Patrisse Cullors (born June 20, 1983) is an American artist and activist and a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Cullors created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in 2013 and has written and spoken widely about the movement. Other topics on which Cullors advocates include prison abolition in Los Angeles and LGBTQ rights. Cullors integrates ideas from critical theory, as well as social movements around the world, in her activism. She is the author of When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.
|Education||University of California, Los Angeles (BA)|
University of Southern California (MFA)
|Occupation||Activist, artist, playwright|
|Black Lives Matter|
Early life and education
Cullors was born in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in Pacoima, a low-income neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, and attended Cleveland High School in Reseda. She became an activist early in life, joining the Bus Riders Union (BRU) under the leadership of Eric Mann as a teenager during which time she attended a year-long organizing program led by the Labor Community Strategy Center (which organised the BRU). She learned about revolutionaries, critical theory and social movements from around the world, while practicing activism.
Cullors recalls being forced from her home at sixteen when she revealed her queer identity to her parents. She was involved with the Jehovah's Witnesses as a child, but later grew disillusioned with the church. She developed an interest in the Nigerian religious tradition of Ifá, incorporating its rituals into political protest events. She told an interviewer in 2015 that "seeking spirituality had a lot to do with trying to seek understanding about my conditions—how these conditions shape me in my everyday life and how I understand them as part of a larger fight, a fight for my life." She later earned a degree in religion and philosophy from UCLA. She also received an MFA from the Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California.
Black Lives Matter
Along with community organizers and friends Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, Cullors founded Black Lives Matter. The three started the movement out of frustration over George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Cullors created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in 2013 to corroborate Garza's use of the phrase in making a Facebook post about the Martin case. Cullors further described her impetus for pushing for African-American rights stemming from her 19-year-old brother being brutalized during imprisonment in Los Angeles County jails.
Cullors credits social media being instrumental in revealing violence against African Americans, saying: "On a daily basis, every moment, black folks are being bombarded with images of our death ... It's literally saying, 'Black people, you might be next. You will be next, but in hindsight it will be better for our nation, the less of our kind, the more safe it will be."
In 2017, she said that the movement would not meet with United States president Donald Trump just as it wouldn't have met with Adolf Hitler, as Trump "is literally the epitome of evil, all the evils of this country — be it racism, capitalism, sexism, homophobia."
She has served as executive director of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails. The group advocated for a civilian commission to oversee the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in order to curb abuses by officers. By organizing former jail inmates as a voting bloc, the group hoped to sway the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to create such a commission, as well as gather enough votes to elect a replacement for L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, who resigned in 2014 for separate reasons. However, the group did not succeed in its efforts.
She is also a board member of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, having led a think tank on state and vigilante violence for the 2014 Without Borders Conference. In October 2020, she launched a production company with a deal with Warner Bros. Television.
Ideology and policy positions
Cullors defines herself as a prison, police and "militarization" abolitionist, a position she says is inspired by "a legacy of black-led anti-colonial struggle in the United States and throughout the Americas". She also favors reparations for what she describes as "the historical pains and damage caused by European settler colonialism", in various forms, such "financial restitution, land redistribution, political self-determination, culturally relevant education programs, language recuperation, and the right to return (or repatriation)".
She cites the activist and formerly incarcerated Weather Underground member Eric Mann, as her mentor during her early activist years at the Bus Riders Union of Los Angeles. She draws on various ideological inspirations. One is black feminists such as Audre Lorde and her "Black, queer, feminist lens", as well as bell hooks : both "helped [her] understand [her] identity". She cites Angela Davis for her "political theories and reflections on anticapitalist movements around the world", her work towards "a broader antiracist and antiwar movement", and her fight against white supremacy in the US. Frantz Fanon is another inspiration, his "work on colonial violence in Algeria and across the Third World [making] timely connections" for the understanding of the context in which Black people live across the world. She also cites Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, as "provid[ing] a new understanding around what our economies could look like".
Asked whether she believed in violence as a method of protest, she has said that she believes in "direct action, but nonviolent direct action", and that this was also the belief of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In 2014 Cullors produced the theatrical piece POWER: From the Mouths of the Occupied, which debuted at Highways Performance Space. She has contributed articles about the movement to the LA Progressive, including an article from December 2015 titled "The Future of Black Life" which pushed the idea that activists could no longer wait for the State to take action, and called her followers into action by encouraging them to begin building the world that they want to see.
Cullors' book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir was published in January 2018. It was co-written with the journalist asha bandele and featured a foreword from Angela Davis. The Times Literary Supplement reviewed it as a "magnificent accomplishment." It appeared at number 12 on the nonfiction hardcover The New York Times Best Seller list on February 4, 2018.
Documentary and television/film
Cullors appeared in the 2016 documentary Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement. In October 2020 she signed her first over 'overall deal' with Warner Brothers. Which was described as multi-year and wide-ranging, agreement that will see Cullors develop and produce original programming across all platforms, including broadcast, cable and streaming, aimed at amplifying the work of Black Lives Matter, black storytelling and perspective. Cullors produced a YouTube Originals series entitled Resist, which premiered November 18, 2020.
In 2021, a controversy arose in some media outlets, following reports that Cullors (or entities associated with her) had purchased three or four homes during a five year period. This led to a denial of any wrongdoing and accusations of racism, with Cullors describing the criticism as a right-wing effort to discredit her.
- 2007 Mario Savio Young Activist of the Year.
- An NAACP History Maker, 2015
- With Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza (as "The Women of #BlackLivesMatter") listed as one of the nine runners-up for The Advocate's Person of the Year, 2015
- A Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year, 2016
- One of Fortune's World's Greatest Leaders, 2016
- An Honorary Doctorate from Clarkson University, among several others
- the 2018 recipient of the José Muñoz Award from CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center
- In 2015, the Los Angeles Times named her one of "The new civil rights leaders."
- In June 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade, Queerty named her among the fifty heroes "leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people".
- Cullors is included in Time magazine 's 100 Most Influential People of 2020.
- Cullors was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on 23 November 2020.
- Along with Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, Cullors was named the 2013 Women of the Year by Time in 2020 as part of the their 100 Women of the Year project.
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- Farrag, Hebah H. (June 24, 2015). "The Role of Spirit in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement: A Conversation with Activist and Artist Patrisse Cullors". Archived July 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine religiondispatches.org.
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- Gebreyes, Rahel (September 10, 2014). "Patrisse Cullors Explains How Social Media Images of Black Death Propel Social Change". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on April 20, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
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- "Staff and Board" Archived May 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Ella Baker Center.
- Ramos, Dino-Ray (October 15, 2020). "Warner Bros. TV Group Signs Overall Deal With Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors". Deadline. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
- Patrisse Cullors (April 10, 2019). "Abolition And Reparations: Histories of Resistance, Transformative Justice, And Accountability". Harvard Law Review. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
Our task is not only to abolish prisons, policing, and militarization, which are wielded in the name of “public safety” and “national security.”
- "Abolitionists still have work to do in America | Patrisse Cullors". The Guardian. July 30, 2017. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
- Democracy Now! (January 16, 2018). ""When They Call You a Terrorist": The Life of Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors". Retrieved July 8, 2020.
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- "The Future of Black Life". LA Progressive. December 31, 2015. Archived from the original on February 8, 2017. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
- Khan-Cullors, Patrisse; bandele, asha; Davis, Angela Y (2019). When they call you a terrorist: a black lives matter memoir. ISBN 978-1-78689-305-5. OCLC 1043188904.
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- Lewis-Peart, David (March 21, 2016). "Janaya Khan, Black Lives Matter Toronto Co-Founder, On Racism And Self-Care". The Huffington Post (Canada Edition). Retrieved February 2, 2018.
- Khandaker, Tamara (April 6, 2016). "This Is What Sets Toronto's Black Lives Matter Movement Apart from America's". Vice News. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
- BNC Exclusive: BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors addresses criticism around personal finances, Black News Channel, Alyssa Wilson, April 16, 2021
- "'Tactic of terror': BLM leader hits out at 'right wing' criticism after reports into her purchase of homes worth $3m". The Independent. Retrieved April 18, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "No Evidence BLM Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors Used Donations To Buy House". Snopes. April 14, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Crump, James (April 17, 2021). "BLM founder breaks down in interview over right-wing attacks on her new home". The Independent. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
- Spiegelman, Ian (April 16, 2021). "Inside the Uproar Over Patrisse Cullors's Real Estate Holdings". Lamag.com. Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
- Baron, Julian (April 16, 2021). "Black Lives Matter infighting grows after co-founder's real estate shopping spree". WBMA.
- "Fact check: Missing context in claim about Black Lives Matter co-founder's property purchases". USA Today. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
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- "LGBTQ Pride Month: A Conversation with Patrisse Cullors". www.gc.cuny.edu. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Patrisse Cullors.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Patrisse Cullors|
|After Words interview with Patricia Khan-Cullors on When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, February 10, 2018, C-SPAN|
- Official website
- Aisha K. Staggers, "‘Dignity and Justice’: An Interview with Patrisse Khan-Cullors", New York Review of Books, January 18, 2018.