It was a trial the whole nation was watching, and a ruling that would spark a movement.
When George Zimmerman was acquitted for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, one of the people watching was Alicia Garza.
In an acceptance speech for the Robert Coles “Call of Service” Award from the Phillip Brooks House Association, Garza said she was shocked by the decision in what she felt was the murder of a child.
“Some people call it a tragedy; I call it murder,” Garza, who will speak at USF on Jan. 17 as part of the University Lecture Series (ULS), said in her speech.
She was sitting with friends when the ruling came out. Once it was announced, they fell silent.
“In fact, it felt like the entire city went silent that night,” she said.
Afterward, she took to Facebook and wrote to the African-American community, with a call to ensure that “black lives matter,” because the ruling from the court felt to her like a statement that they didn’t, Garza said.
“When we started Black Lives Matter (BLM), it was indeed written as a love note,” Garza said in the speech. “It was written as a love note on a social media platform known as Facebook in a moment of intense, profound rage and grief.”
From that post, Garza would go on to help create the Black Lives Matter movement, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.
Garza will be coming to USF as part of the ULS on Jan. 17 to speak about her experience in activism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Garza currently serves as the special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She has spoken at multiple universities in the past. Her lecture is part of USF’s MLK Commemorative Week.
“The ULS student organizers chose Garza with the expectation that she will engage the audience in a timely discussion about race relations in America and how her organization’s activism became the national movement it is today, galvanizing individuals to stand up together against violence, police brutality and social injustice,” Marion Huntley, Coordinator for the Center for Student Involvement, said.
Despite the polarizing nature of the Black Lives Matter movement, some USF students said bringing in controversial speakers is positive and opens the minds of students.
“I think it’s a good thing,” said Bryana Blanco, a sophomore majoring in nursing. “USF is super diverse for a reason, but it’s good to hear different opinions and it might cause controversy, but it also might open students’ minds.”
Sanjay Singh, a junior majoring in philosophy, said that even though her appearance on campus may “stir some controversy,” it’s ultimately an important move for USF to bring in Garza to speak.
Since its creation, the hashtag Garza co-created has made its way into the common vernacular and the movement it represents has manifested as an organization on multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. It was brandished on protest signs in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore. It came up again with the deaths of Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and others.
Garza will speak in the USF Marshall Center Ballroom. Doors to the lecture open at 7:30 p.m. and the lecture begins at 8 p.m.