Editor’s Note: September 6-7, 2018, The California Endowment hosted the #Fight4All Convening in Fresno California. This convening was meant to reaffirm their Fight For All initiative, which was created in December 2016. Robert K. Ross, M.D., President and CEO of The California Endowment said, “The Fight for All fund was created to stand alongside those whose health and lives are threatened by attacks on their coverage, their immigration status, or simply on who they are as human beings. So our support for lifting up their voices will not skip a beat today, but will continue forward.”
One of the powerful people who attended Fight For All is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Who is that you ask? Patrisse Cullors, of course! This vibrant African-American artist and activist has been working hard for her voice to be heard and has made it loud and clear what she stands for.
Below is the interview reporter Zyanna Maynard conducted with Dolores Huerta, with support from Program Associate and Reporter Johnsen Del Rosario.
ZM: What did you base the Black Lives Matter movement on?
PC: That’s a great question. Really, I based it on what was happening inside of our communities. Specifically around state violence and over-incarceration. I was looking at the impact that policing had in black neighborhoods, and the impact incarceration had on black neighborhoods, and the consistent humiliation and denigration of our communities at the hands of law enforcement.
ZM: What and who inspires you?
PC: I’m inspired by all of the organizers and activists in this current generation who are growing up in a moment where activism is being seen as important and necessary. I’m inspired by young people who are being courageous every single day in their neighborhoods and communities, fighting for change.
ZM: Did you think that the Black Lives Matter movement would grow and continue to grow as it has?
PC: I prayed for it to. I wanted it to. Did I know it was going to? No, I did not. I had no idea that it was going to become global, that it was going to be such a necessary and impactful movement. But I’m so grateful for it.
ZM: What does it mean to be a woman of color and to also be an activist?
PC: I think as a black woman or a woman of color, being an activist – it takes a lot of work. It’s like I have 10 jobs, because I’m also a mother, a wife. I’m a sister and a daughter. Women often take up a lot of the work in the family, and so I’m doing my work in the field, but I’m also doing my work at home. It can be very isolating and exhausting sometimes.
ZM: Do you practice self-care and what do you do to practice self-care?
PC: Yeah, I actually don’t like the term self-care. I think it’s too individualistic. It really comes out of the American notion that everybody [should] go take care of yourself. I really like the term – and I’ve been using this term for years – called “collective care”, where we take care of each other. Where we are our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers. Where we make sure we are in connection with one another and that I don’t have to leave a movement to go take care of myself, but the movement is also taking care of me.
JDR: I also had a question. You brought up that you never thought the movement was going to get where it was today. I just wanted to know, when did you realize?
PC: I’m always realizing. I’m still realizing. There’s still new layers. Especially when activism 15 years ago, no one was a celebrity for being an activist. That was not something you got fame off of, but that’s not why I joined the work. But I think it becomes clear when your movement, I think for me, when it went global. When I was talking to people in London, Australia, South Africa and they wanted to meet the people who started Black Lives Matter. And that’s when I was like, “Oh shit, this is real.”
At this point in the interview, Cullors was asked to participate in what we at The kNOw call the “VS” wall. Here are her responses:
ZM: So, my first versus: sandwiches or burritos?
ZM: Cake or pie?
ZM: Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
PC: Oh, crunchy. All the way.