Interview with #BlackLivesMatter Cofounder Alicia Garza: ‘Fight Against Despair and Keep Doing the Work Needed the Change the World’

By Marianne Schnall

At a time when so many of the inequities and systemic problems in our society have been laid bare, people are looking for meaningful ways to be part of creating positive change, and the need for effective activism, organizing and movement building has never been greater. Among those leading the charge, serving as both a role model and pioneer, is longtime activist Alicia Garza. Garza has been a strategist and organizer for over two decades. She is one of the co-creators (with fellow activists Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi) of #BlackLivesMatter, which has become one of the most powerful social justice movements in the world.

Garza’s extensive experience as an impactful organizer and activist has provided her with valuable insights, lessons and wisdom to share, which is what inspired her to write her new book, The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall ApartI had the opportunity to talk to Garza about what inspired her to write the book, what changes she thinks are needed to create a more equitable and just world, how she keeps herself energized and centered as she does this important work, her call to action and more.



News, Resources, and Actions


A New Era: Representation Gains but the Virus Remains

By Cristina Escobar


It’s Officially President Biden and Vice President Harris Now
The inauguration of the 46th President was a hopeful moment for so many across the country. When Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in Vice President Kamala Harris as the first ever female, Black, and Southeast Asian VP, not to mention highest ranking woman in US history, the nation saw women of color leading like never before—with barrier-breaking institutional power. And the Executive Branch isn’t the only place setting records. There are more women and women of color in Congress than ever. We have the most diverse Cabinet in American history. The electorate is also increasingly reflecting our population as evidenced in the incredible turnout of Black voters in Georgia and 2020’s historic increase in Latinxs voters.

We are optimistic that all these fresh faces will mean new policies that better address the needs of those who are typically most marginalized. So far, the Biden-Harris administration has created the Gender Policy Council, rolled back the Muslim Ban, and made immigration reform a top priority.


An Inauguration Like No Other 
Of course, the inauguration was also different because of the pandemic. There were masks (and male mask slippage). Guests were supposed to practice social distancing. The event was virtually private with no large crowd. Instead we had 400,000 flags representing the Americans who have died from the disease. We also had the National Guard providing increased security after violent white supremacists stormed the US Capitol and threatened our very democracy just weeks prior. In the midst of this pandemic, the US failed to have a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our history.

On a lighter note, much of the nation met Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet laureate to date (in addition to debating JLo’s ‘Let’s Get Loud’ moment and examining the importance of the day’s fashion on men and women alike). Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” went viral, striking the perfect balance between hope and accountability.


Four Crises at Once
President Biden identified four crises facing his administration all at once: the pandemic, the economy, racial justice, and climate change. There is hope as we start to get vaccinated and the US rejoins the Paris agreement. But there is also fear that we are too late on too many climate markers and new strains of the Coronavirus increase how easily it spreads. Throughout, there’s a gendered aspect with women taking on the majority of caring for family members in figuring out states’ disjointed vaccination processes. The economy continues to particularly negatively impact women, as one headline ran: The US economy lost 140,000 jobs in December. All of them were held by women. What’s more alarming is that, when looking at the net job losses, all were women of color. While white women as a group increased their net rate of employment, Black and Latinx women lost jobs at the highest rates.


Nevertheless, We Persist
It is true the challenges before us are big. But everywhere we turn, we see amazing women leaders ready to take action. In this issue of COVID Gendered, we get to interview one of them, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. Let us end with her words in this moment: “There must be a belief that we can make the change we long for. It must be the thing that wakes us up in the morning, the thing we fall asleep thinking about. That is what keeps me hopeful in the midst of despair: learning how to lean in to what it is that I care most about and investing in that vision.”


Featured Authors
Jihan Abdalla, Carrie Elizabeth Blazina, Charles M. Blow, Nicole Chavez, Jean Chemnick, Meredith Conroy, Andrew Couts, Chas Danner, Drew DeSilver, Nicquel Terry Ellis, Holly Ellyatt, Elana Fishman, Alicia Garza, Livia Gershon, James Gorman, Lyra Hale, Alisha Haridasani Gupta, John F. Harris, Benjamin Hart, Dorothy Hastings, Sereena Henderson, Monica Hesse, Isabella Isaacs-Thomas, Chloe Jones, Yerin Kim, Betsy Klein, Annalyn Kurtz, Alex Leary, Catherine Lucey, Susan Milligan, Nusaiba Mizan, Ursula Moffitt, Madeleine Ngo, Candice Norwood, Olivia Nuzzi, Alexis Okeowo, Donna Owens, Ivan Pereira, Lili Pike, Derecka Purnell, Vignesh Ramachandran, Alex Samuels, Marianne Schnall, Zohreen Shah, Michael D. Shear, Jenny Singer, Eve Sneider, Elliot Spagat, Kathy Spillar, Veronica Stracqualursi, Kate Sullivan, Patrick Svitek, Jim Tankersley, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, Jessica Valenti, Talib Visram, Esther Wang, and Anna Wiederkehr


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