STRATEGY CENTER AND CAME ACROSS AN ACLU COMPLAINT 86-page complaint. THAT complaint DETAILED THE ABUSEs that PEOPLE WERE FACING AT THE HANDS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT. IT WAS EVERYTHING MY BROTHER EXPERIENCED. I WANTED TO NOT JUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, I WANTED TO HEAL FROM IT. IT WAS SOMETHING THAT impact my entire family. .
Jose Cardenas: THESE ARE HORRIFIC STORIES OF WHAT was done to these inmates.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: IT WAS 70 sown STATEMENTS OF PRISONERS TALKING ABOUT GETTING THEIR JAWS CRACKED OPEN, GETTING THEIR RIBS CRACKED OPEN, I MEAN TORTURE.
Jose Cardenas: DRINKING OUT OF TOILET.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: BEING forced, being STARVED AND FORCED TO DRINK OUT OF THE TOILET BECAUSE THE SHERIFF DEPARTMENT WOULD LITERALLY TURN OFF THEIR WATER. THIS BECAME A WAY OF LIFE INSIDE THE JAILS. NO ELECTED OFFICIALS WERE DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. THERE WAS ALSO NO COMMUNITY MEMBERS ORGANIZED AROUND IT. I STARTED THE FIRST GROUP OF PEOPLE ORGANIZING THEMSELVES around shared violence. Which would than turn into dignity and power now.
Jose Cardenas: AND WE Probably SHOULD NOTE that SHERIFF BARKER recently WAS CONVICTED AND SENTENCED TO JAIL. LET'S TALK ABOUT THE founding of black lives matter. You had two cofounders one of them a Phoenix native.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YES, ONE GREW UP HERE in Phoenix Arizona and IT really SHAPED HER own WORK AROUND FIGHTING FOR UNDOCUMENTED and immigrant COMMUNITIES.
Jose Cardenas: THIS WAS A RESPONSE TO ACQUITTAL OF George ZIMMERMAN and THE TREYVON Martin killing.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: THAT IS RIGHT. I think when George Zimmerman was acquitted of Treyvon Martin’s murder I WAS actually in a small town called Susanville VISITING A FRIEND OF MINE. Who was 19 YEARS OLD, who had JUST got CONVICTED OF A ROBBERY AND GOT 10 YEARS in prison. Eighty five percent time and I WAS SITTING IN A SMALL MOTEL WAITING FOR THE VERDICT TO COME DOWN AND WATCHING FACEBOOK AND TWITTER AND I DIDN'T BELIEVE THAT GEORGE ZIMMERMAN WOULD BE ACQUITTED. I THOUGHT MAYBE he’d get MANSLAUGHTER. EACH VERDICT CAME AND every single verdict WAS NOT GUILTY, NOT GUILTY. I couldn’t imagine that would be the period to that story. I wanted to do something more. I WAS SEARCHING on social media WHAT ARE WE gonna do NEXT AND Alyssa wrote love NOTE to black people. She closed it off with BLACK LIVES MATTER AND I PUT A HASHTAG ON IT AND literally WITHIN 48 HOURS, HER MYSELF, AND UNCLE METTIE WERE TRYING TO CREATE THIS POLITICAL PLATFORM CALLED BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Jose Cardenas: And what seems to capture the motivation is something you wrote.IN THE WAKE OF THE ACQUITTAL OF Treyvon MARTIN'S KILLER WE HAVE TO CHANGE THE we have to talk very specifically ABOUT THE ANTI BLACK RACISM THAT STOCKS US UNTIL IT KILLS US.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: That’s right, that’s absolutely right. We have to remember THIS WAS THE YEARS OF OBAMA. THOSE FIRST YEARS PEOPLE WERE TRYING TO ASK ARE WE IN A POST-RACIAL SOCIETY? DOES THIS BLACK PRESIDENT MEAN WE HAVE WON SOMETHING? That we’ve OVERCOME RACISM? CLEARLY NOT. THE DEATH OF TRAYVON AND the ACQUITTAL OF George ZIMMERMEN made it very clear that we have to be okay. We had to boldly talk about anti-racism and we had to think about the innovated ways we were going to shift this culture.
Jose Cardenas: WHEN BLM really STARTS TO GROW IT IS FERGUSON THAT seems to be what gives it a dynamic boost.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YEAH, IT BECOMES A CATALYST. NOT JUST THE KILLING OF MIKE BROWN BUT THE UPRISING. AND THEN I WOULD ARGUE that DARREN WILSON.
Joes Cardenas: The person who shot him?
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: Yeah, THE NON-INDICTMENT of Darren Wilson. I think that this was a ANOTHER betrayal it was another SLAP IN THE FACE. George ZIMMERMEN got off. THEN DARREN WILSON gets off AND THIS CONTINUOUS CYCLE OF BLACK PEOPLE DIEING AND NOBODY BEING HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR IT AND THAT IS WHEN YOU SEE BLACK LIVES MATTER GO VIRAL A SECOND TIME.
Jose Cardenas: THEN THERE WAS THE SHOOTING IN DALLAS AND BEFORE THAT A PETITION sent TO THE WHITE HOUSE TO LABEL BLACK LIVES MATTER A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: That’s right. WHEN I CAUGHT WIND OF THAT, OR WHEN WE CAUGHT WIND OF THAT, I WAS STUNNED. I HAD KNOWN THAT WE WERE BEING CALLED TERRORISTS BY TROLLS BUT I DIDN'T REALIZE THAT OTHER PEOPLE WERE GOING TO TRY TO INDICT US OF TWISTS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS. Would end up calling us A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION WHEN ALL WE HAD EVER DONE WAS FIGHT LAW ENFORCEMENT VIOLENCE AND CHALLENGE IT BY PROTESTS, BY POLICY AND STRATEGY.
Jose Cardenas: AND NOT JUST ELECTED OFFICIALS. YOU HAD RUDY GIULIANI ON NATIONAL TV SAYING that this was racist, saying BLACK LIVES MATTER WAS RACIST AND THAT YOU WERE TERRORISTS. ONE OF THE THINGS YOU TALK ABOUT IS THE SPEED AND ORGANIZATION OF WHITE RACISM AND HOW HARD IT is TO KEEP UP WITH THAT AND TO DEAL WITH it.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YEAH, I THINK, YOU KNOW, WHAT WE HAVE TO REALIZE AND WHAT WE HAVE COME TO REALIZE IS WHENEVER BLACK PEOPLE FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS -- WHENEVER WE RISE UP AND SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH THERE IS OFTEN A WHITE BLACKLASH. THAT IS WHAT WE ARE SEEING WITH THIS ADMINISTRATION WITH 45. THIS WAS THE HEIGHT OF BLM AND THE WHITES RESPONSE WAS TO PUT DONALD TRUMP INTO OFFICE AND TO GIVE HIM THE SAILS AND THE WIND TO FURTHER THE AGENDA OF WHITE SUPREMACY.
Jose Cardenas: SPEAKING OF DONALD TRUMP THE OTHER STATEMENT AT THE END OF THE VIDEO I AM STARDUST THAT IS A REFLECTION YOU HAD IN THE DAYS AFTER THE ELECTION.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YEAH I think, you know what we have to realize and what we’ve come to realize is that whenever black people fight for our rights. Whenever we rise up and say enough is enough theres often a white backlash. That’s what we’re seeing with this administration with 45. This wsa the high of BLM and the rights response was to put Donald trump into office to give him the sails and the wind. To further the agenda of white supremacy.
Jose Cardenas: And speaking of Donald Trump, the other statement of the end of the video “I am Stardust.” It was a reflection you had in the days after the election.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: IT WAS A HARD DAY that evening. IT WAS A PUNCH IN THE GUT. IT WAS A BETRAYAL. IT WAS A CLARIFYING MOMENT. IT WAS this moment where many of us REALIZED but I realized that OUR ANCESTORS HAVE FOUGHT HARDER AND MORE ARGEROUS FIGHTS AND that we’re SURVIVORS. WE COME FROM A PEOPLE WHO HAVE LITERALLY SURVIVED SOME OF THE MOST HORRENDOUS THINGS. I HAVE TO GIVE MYSELF THE MOMENT TO MOURN but also REMIND MYSELF WE ARE RESILIENT AND that we COME FROM STARS LITERALLY.
Jose Cardenas: In the book you talk about your criticism with the Democratic party for a number of things. Which also brings up your prior visit to Phoenix here which is when you and a group of Black Lives Matter folks went to the Bernie Sanders and O’Malley campaign stuff.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: YEAH. THAT ROOTS NATION. WE WERE REELING FROM THE DEATH OF SANDRA BLAND AND we WANTED TO MAKE SURE THERE WAS A NATIONAL CONVERSATION ABOUT Sandra’s DEATH. That it wasn’t just black men dying at the hands of law enforcement but also women. ANGELA PEOPLE'S who was than THE ED OF GET EQUAL SAID hey THERE IS GOING TO BE A CANDIDATE FORUM. WE SHOULD SHUT IT DOWN AND I SAID LET'S DO THAT. WE ORGANIZED A TEAM OF US OF OVER PROBABLY 50-60 MOSTLY BLACK WOMEN BUT ALSO BROWN WOMEN HERE IN PHOENIX AND WE HAD Tia Osos take the stage and JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS WAS leading that debate and I know him. So I texted him and said we’re about to shut down your debate and I just wanna let you know. He said okay, just tell me when. It was this perfect storm and this moment where we were able to hold the Democratic party accountable for so long milking the votes of black people but not showing up for us and not fighting for us.
Jose Cardenas: YOU MENTION SANDRA BLAND. SHE IS ONE OF THE PEOPLE YOU HIGHLIGHT IN THE CHAPTER TITLED SAY HER NAME. BLACK WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN KILLED IN CIRCUMSTANCES SIMILAR TO THOSE OF BLACK MEN BUT DON'T GET THE SAME ATTENTION and in fact you mention eVEN CREDIT FOR FOUNDING BLACK LIVES MATTER INITIALLY was given MORE TO the MEN THAN THE PEOPLE THAT FOUNDED IT.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: CORRECT. WE LIVE IN A PATRIARCIAL SOCIETY AND WHOEVER GETS THE FOCUS OF THEIR VICTIMHOOD OR PRAISE IS OFTEN THE BLACK MEN IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES. WE HAVE TO FIGHT THAT TOOTH AND NAIL TO MAKE SURE THAT BLACK WOMEN GET our RECOGNITION BOTH IN OUR LIVING BUT ALSO IN OUR DEATH.
Jose Cardenas: Let’s talk quickly WE HAVE COUPLE MINUTES LEFT. LET'S TALK ABOUT WHAT BLACK LIVES MATTER IS DOING NOW. YOU ARE TACKLING A LOT OF ISSUES ALL-AROUND THE WORLD. ANYTHING FROM CLIMATE CHANGE TO IMMIGRATION AND IN COUNTRIES LIKE COLUMBIA AND HONDURAS AND SO FORTH.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors: SO MUCH OF OUR WORK IS REASSESSING WHAT WE HAVE DONE AND WHAT HAS BEEN ENCOURAGING ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE DONE AND ALSO THINKING ABOUT THE CURRENT TIME PLACE AND CONDITION. SO MUCH OF OUR WORK IN THIS MOMENT IS ABOUT LOOKING AT WHAT IS GOING TO BE THE BEST BALLOT INITIATIVE TO MAKE SURE WE HOLD LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCOUNTABLE TO LOOKING AT TRYING TO CHALLENGE DAS WHO ARE NOT HOLDING POLICE ACCOUNTABLE. WE also WORKED WITH OVER A 100 FAMILIES ACROSS THE GLOBE WHO HAVE BEEN VICTIMS OF STATE VIOLENCE. WE TAKE this work around trying to CHALLENGE police violence VERY SERIOUSLY. WHAT WE HAVE SEEN WITH THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION AND also with our current MOVEMENT IS SUCH A FOCUS ON TRUMP. BUT we just heard from ATTORNEY JEFF SESSIONS TALKED ABOUT THE SHERIFF DEPARTMENT BEING PART OF THE ANGLO AMERICAN HERITAGE AND CLEARLY HE IS TALKING ABOUT A WHITE SUPREMACISTS HERITAGE. LAW ENFORCEMENT CANNOT BE OFF THE HOOK in this moment ESPECIALLY WHEN 45 has MADE IT very CLEAR HE IS A LAW AND ORDER PRESIDENT AND THIS IS GOING TO BE A LAW AND ORDER COUNTRY now.
Jose Cardenas: THE WORLD IS CERTAINLY DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS WHEN SOME OF THOSE PEOPLE WERE GROWING UP AND YOUR EXPERIENCE WILL HOPEFULLY HELP CHANGE IT. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON "HORIZONTE.” To talk about it. AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US FOR "HORIZONTE" AND ARIZONA PBS. I AM JOSÉ CÁRDENAS. HAVE A GOOD EVENING.
"HORIZONTE" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS. MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.
Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, talks about her early life and the creation of BLM in the book she co-authored with Asha Bandele, “When They Call You a Terrorist.”
Cullors grew up in a Los Angeles suburb that was inhabited by mostly “Mexican immigrants, a sprinkle of black people, some poor white folks.” The neighborhood was over-policed which led to many people being over-incarcerated, she says. Handcuffed for the first time at 12 years old, Cullors says the experience of watching as her brothers were criminalized would later help her understand her work.
“I wanted people to get a better understanding of who I was and the community I was raised in,” Cullors says on her book. “It was a community that a lot of people in poverty can relate to.”
The males in her family were constantly criminalized, she says in her book. If you went to the neighboring Latino neighborhood, Cullors says, people could more easily get away with selling drugs. In her neighborhood, she says, you would be locked up for selling a dime bag.
Growing up, both Cullors’ father and step-father were in and out of prison. The first time she ever heard the term “terrorist” was when the court system labeled her brother as such. Her brother was in the midst of a manic episode when he was arrested. She says it showed her how little compassion there is for black people with mental illness.
When Cullors became an adult, she began organizing groups to protest the injustices the community had suffered. She organized a group to take on the Sheriff’s Department, and in turn, the community was raided twice.
“It was the first time the community had been raided by police,” she says. “In those raids, it was my first moment of realizing that they didn’t like what we were doing, and they were going to intimidate us as much as they can.”
Her prior organizing experience helped greatly when she joined Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi to form the Black Lives Matter movement. Garza wrote a love note to black people and ended it with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Cullors added a hashtag to the beginning of it, and it soon became a political platform.
As the movement gained momentum, it attracted both positive and negative reactions.
“I knew we were being called [a terrorist group] by trolls, but then other people were going to try to indict us as terrorists and elected officials started calling us terrorists,” Cullors says. “All we had ever done was fight law enforcement violence and challenge it with protest by policy and strategy.”
BLM is more than how they started. Today they are bringing attention to climate change, immigration and issues from all around the world. Cullors says the organization is constantly reassessing what they have done and accomplished so far and how they can improve from there.