By ALEJANDRA PAULINO, age 13
Alejandra Paulino: Who started the Black Lives Matter movement?
Synead Nichols: The Black Lives Matter movement was started by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.
Alejandra: What are the top goals of the movement?
Synead: The top goal of the movement is to really get people to change the reality of our nation and ensure that black lives of all kinds—female, gay, transgender, bisexual, etc…—are treated as human beings. That black lives are valued.
Alejandra: What have you accomplished so far?
Synead: In solidarity with activists in Ferguson, MO, and the Black Lives Matter movement, myself and my friend Umaara Elliott, along with a great team of people, helped to organize Millions March NYC protest of 50,000 people in New York City in less than three weeks! Major accomplishment!
Alejandra: What do you think are some common misconceptions about the movement, if there are any?
Synead: That we are leaderless. In fact, we have many leaders taking a stance within our movement. We’ve got many powerful voices and I think it’s important that they show their leadership in the ways they know best.
Alejandra: What is exciting to you about the movement? How do you think it’s different from past movements?
Synead: I think we’re just in a different time with different energies and a very socially conscious and aware generation. Seeing people as young as myself and younger making vast changes in the world in regards to humanity in general has been pretty amazing. I think this generation is doing a great job and not standing by in silence. We’re a very vocal generation and I think that is so important right now since, for a long time, we were all taught to stand silence.
Alejandra: What are biggest challenges the movement faces?
Synead: Motivation and not losing our momentum. You can be easily desensitized to everything we’re seeing. Most important thing is to not get lost in those depressing emotions.
Alejandra: Is there a way that kids can get involved?
Synead: Learning! Reading! Starting conversations! I think kids should really invest in learning about the way our country actually works. We’re not taught a lot of things in school that pertains to our advancement in the United States or even our own [black] history. Never be afraid to ask questions either. It is imperative to challenge the status quo and societal norms that are not actually normal or right.
Alejandra: Your website also points out different kinds of Black lives that matter. Why is it important to also specifically mention those groups?
Synead: It’s important to mention these sub-categories of Blackness because there is the oppression of black people, but there are other systems of oppression which many people suffer under: patriarchy, gender and sexuality roles, economic standing, etc… So, for example, instead of being discriminated against solely for being black, now I am going to be even more discriminated against because I’m black and a woman.
It’s important to acknowledge these sub-categories because we all want to be inclusive and not exclusive. This is a movement to bring people together and be accepted as they are no matter what color their skin is or whom they choose to kiss.
Alejandra: How do you keep this movement active in your everyday life?
Synead: Well, being a black woman I am constantly dealing with issues of oppression. Micro or major. It’s a constant reminder that I have to watch over my shoulder at all times so that keeps me on my toes. That forces me to constantly think about what can I do to help this movement.
Alejandra: How do you feel the movement impacts volunteers who get involved?
Synead: I feel as if those who get involved have to be prepared for how emotionally taxing a lot of the work is. It’s not pretty. If dealing with police, you’re getting shoved and treated terribly. We have to deal with constantly seeing these images of black bodies everywhere: newspapers, news, television, or even with your own two eyes.