The Black Lives Matter movement started from a social media hashtag used by three black women who, four years ago, wanted to start a new political conversation about police and state-sanctioned violence against black Americans.
Now, the BLM movement is an internationally recognized rallying cry for an emerging generation of civil rights activists and community organizers — one that the Sydney Peace Foundation awarded with Australia’s international Prize for Peace on Thursday.
“A movement like Black Lives Matter is ... one that looks at the necessity of intersectionality, the recognition of our struggles being interconnected [and] that our freedoms are intertwined,” Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Global Network, which consists of 40 chapters in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, said in an acceptance speech at Sydney Town Hall Australia.
Cullors accepted the award on behalf of the network and co-founders Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. The foundation announced them as recipients of the prize in May. According to the foundation, the prize comes with 50,000 Australian dollars to help recipients continue their work. Although individuals within in the broader Movement for Black Lives have previously been recognized by nonprofits and foundations for their work, the Sydney Peace Foundation prize is arguably the most prestigious award the movement has received to date.
“This movement is global and has been global,” Cullors said in the acceptance speech. “It is the realization that we are all responsible — that there can be no neutrality in the face of black decimation.”
While in Australia to accept the award, Cullors and BLM Canada co-founder Rodney Diverlus met with indigenous communities, including black Aboriginal people, that have long endured persecution by the Australian government. In an essay for the Guardian, Cullors and Diverlus said “horrendous living conditions ... sadly similar condition to those in the U.S. and Canada” stood out the most as they met this week with indigenous Australians.
“We stand here today as the Black Lives Matter Global Network, committing to be apart of the long legacy of global black struggle in solidarity, with the indigenous people of Australia, South Sea islanders and Torres Strait islander people,” Cullors said in the acceptance speech. “We urge this local government as we have urged ours to meet the demands of these communities.”
Over the weekend, the BLM network is scheduled to continue its dialogue with Australians. Cullors and Diverlus are expected to participate in a conversation at the the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, on Saturday.
Cameras followed Cullors and Diverlus throughout Sydney, as they met with indigenous Australians. To get a glimpse of their experience, watch the video below.