#BlackLivesMatter co-founder speaks about movement’s impact

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Opal Tometi answers audience questions after last night’s event.

Photo Credit: Edward Torres | Daily Texan Staff

The government’s decision to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill indicates some progress in the black rights movement, but activist Opal Tometi said it’s not enough.

“I think that [Tubman] might be rolling in her grave,” Tometi said. “This isn’t what she was fighting for. Nor is it what we’re fighting for now.”

Tometi, co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, spoke to students and the public Wednesday at the Student Activity Center about what the movement stands for and how it impacts our society today. The movement started in 2013 on social media as a way to protest against violence in the black community.

Tometi said the injustice that prevails in society is something people should stand up and take action against. She also said this movement can and should impact people’s lives everyday.

“#BlackLivesMatter is transforming our lives in every spectrum, in every system in every community,” Tometi said. “And #BlackLivesMatter, although it started as a hashtag and a way in where we’re talking about what’s going in our communities, it’s really about real people building in their own local communities and transforming the destiny of people.”

Tometi said the Black Lives Matter movement arose because she wanted people to be connected with others.

“We are talking and having a conversation with thousands of other people,” Tometi said. “We’re community builders, so it was important with us to be connecting with people outside of our immediate circle.”

Mathematics senior Cody Young, who was assaulted earlier this semester because of his race, said Tometi’s talk raises awareness about discrimination minority communities face today.

“Ultimately I just want this to be a learning experience for people on what not to do,” Young said. “I just don’t want somebody else to be in the same situation I was in. Never in a million years did I think I would be a victim of something like that, but at the same time, I think more people need to know that situations like this are happening.”

Business freshman Tiffany Onyeugo, member of the African-American culture committee, said this movement would not have been possible if it weren’t for social media. 

“People don’t [take] it seriously too much, but #BlackLivesMatter literally exploded from social media, and it’s actually extremely beneficial, and you can learn a lot from it,” Onyeugo said.