Opal Tometi

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Opal Tometi (born August 15, 1984) is a Nigerian-American black human rights activist, writer, strategist, community organizer, and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

Yesterday was the first time I cried for joy (after the protests in early June). Seeing the news clearly display our images and our slogans... I was moved to see the people got the message. Because for far too long, we weren’t being heard...there was a silence around anti-black racism in our society.


Quotes[edit]

  • Antiblack racism is not only happening in the United States. It's actually happening all across the globe. And what we need now more than ever is a human rights movement that challenges systemic racism in every single context. ... We need this because the global reality is that black people are subject to all sorts of disparities in most of our most challenging issues of our day. I think about issues like climate change, and how six of the 10 worst impacted nations by climate change are actually on the continent of Africa. People are reeling from all sorts of unnatural disasters, displacing them from their ancestral homes and leaving them without a chance at making a decent living.
  • I've been learning a great deal about interdependence. I've been learning about how to trust your team.... After coming back from a three-month sabbatical... I felt it was really important for my leadership and for my team to also practice stepping back as well as also sometimes stepping in. And what I learned in this process was that we need to acknowledge that different people contribute different strengths, and that in order for our entire team to flourish, we have to allow them to share and allow them to shine.... I saw our team rise up in my absence. They were able to launch new programs, fundraise. And when I came back, I had to give them a lot of gratitude and praise because they showed me that they truly had my back and that they truly had their own backs....
    In this process of my sabbatical, I was really reminded of this Southern African philosophy of Ubuntu. I am because you are; you are because I am. And I realized that my own leadership, and the contributions that I'm able to make, is in large part due to the contributions that they make, right? And I have to acknowledge that, and I have to see that, and so my new mantra is, "Keep calm and trust the team." And also, "Keep calm and thank the team."
  • What inspires me these days are immigrants. Immigrants all over the world who are doing the best that they can to make a living, to survive and also to thrive. Right now there are over 244 million people who aren't living in their country of origin. This is a 40 percent increase since the year 2000. So what this tells me is that the disparities across the globe are only getting worse.

How the movement that’s changing America was built and where it goes next, By Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone, (16 June 2020)[edit]

(Full text)

  • Yesterday was the first time I cried for joy (after the protests in early June). Seeing the news clearly display our images and our slogans about defunding police, I was moved to see the people got the message. Because for far too long, we weren’t being heard. Part of why we even had to go to -Twitter and had to go to Facebook and had to use social media was because there was a silence around anti-black racism in our society. It was just a practical means of communicating.
  • Thinking about this moment, for me, leading up to this, it felt like we weren’t working fast enough... Our work wasn’t as effective as it needed to be. We’ve received all of the awards. I’m like, ‘Dear God, I don’t want another award, I want this to end.’ I do not care for any more accolades! This to me is common sense. You don’t want to see people dying and being murdered like this.
  • I probably was the one out of the three of us that was like, ‘Let’s go, let’s get big, let’s get everybody.’ I wasn’t necessarily thinking about organizational structure... I was mostly thinking about building a mass movement that people can be a part of and feel an identity around.
  • I was interested in giving folks like black, poor people who’ve been marginalized, brutalized, an opportunity to have more visibility. Before seven years ago, we could barely get the news to talk about police violence, let alone police death.

A Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Explains Why This Time Is Different, By Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, (3 June 2020)[edit]

(Full text)

  • While we see that a lot of anger and outrage and frustration was sparked by the barbaric murder of George Floyd, it’s also clear to me that we have been sitting in our homes, navigating the pandemic, dealing with loved ones being sick, dealing with a great deal of fear and concern about what the day and the future will hold.
  • We have millions of people who have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment and are living paycheck to paycheck and hand to mouth, and I believe they are just thoroughly fed up and thoroughly beside themselves with grief and concern and despair because the government does not seem to have a plan of action that is dignified and comprehensive and seeks to address the core concerns that the average American has....
  • And so my belief and my view of these protests is that they are different because they are marked by a period that has been deeply personal to millions of Americans and residents of the United States, and that has them more tender or sensitive to what is going on.
  • People who would normally have been at work now have time to go to a protest or a rally, and have time to think about why they have been struggling so much, and they are thinking, This actually isn’t right and I want to make time, and I have the ability to make time now and make my concerns heard...
  • I absolutely think people are concerned with police brutality. Let me make that absolutely clear. We have been fighting and advocating to stop a war on black lives. And that is how we see it—this is a war on black life. And people understand that this system is filled with all sorts of inequality and injustice, and that implicit bias and just outright racism is embedded in the way that policing is done in this nation—and when you think about it historically, it was founded as a slave patrol.
  • The evolution of policing was rooted in that. People recognize that. So their frustration is absolutely about the policing and the criminal-justice system writ large and the racial dimensions of it, and its lethal impact on our communities.
  • One thing I just want to underscore is that the world is watching us. We see these rallies in solidarity emerging all across the globe, and I have friends texting me with their images in France and the Netherlands and Costa Rica, and people are showing me that they are showing up in solidarity.
  • People are really trying to show up in this moment for black people, but I think they are also doing it because they have been mad for a minute, almost like this pandemic was a pause, and they were able to think about what would justice look like, and what is actually going on, and they have been able to reflect on what is going on. I think they have been not O.K. for so many years, and they are finally saying, “Hey, we are going to take it to the streets and say we are going to show up in solidarity with you.”

Black Lives Matter Was Always Designed to Be a Global Movement, Vice] (7 July 2020)[edit]

(Full text)

  • When we first started Black Lives Matter, I always knew that this needed to be a global movement and that we needed more people to participate. The issues of police brutality, extrajudicial killings and anti-Black racism requires everybody to pay attention. I knew from the beginning that the project was big, that the mandate was big and that, if we use new media and technology – social media, specifically – we could get the message out there to thousands, if not millions of people.
  • I'm extremely gratified that people have heard and are taking ownership of Black Lives Matter. People now know that in their respective industries and countries, they have the responsibility to ensure that Black people are respected, protected and affirmed.
  • We are finally achieving a mass consciousness. We're seeing a widespread awareness and commitment to anti-racism that we have long needed. People are now alert and active because the pandemic demonstrated how interconnected our lives are.
  • We finally had time to sit at home and reflect on how our society functions and whether or not it's functioning well for all of us. The overwhelming consensus was that it is not, it is insufficient – in fact, it's been unsustainable for decades, if not generations.
  • People have begun to engage in mutual aid and support for their neighbours. Even if people didn't have much, they were still looking out for each other. Through this, we began to see the ways in which new webs were being constructed.
  • When you're sitting at home or living at a slower pace and you see that Black folks in your community are attacked, killed, murdered by vigilantes and by the police, you wake up, you rise to action, and you rise quickly.
  • We are now in a moment where people have no excuses to deny the injustice that's happening in the middle of a global pandemic. Things feel different this time because we were able to tap into a sense of our own agency, our own power and our genuine love for each other.
  • We also believe that we cannot truly become free when marginalised Black communities are kept at the margins and are forgotten. We don't believe that there can be a trickle-down social justice. We believe that people on the margins must be brought centre.
  • We know that it's increasingly more important to step up and stand for all Black lives, including queer and trans folks, and the international community have to play a role in this fight. It is fundamentally about all of our human rights; that includes folks on the continent and folks who are queer or trans.

About[edit]

  • Civil-rights organizers Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi put those three words into our minds and hearts seven years ago, when they began to change the country. The sweeping calls for change we see today are not sudden, but the fruits of the labor of activists like them. Their work has given us room to demand more, because black lives don’t truly matter just because people simply say so.... Tometi recognizes the urgency and unique nature of this moment. “Thinking about this moment, for me, leading up to this, it felt like we weren’t working fast enough,” she tells me, sounding exasperated. “Our work wasn’t as effective as it needed to be. We’ve received all of the awards. I’m like, ‘Dear God, I don’t want another award, I want this to end.’ I do not care for any more accolades! This to me is common sense. You don’t want to see people dying and being murdered like this.” I took Tometi’s tone to heart when she said it. There was more exasperation than excitement in her voice.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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