Co-founder of Black Lives Matter
“Watching the case cold broke my heart,” says Tometi. “It hit me particularly hard because my youngest brother was 14 years old at the time.” She feared that something similar could happen to him one day. “I bawled my eyes out . . . and then I went online and saw Alicia Garza [whom she had met as part of a leadership programme] had put a Facebook post up, ‘black people I love us, our lives matter’”. Patrisse Cullors, the third co-founder, “put a hashtag in the comments and it was #blacklivesmatter”.
After contacting Garza, Tometi bought the domain name BlackLivesMatter.com. “I got us a Facebook page and Twitter and all that” and reached out to other black activists to say, “Why not use this as the umbrella?”
Seven years and one pandemic later, Black Lives Matter has grown into a cause that spans the globe. Does the 35-year-old activist see a connection between America’s experience of coronavirus and the scale of the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd in late May? “There was something really powerful about what the pandemic did for humanity — it created a real sensitivity to our own frailty,” she says. “It gave people an opportunity to reflect on their own vulnerabilities.”
Opal Tometi is a globally recognized human rights advocate, strategist, and writer of Nigerian-American descent
She has been active in social movements for nearly 20 years and is widely known for her role as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and for her years of service as the Executive Director of the United States first national immigrant rights organization for people of African descent – the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).
Heralded as a feminist freedom-fighter in the U.S. and now a global icon, Opal Tometi is one of the most influential human rights leaders of our time. As one of the three women co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, her name is etched in American history. For years, the award-winning advocate, strategist and writer has used her voice to ensure that race, immigration, and gender justice remain at the forefront of global conversations. Read more about Opal Tometi