Hi, Google Seattle. Thank you. I like lively audiences, so please feel free to "mm-hmm" and "ashay" and "amen."
This is the introduction to the book "We Are Stardust":
"Days after the elections of 2016, asha sent me a link to a talk by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. We have to have hope, she says to me across 3,000 miles, she in Brooklyn, me in Los Angeles. We listen together as Dr. deGrasse Tyson explains that the very atoms and molecules in our bodies are traceable to the crucibles in the centers of stars that once upon a time exploded into gas clouds. And those gas clouds formed other stars and those stars possessed the divine-right mix of properties needed to create not only planets, including our own, but also people, including us, me and her. He is saying that not only are we in the universe, but that the universe is in us. He is saying that we, human beings, are literally made out of stardust.
"And I know when I hear Dr. deGrasse Tyson say this that he is telling the truth because I have seen it since I was a child, the magic, the stardust we are, in the lives of the people I come from. I watched it in the labor of my mother, a Jehovah's Witness and a woman who worked two and sometimes three jobs at a time, keeping other people's children, working the reception desks at gyms, telemarketing, doing anything and everything for 16 hours a day the whole of my childhood in the Van Nuys barrio where we lived. My mother, cocoa brown and smooth, disowned by her family for the children she had as a very young and unmarried woman. My mother never gave up despite never making a living wage.
"I saw it in the thin brown face of my father, a boy out of Cajun country, a wounded healer whose addictions were born of a world that did not love him and told him so not once but constantly. My father, who always came back, who never stopped trying to be a better version of himself there were no mirrors for.
"And I knew it because I am the thirteenth-generation progeny of a people who survived the hulls of slave ships, survived the chains, the whips, the months laying in their own shit and piss. The human beings legislated as not human beings who watched their names, their languages, their Goddesses and Gods, the arc of their dances and beats of their songs, the majesty of their dreams, their families snatched up and stolen, disassembled and discarded, and despite this built language and honored God and created movement and upheld love. What could they be but stardust, these people who refused to die, who refused to accept the idea that their lives did not matter, that their children's lives did not matter?” [applause]
MODERATOR: Well, first let's just start by thanking you. For me in particular, I will start with a personal note that's very meaningful as a career a woman of color, as an immigrant, as I mentioned to you. This for me is a big honor, so I appreciate that. Thank you. I actually want to talk a little bit about…. You start by this story by history, talking about your family, particularly your mom and your brother and your father, and you focus a lot on this idea of collective responsibility versus personal responsibility. So I'd actually ask you to talk a little bit more about that. Why do you believe that this focus that we have on personal responsibility can be so detrimental, particularly to black individuals, and what is there to gain from moving to this idea of collectivity?
KHAN-CULLORS: That's a great question, because I was literally just talking to a reporter about this when I got off the plane, which is for many of us who grew up in poor neighborhoods, who grew up in poverty, the experience we had it was it was our fault. We were blamed for our families being unable to feed us. We were blamed for our families' addictions. We were blamed for the state coming after our family. We were blamed for so many things that had everything to do with a system that was literally created to harm and decimate communities. And so the question becomes, who is accountable? Is it the people who are most of the margins, the people who have experienced some of the most suffering, or is it a system? Is it local government? Is it state government? Is it federal government?
And as we live under this current administration, how do we hold it accountable? How do we hold local government accountable to actually produce laws that will support human beings, produce policies that will support human beings? And how do we challenge the idea that a young mother who had a child at 16 deserves to be kicked out of her home, deserves to not receive the type of support and aid just because she had children out of wedlock or just because she had a child at a young age? I mean these are the kinds of questions that we need to ask ourselves.
And I think what happens because we live in a culture and in America in particular that really values personal responsibility, really values the idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, well that only actually works for certain people. And the pulling up by your bootstraps is designed for certain people and not designed for others. And when we can have an honest conversation about the design, then we can have an honest conversation about what it should look like, how it should look differently.
And so not only am I challenging the idea of personal responsibility – which I think is different than asking people to be accountable – I want to like differentiate those terms. Someone being responsible for their own poverty, no. But someone being accountable to their family, right? My mother was accountable to us because she worked 16 hours a day, but she wasn't responsible for her poverty. And I think we have to be able to differentiate that. And the last thing I'll say on this is, it will take all of us. It has to be all of us, to change the system, to change this place, to collectively come together and make a decision. As many of us say in Black Lives Matter, when black people get free everybody else gets a little bit more free.
MODERATOR: On own the Black Lives Matter movement, in particular the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his shooter, it's clearly an important moment in that movement. Can you speak a little bit as to why that moment resonated with you so powerfully when it did?
KHAN-CULLORS: Yes. And what you're gonna notice is I'm always going to kind of take a few steps back. Because a moment is the moment but there's things that lead up to the moment that actually makes that moment the moment. So for me, it was…. I come from a generation, I was born in '83, and so I come from a generation that witnessed Reagan, witnessed the Bushes, witnessed the Clintons. And in those presidencies what we got to see was a ratcheting up of the war on drugs, a ratcheting up of mass incarceration, and ratcheting up mass criminalization of very particular communities – black communities in particular. And as I grow up and as many of us grow up in this particular era and age group, we're sort of the sacrificed ones, we're the children who are being impacted by deindustrialization, we're the children who are being impacted by the military policing.
And so once we get to Trayvon Martin, so many things have happened – '92, Rodney King; Oscar Grant has happened – and then Trayvon. Although not killed by law enforcement, he's killed by a vigilante who's empowered by a state that empowers law enforcement. And so I didn't think that George Zimmerman was going to get off. I didn't. I was like, he killed Trayvon Martin. We all knew that, jury knew it. I didn't think he was gonna get murdered, but I definitely didn't think he was gonna get to go home. And when he did on July 13 of 2013, I was very clear that that wasn't gonna be the period to the story, that we had to do more, that I had to do more personally. And as I heard Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, specifically speak out through tears, through grief, and and call on the people of this country to show up for her child, to show up for her, I just felt like it was incredibly important.
And so I was on social media, like many of us are, angry and upset and trying to figure out how to understand what was happening, and I came across a good friend's Facebook post – Alicia Garza – and she wrote "Black Lives Matter" and then I put a hashtag on it. And Alicia was like, "What's a hashtag?" [laughter] and I was like, "It's this thing that can go viral." But I'm also a trained organizer, so I wasn't just interested in an online campaign. I was interested in how we translated Black Lives Matter to the ground and how it really could be a grassroots movement that can bubble up. change the world, change the country.
And on July 15 when we solidified Black Lives Matter as a political project, I wrote on social media again. I said, "Hey, Alicia and I have started this project called Black Lives Matter and we hope that it will impact more than we can ever imagine."
MODERATOR: One of the things you talk about a lot in your book is taking that hashtag, you say I think, "hashtag to the movement," so essentially creating power under this umbrella of Black Lives Matter. what has that journey been like? What are some of the lessons you've learned, challenges, victories?
KHAN-CULLORS: Well, we have to remember that Black Lives Matter really started organically. It started online, this organic moment, and it was very quickly galvanized into a political project. Really that first year was nurturing it, having people talk about Black Lives Matter in their organizations, at their offices, having a lot of conference calls – "How do we use this?" – taking it onto the streets during protests.
But I would say that the height of BLM aware becomes worldwide is after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson. And after Mike Brown's killer is not indicted, that is the first time it goes viral on social media.
And I remember being like, we have to do more. We have to figure out what's the next step, what's the next angle. And 600 of us went and did a Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride and we drove into St. Louis. Before we drove in we called folks, folks let us know we could come in – and we're not just showing up to people's neighborhoods.
On that three-day journey – because it was only three days – there was two commitments we made. The first commitment was to show up for the people of St. Louis to let them know that we're not going to allow for Ferguson PD and every other law enforcement municipality to treat this community this way without us watching, witnessing, and going back and telling our communities. But the second thing that we said that we wanted to make sure we did is go back home and organize and build what we would then build, which is the Black Lives Matter Global Network, which is an organization of 40 chapters around the globe, here in the U.S., in Canada and the United Kingdom.
MODERATOR: One of the things that you discuss on the Black Lives Matter in particular is this idea of creating a hashtag that people would embrace and the word "black" ends up being sort of a big point of salience when it comes to it. I think more recently in the tech community we've had one of diversity leaders say that if you have 12, I think it's "white, blue-eyed men in a room" it's a diverse room because people have different ideas. So I wanted you to speak a little bit about intersectionality, which is such a big part of your book, but also how do we have a genuine conversation about intersectionality without it becoming an "all lives matter" conversation? How do we actually bring that in a way that is genuine?
KHAN-CULLORS: How do you have a conversation and practice about intersectionality without whitewashing it?
KHAN-CULLORS: Because that can happen. What what is important as we understand where words come from and that words…. What's been really interesting about this administration is they basically made words – what's the word?
KHAN-CULLORS: Meaningless. You could say, "I hate all "N" words," and in the next breath you could say, "I'm not a racist." That doesn't even make sense, right, but it becomes an argument. Not just in media, but it also becomes an argument in people's relationships and friendships and "Well that guy said… I could say this and still not be a racist."
The word intersectionality really comes from a woman named Kimberly Crenshaw, and she created it because she was trying to challenge the conversation – specifically in the black community – that the only people who have the right to talk about black folks' freedom is cis black men. She was really trying to challenge the idea that if we are going to fight on behalf of black people, we have to fight on behalf of black girls and women as well, and that there is a very specific type of experience that black women have in relationship to race and that patriarchy is a part of racism when it comes to black women and that if we don't have those conversations but more importantly if we don't practice differently, we're going to just end up in the very same cycle that we've been in and not gaining the things that we really want to gain.
So it's important, I think, if you value the lives of people – this is a conversation about what we value – if we value that certain people's lives need to be prioritized because we've seen them be de-prioritized, if we value that all human beings deserve to be treated well, with dignity, with care, then we're going to be able to have more nuanced conversations about not just Black Lives Matter but Me Too, Women's March, Time's Up, the immigrant rights movement – all these movements are in relationship to one another.
I think it's important…. Sometimes we get caught up in the rhetoric of politics and I like to reel it back a bit and remind people of values – what are our values? – and that is often the place where it opens up something new for people to have a different type of conversation about these things that often can feel very challenging to talk about.
MODERATOR: On the the issue of black women in particular, with the election of Trump, and it's one of the things you mentioned in your book that you felt particularly powerless because 96 percent of black women didn't vote for Trump. And with the [Doug] Jones election, this idea that black women essentially saved the state of Alabama. Do you think that this is a pivotal moment of looking at black women as a part of electoral power or do you think that they're sort of just as a passing concern now since we had these consecutive elections where the numbers were so stark?
KHAN-CULLORS: I think in a lot of ways black women historically have always been at the helm of movements. We've always been at the sort of intersection of both trying to save our families and save the world. What we're seeing and what we saw with the election of 45 and with the election of getting Roy Moore not into office is black women galvanizing our power and being strategic about it. I think there was a big fight because people were like, "Well, why did you go for Jones?" and folks had to counter that and say, "Actually, this was strategic. This is the other person that was running and we needed to make sure we didn't have this other person in charge."
This idea, I think, often that happens that black people just sort of naturally do these things or we don't have a plan and there's no strategy or it's all organic. Sometimes those things are true, but oftentimes people have a strategy.
Like Rosa Parks. It's very upsetting that people think that Rosa Parks just sat down on a chair and then some white guy came over and she was like, "I'm not gonna get up today." That's not how it happened, y'all. There was a strategy behind it and she was a strategist. She was one of our most brilliant strategists and we don't hear that very often. We don't get that story. We get this very ageist, weird, feminizing story of how she just happened to be too old and tired to get up, rather than, they sat in rooms trying to figure out how are they going to boycott this system that literally got almost all the black population to work and to school. How do you convince black people to not get on a bus that can jeopardize their jobs and their and their schooling? That moment with Rosa Park not getting up is just the moment, but there was all these other moments before that got us there.
I think that's important, because part of what the book is trying to do is also really let people know that there's a strategy. So much at the time that Black Lives Matter has been developing there has been all this criticism – "Well, what do you all really want? What are your goals?" – and this book is trying to lay the record straight.
MODERATOR: I want to make sure that we have a lot of time for questions from the floor, so I have one last question I want to try to ask you and then we'll open up so if you want to start lining up at the microphone we'll do that. One of the things that is a theme that you draw for the entirety of the book is this idea of your community and you're always polling people, and I think one of the things that you said that I thought was very powerful is that they wouldn't let me be erased, I will never let them be erased. Can you speak a little bit as to why black community in particular is so important to you, like what is it about your community that you feel is necessary in the world we're living in the day?
KHAN-CULLORS: I think this is a simple answer, which is I grew up around some of the most brilliant and talented and powerful people – my siblings, my parents – and yet they received very, very little support for their gifts, their talents, and that is solely based off of race and racism and classism. To witness that, I also ended up – and I talked about this in the book – is I end up being sort of plucked from my elementary school and labeled as gifted and so I go to a totally separate system than my siblings do, which happens to make me see how other people live. Because you don't know how other people live unless you go see it. And in that experience going from my own neighborhood, which was a small suburb outside of the inner city of Los Angeles that was mostly poor working-class, I'm surrounded by white suburb and that's where I ended up going to school. I got to see firsthand just how classism plays out, just how racism plays out, and that just based off of your socioeconomic background or your race that your entire life changes and what's predicted for you. And so I always say my mother would be like the most amazing therapist. She's like the person who I learned how to have important and courageous conversations from, and yet she was relegated to menial jobs because she never got a middle school diploma, high school diploma.
So there's these things, these barriers that exist for poor folks that are solely because people don't have money. And I think for the community I grew up in, black communities in particular, there's this longing that I have for us to be fully seen and fully realized because I know what gifts we have.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How do you deal with trying to put forward the ideals of Black Lives Matter and deal with the fact that people – right or wrong – they get very antagonized and go, "All lives matter" or "Blue lives matter" as the opposite of black lives matter.
KHAN-CULLORS: In a lot of different ways. Depends on the audience, depends on the person. Some days I choose not to even answer those questions, just for my own sanity, because the reality is – and for folks who in the room who are sort of on the fence around "all lives matter" versus "black lives matter" – all lives do matter. That's actually not the argument right now. Black Lives Matter is really just black lives matter, too. Black Lives Matter is not about exclusion, it's about focusing. Doesn't a community who has spent 500 years in this country get to decide how we focus our energy? Aren't we allowed to ask people – allies – to join us in this fight?
I think what I try to do in those conversations is really challenge people – sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently – about what kind of world do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a world where where the state is allowed to execute people and get away with it? Do you want to live in a world where someone can get stopped for a broken taillight, end up in jail and then not survive it? Do you want to live in a world where people – only because they don't have physical papers – are allowed to be ripped from their families and deported back to their so-called countries? What kind of world do we want to live in?
That's what Black Lives Matter is asking us. It's asking us to think about the world we want to live in. And okay – if you want to live in a world where terrible things happen to human beings, then maybe I shouldn't be talking to you about this.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question is, aside from your work, what's one piece of literature or art or entertainment that right now in this moment that we're in, really gives you hope for the future?
KHAN-CULLORS: Ooh, that's a good one. Well, I really love Octavia Butler – other people in the audience? ["Whoop" from audience member] Okay, thank you. [laughter] Appreciate it! Although it's kind of sinister, sometimes morbid, she opens up a portal around how to have really hard conversations about race and class and gender, in some of the most beautiful and courageous and innovative ways. And more pop culture – I definitely think the work that Issa Rae is doing and Lena Wake is doing, in particular. It's very exciting and powerful and fresh and innovative.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you again for coming. I understand that you were awarded a Peace Prize. Can you talk a little bit about that? KHAN-CULLORS: Right. The irony of that…. [laughter]
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Congratulations, for people here who don't know. Can you talk a little bit about what you've seen in how the movement has been received outside the U.S. versus inside the U.S.?
KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah, you always like something better when it's outside. The Black Lives Matter Global Network received the Sydney Peace Prize last year. Very amazing. I had no idea what it was before I received it. When we received it, I looked it up and I was like, "Oh, this is very big deal." Folks like Naomi Klein of received it, Desmond Tutu has received it, Noam Chomsky's received it. I think we were literally the youngest people who ever received the Sydney Peace Prize. We were not only welcomed by the country of Australia, we were welcomed by black folks in Australia – Aboriginal populations, First Nations people – and also really welcomed by the media. It was a very, very different experience than the type of experience we've had here, starting Black Lives Matter. I think it also challenged this idea of us being a terrorist group or organization, because someone wrote about it. They're like, "Black Lives Matter just won a peace prize. You can stop calling them a terrorist organization."
It's been very powerful to…. The folks of Australia were looking to us around how they deal with race and racism in their country and how to really have a new type of movement that's hopefully gonna bubble up there. It was more than inspiring, more than I could ever have imagined and I'm very grateful that our network was honored with the Peace Prize.
MODERATOR: I actually want to follow up on the term "terrorist," because it's a term that is very important in your book….
KHAN-CULLORS: The title.
MODERATOR: That's how you know it's important. Can you speak a little bit as to why that word has so much power?
KHAN-CULLORS: Well, raise your hand if you or people in your community have ever been called a terrorist? Raise your hand high. Now look around. Right.
The first time Black Lives Matter is called a terrorist organization, there's two things that come up for me. The first one is devastation, because simply I'm with these folks every single day. I know exactly what we're doing. I know what type of sacrifice we're giving. The other is a sense of serious fear, because the moment the government starts calling people terrorists that means there's gonna be a war on the people.
So I think what's important in this book and the conversation I'm trying to have is what do we mean when we mean "terrorists" and who ends up being labeled as such? What we've seen, especially for black people in this country, is whenever we decide that we're going to fight for our freedom, that we're going to fight for our dignity, that we're going to fight for our humanity, that there's a label that slapped on us or our community to undermine our efforts but also to criminalize our efforts. So what we've seen – and I'll just ask another question of the audience – how many of you have heard of the "black identity extremist" label? Who made that up? Yeah, FBI. It was probably Jeff Sessions [laughter] with the FBI. He's definitely defending that identity. An identity that was literally crafted and created by the FBI, and many of us saw it in a leaked report that came out in August 2017. The report literally is claiming that black activists have a new identity in which we are more violent towards law enforcement. For many of us that have studied movements or have elders in the movement like Angela Davis, Ericka Huggins – in our conversations with them they're like, "Yeah, this is the beginning of what it looks like to be criminalized by the state for your activism," similar to what COINTELPRO did.
So the terrorist conversation is interrogating this idea that black activists – people who are literally trying to fight for American democracy – are terrorists, and yet the people who are trying to change and reform are terrorizing our communities. And how much we have to be challenging those terms, challenging that language and showing up differently, I think, in this moment. What is different from 30, 40 years ago is there were no elected officials trying to fight for the Panther Party. Now, given what we know about COINTELPRO, given that we know that they assassinated people, ripped families apart and ripped a really powerful movement apart, there are elected officials – specifically the Congressional Black Caucus – that is standing up to the FBI around this term, and Congresswoman Karen bass has been leading the crusade around that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You talked a little bit about the virality of the Black Lives Matter hastag. So I guess I'm interested in…. In recent times, Trump has kind of taken over news and you hear a lot about white supremacy and you hear a lot about these other things. They kind of suck up all of the media attention. I'm wondering to what extent do you think it's important for Black Lives Matter to have that viral aspect and what's the future of the Black Lives Matter movement in an environment where it becomes more difficult to have a voice?
KHAN-CULLORS: It's a great question. What I will say is sometimes in movements you need to be a little bit more quiet. Being out there all the time makes you vulnerable and it's made us vulnerable and sometimes that's not always for the best. Going viral is not the goal, necessarily. It has a great outcome. I think the better question is how do we sustain ourselves. Especially as we are building out a global network, how do we create infrastructure, institution power that can challenge the current power structure? That's what we're most interested in this moment. We're interested in the long haul. I think we're on to something, and I think we are developing a new type of experiment that is centering black folks, in particular.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello, and thank you for speaking to us today. You are amazing. I once asked you a question about how you think capitalism and large capitalist entities such as Google may affect Black Lives Matter, either positively or negatively?
KHAN-CULLORS: Such a good question. Well, what I will say is living in this current infrastructure that we live in that is a capitalist infrastructure is not sustainable for anybody. As the rich literally get richer and the poor literally get poorer, we have to have a long-term solution around not only how we're gonna save human beings but how we're gonna save the planet. We, unfortunately, have an administration that doesn't believe in climate change. It drives me nuts, y'all. We're literally burning up in some places and other places are drowning because the Earth's equilibrium is so off.
So I think the long term conversation is, is capitalism a sustainable model? And many of us know it's not. So what does that mean? And that, I don't have the answer to, but I have a lot of questions about and I think our movement often is trying to figure that out and have questions about.
I think Google is such an interesting place, right? It's both…it's worldwide, it's a huge corporation, it also will bring one of the cofounders of Black Lives Matter to talk to its employees. It's such an interesting contradiction. My hope is that I'm not going to be able to change Google necessarily, but I think the hope in this certain moment is to change the hearts and minds of people who work here and how we make decisions about how we relate to the planet and other human beings.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: This is a slightly different take on, as you mentioned [unintelligable] stragetic goals of making and sustaining the movement for longer, specifically around some of the things that sparked the movement – police brutality, some of this violence. Do you or does the movement have shorter term goals, either throught activism or changes [unintelligable] down some of the more egregious policing tactics, the ridiculous use of force type of mandates. Are there specifics around that?
KHAN-CULLORS: Yeah, actually, I was just on a phone call about it before I got here, talking to our lawyers. It's a great question because someone asked me…well, Time magazine asked me the other day and said, "Will there ever be a Me Too of racism?" And I was like, "Well, it's called Black Lives Matter." [laughter] But what I think is interesting…I think what he was trying to ask, actually, was Me Too has been successful at literally knocking down some of the biggest power players in Hollywood, people that we never thought would be taken out of Hollywood have been. Whether or not they have huge pensions and they could still live their lives is a whole 'nother question, but symbolically what that has shown us is that sexual assault and violence is not going to be taken lightly anymore. He was trying to ask how come law enforcement hasn't been…we haven't had the same impact on law enforcement.
What I did is I said, "Well, that's not Black Lives Matter's fault. We've done everything we can to hold law enforcement accountable, but rather we have to have a larger conversation about the people who keep law enforcement in power – elected officials, county board of supervisors, state governors, the laws. Literally in the US I think there's over 22 Peace Officers' Bill of Rights, which literally are a document that gives rights to peace officer that pretty much excludes them from being held accountable for their acts. California and Seattle have some of the worst Peace Officers' Bill of Rights.
Much of what we're trying to do is go state by state, city by city, county by county changing those laws. The first experiment is going to be California because we have some of the most egregious laws but also because we have some of the most progressive legislators, so can we get enough legislators to say, we can't allow this to happen anymore? Can we get enough district attorneys to say – because it's in a district attorney's right to prosecute an officer but they more often error on not. The work I think is that in the next phase – specifically around law enforcement violence – is trying to change laws.
I think that we've hit a road, we have to take things in the ballot box and galvanize our movement to push new laws forward.
SAME AUDIENCE MEMBER: Just a quick followup. Do you specifically want the use of body cameras [unintelligable]
KHAN-CULLORS: I do, I do. We have cell phones, so that's one. Body cameras are millions and millions of dollars, and oftentimes the accountability – let me flip it – the responsibility is on the officer to turn on the body camera. How many times have we seen law enforcement not turn on their body camera? Almost all the time. So I think it's an interesting demand, but if we make body cameras as a solution to ending law enforcement violence, then we've lost a long time ago.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: The term "terrorism" has erupted because there has been some sit-ins some times at some protests, where there may be violence that has occurred. Do you ever come to a point where your organization just comes out and flat out denounce something and say, this is not something that we condone. Sometimes you cannot be responsible for everybody who's at that protest. But is there in the same way where you ally with some people for the same cause under the name of Intersectionality, though I hate that word, but do you do both? Is there a time where you throw the power of the network behind a cause and you follow through with it that may not necessarily be under the Black Lives Matter umbrella? And is there a time where you see some things either at a protest or even inside your own movement where you go out and you just denounce it?
KHAN-CULLORS: Yes. I think the Dallas shooting we denounced immediately – Micah Johnson – and I talked about that in the book. But there's never been a shooting from someone who said that they did it on behalf of Black Lives Matter. It's always been attributed to Black Lives Matter. Our movement from jump has been nonviolent. That's just been clear. In fact, we've been calling for law enforcement to stop killing us, right? I think the conversation about violence versus non-violence is a really important political conversation, and frankly, we're at a different time period. The Panthers went on Sacramento steps and had guns, and we would never do that because we see the result. A black person doesn't need a gun to get killed. So I think for us the most effective and safe strategy is a non-violent strategy in this particular moment.
SAME AUDIENCE MEMBER: Can I ask you just a quick followup to this? In social media usually whatever the hashtag is [unintelligable] of things overpower the narrative, so if tomorrow something was going on with the movement and I wanted to check, ok what's the official word from your network, where would I go?
KHAN-CULLORS: Oh that's a good question. You mean like where, on what social media pages? So BlackLivesMatter.com is our website. On Facebook we're verified. Do not use any other profile because there's tons and they're not verified and some of them will steal your money. And on Twitter we are Black Lives Matter but we're BLK, and same on Instagram. The most updated stand that we have on something is usually gonna be in our Twitter account.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you for speaking. I had a question about intersectionality and the labor movement. Like….
KHAN-CULLORS: Where do they lie?
SAME AUDIENCE MEMBER: Well, yeah. I don't think police unions should be able to bargain about whether they respect people's rights. Can the labor movement still be allied to Black Lives Matter?
KHAN-CULLORS: This is such a good question and these are…. I've sat with a lot of labor folks around this, so much so that we've really challenged labor to have law enforcement as part of their union. I think, honestly, in a lot of places law enforcement is the strongest union. They have the the most lawyers, they have the most money, and they have a lot of power. So when we've talked to presidents and we've talked to union organizers – they're a pain in the butt in unions, they are, because they're the first ones to stop any sort of democratic process or challenge any sort of progressive statement that the union wants to put out. But until union leadership stands up to law enforcement unions, we're going to continue in the same cycle.
I think…. I spoke to one of…I don't remember which Black Panther member said this to us, but they said that we are the first effective movement to actually challenge law enforcement, to actually curb the community and a culture that believes law enforcement first. And that to me is just the beginning of really trying to change the seats of power. But right now law enforcement still has all the bargaining chips.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: An earlier question asked you what in art gives you hope. What in politics and politic real – and hope for 2020 – but what else gives you hope in politics? I'm an engineer. I'm not gonna be a political activist. What can I do?
KHAN-CULLORS: Great. That's a great question. Okay, two things. One, I'm gonna start with your last question – what can you do? Everybody has their lane. I think that you don't have to go out into the streets to be active, to be aware, to challenge awful things that happen to people. You can have conversations, you can be a part of book clubs, you could be a part of dialogues. I think even coming into this room is an act of solidarity and a show of good faith. We also come from families. How are we raising our children? How we talking to our our wives, our husbands, our sisters, our brothers?
What I usually get the question around – how can white people help? – the first thing I say is go talk to your family members. Have those hard and challenging conversations that we often say, oh, I'm just gonna ignore that – right? I think how we're living our lives is just as important as if you're out in the streets being politically active.
What was your first question?
SAME AUDIENCE MEMBER: What gives you hope?
KHAN-CULLORS: Political hope, right. I'm excited about how many people that are running for office that are folks of color, women of color. I'm excited about the conversations that are happening around political power. I'm excited about how engaged…my mother…I've been in this work for a long time and my mother never talks about politics, and she'll call me and curse out Trump and I'm like, oh yeah, you're feeling engaged in this moment, even if it's against a person. There's something about this moment that's making people want to do more than they've ever done before. On the one hand, it's devastating to witness so many executive orders totally rip through our Constitution, and on the other hand it's brilliant to see so many people saying, "No, I'm not gonna stand for this."