Opal Tometi, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, told a standing room crowd at Franklin & Marshall College's "Take Back the Night" event March 24 that for all lives to matter, black lives must matter.
"We all belong here," said Tometi, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who received a rousing ovation as she took the podium in Mayser Center. She discussed in-depth the Black Lives Matter, which has 34 chapters nationwide.
"We believe that we already exist in a multi-racial society and we must acknowledge that it is," she said. "And we must create a society at this point where we all have the ability to live, to love and to laugh. And that's what this movement is all about."
Tometi, who describes herself as "a person of conscience," is a dedicated activist who has worked at "the intersection of racial justice and immigrant rights" for more than a decade. Such work strongly appealed to F&M senior London Bailey.
"I really thought her speech was powerful, but I couldn't help but look around to see the people who should be here and were not," Bailey said. "I think we're taking steps in the right direction, but we have a long way to go."
Tometi was named a “New Civil Rights Leader” by the Los Angeles Times for her work building movements that bridge immigrant and human-rights initiatives to the growing black liberation movement.
She said the violent incidents of unarmed young black men getting shot to death by police, and the perceived injustice in the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who killed Trevon Martin, moved her and others to start the Black Lives Movement.
"We actually believe that all lives matter," Tometi said, to cheers and applause. "I wouldn't have had to co-create Black Lives Matter if that was a fact [in our society]."
"Take Back the Night" is an annual campuswide effort to end gendered, racial and sexual violence. Campus organizers for this year's event wanted to open new dialogues about institutional violence.
Following her talk, Tometi joined students for a march to the garden area near the Steinman Student Center. There, individual male and female students participating in a "speak out" called attention to acts of injustice, violence and sexual aggression.
A wide variety of campus activist groups that include the Alice Drum Women's Center, IMPACT, S.I.S.T.E.R.S, the Black Student Union, LGBTA, Philadelphia Alumni Writer's House, the College Chaplain, and the local Lancaster chapter of Black Lives Matter collaborated to sponsor this year's the event.