We must work to contextualize the current moment of social and political emergence taking place in Louisville, Kentucky. Moments and movements do not happen within a vacuum; the organizing and mobilizing taking place in the city are reflective of larger national and global trends towards Black liberation and racial justice. This resurgence of critical racial consciousness is a response to the culmination of failed policies of trickle down economics, the war on drugs and colorblind [structural] racism, within the United States. And larger failing global trends of capitalism and exploitation [through colonization] of Black and Brownness. In our hypermediated landscape, this becomes most apparent by what scholar Eric Ritskes refers to as “the fleshy excess of Black life”, where all Black life is viewed as excessive by an anti-Black settler colonial state. We must understand this means at a very base level, that all Black life is seen as a threat to the power of the state, and is therefore met with varying level of violence that often manifest as murder by state controlled forces such as the police.
The organizing work and increase in people becoming politicized in this city can trace a recent history to the dehumanization and execution of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. This need to call out the Anti-Blackness which created the conditions of his murder, led to the creation of #BlackLivesMatter, a movement founded by three Black women, two of whom identify as queer, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi . This movement has become a space for national and international solidarity and building that addresses the historical legacies of Anti-Blackness and colonialism, and their current effects on radicalized bodies in space. As hashtags become spaces for narratives to be shared, #BlackLivesMatter amplified the extra judicial executions of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, phrases like Ferguson is Everywhere resonated in the collective consciousness as images of police brutality and militarization remind us that our city could in the future and has in the past mobilized such force against our community.
The narrative framed by institution and the media in our city would have you believe that the movement for Black lives is leaderless, that it is inaccessible to everyday people and marginalized communities. However, the life giving, movement sustaining work taking place in our neighborhoods and streets follows in the organizing legacy of women like Ella Baker, and Black radical leadership like Bayard Rustin. The activism taking place on a local level has been deeply influenced by the historical legacy of the geographic space of the city, Louisville has both a long history of white supremacy and resistance. This movement is not leaderless, its leader(full). It is Black and Brown, and queer, and poor, it is lead by people whose skills and passion manifest as direct actions, community forums, event organizing, writing and analysis, youth work, and investing in the world we want to see. Over the last year, the response to the call of #BlackLivesMatter has seen the disrupting of white spaces with community die-ins, the building of community and reclaiming of history through the revitalization of Juneteenth celebrations, and weekly spaces for community to discuss their own experiences of police brutality. This movement builds on a foundation of coalitions and allies, and works to be a community sustained, grassroots lead effort.