Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza tells Berkeley to ‘keep fighting’ at campus talk

Paige Hagerman/Staff

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Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza discussed the current and future goals of BLM within the current political climate at the UC Berkeley International House on Thursday.

In her talk to a crowd of about 100 people, Garza touched on a range of topics from Black feminism to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, as well as the current political atmosphere underneath the Trump presidency. Garza also addressed BLM’s goal of reaching across intersectional lines to encompass all minorities.

The gender and women’s studies, or GWS, department sponsored the event, hosting Garza inside the Chevron Auditorium alongside a panel of UC Berkeley professors: Paola Bacchetta, a professor in GWS, Leigh Raiford, associate professor in African American studies, and Russell Robinson, a distinguished Haas Chair in LGBT Equity and a professor at UC Berkeley School of Law.

“I just want Berkeley to keep resisting, keep fighting,” Garza said after the talk. “Berkeley holds a reputation that I want it to continue to uphold.”

The last time Garza appeared on campus was Nov. 7 2016, the day before the presidential election. Since that day, Minoo Moallem, a GWS professor who helped organize the event, said she viewed Garza’s presence as necessary in light of the current “political sphere.”

“The world is a hard place to be in right now, and if you’re like me there are days when you just wanna curl up in bed … and hope that it all goes away,” Garza said. “So it does mean something to me that you decided that you could do one more time and get up and come out and be a community with us.”

Garza said during the talk that not all changes require picket signs and protests; a large portion of the fight is closer to home.

“(Garza) commented on many things about how (to impact) life inside the home, inside the department, inside the neighborhood,” said Marisol Cardenas, a visiting scholar from Ecuador.

Raiford said because Garza is originally from Marin, currently resides in East Oakland and teaches in San Francisco, she can offer a “local perspective” on the campus and community situation.

Part of Garza’s message focused on the importance of youth activism, and she discussed how it is a misconception that young people need to be inspired. Young people, Garza added, want to be involved and want to be respected.

“The number one thing that I hear from young people is that they do not feel seen or supported or listened to,” Garza said.

The Black Student Union, or BSU, also volunteered at the event.

“As student organizers we do a lot of giving to our communities,” said AJ Moultrié, chair of BSU, after the discussion. “It’s thankless work, so we don’t do it to be recognized, and folks don’t see half the things we do.”

According to Moultrié, many of the speakers recently invited to campus do not affirm the lives of black queer women, and so Garza’s presence on campus was representative of something much larger.

Shelby Mayes, membership development director for BSU, pointed out that Garza’s appearance, while hosted at the International House, didn’t feel integrated into campus.

“Hire more Black speakers. More Black, female speakers. Bring them to Zellerbach,” Mayes said.

Contact Adrianna Buenviaje and Alicia Kim at [email protected].