Black people activism is not a new phenomenon. Therefore, the current activism that is taking place in America is an extension of the deeply rooted activist history of the U.S. Black people started revolting during the civil rights era, but 1966 saw the formation of the Black People Movement when a 16-year-old unarmed teenager, Matthew Johnson, was killed in San Francisco. Indeed, 50 years later, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) was formed on the same grounds after a 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in 2013. Today, the Black Lives Matter movement carries on the dreams of the colored people in America, where they fight against police brutality and broadly demanding that “Black Humanity” should be upheld in America. Despite the striking similarities, both movements contrast in their tactical approaches and ideological affiliations. Apparently, racism in America has existed for the longest time; hence, Black movements have always emerged over the years to try to fight this atrocity.
The similarity between the two organizations emanates from the fact that they share the same communication tactics. Both movements show extensive radicalization that pushes them to fight racism despite inadequate public approval or coverage of their grievances on the mainstream media. Instead, they have their ways of networking and creating awareness to their supporters through spoken or unspoken word throughout America. In the 1960s, for instance, the Black Panther developed their weekly newspaper, which was art directed by Culture Emory, using his artistic genius to illustrate the atrocities facing the black people (Carson and Garrow 335). The reason for this hostility was because, in this paper, there appeared detailed images that other mainstream media platforms would never have dared to present.
Today, the same radical approach is seen in how the BLM approaches the issues of the Black through the various digital platforms. The efficacy of the social media is facilitated by cell phones, commentaries, videos, and photographs, which often go viral within a few second of posting a controversial issue facing the people of color in America (Cobb n.d.). For instance, in 2015, Antony Scott learned of his brother’s murder through the social media platform, where a North Charleston police officer shot Walter Scott in cold blood and fled the scene in a bid to evade accountability. Notably, each era saw every group use the available media to reach out to their supporters and broadly stimulate them into taking action and fighting against black racism.
The two movements differ because BLM embraces nonviolent approaches compared to Black Power Movement. The latter group violently opposes racism and uses force to push legislators into enacting the necessary policies. However, with Black Lives Matter, all their plans are moderated on the social platform, considering that when it started in 2013, Alicia Garza used her significant presence on Facebook to lobby her supporters into protesting against Trayvon Martin’s murder. Since then, BLM sponsors have provided their grievances on the vast cyberspace, including Twitter and Facebook, where street demonstrations are organized and perpetrated by activists in this group (Cobb n.d.). In these public protests, BLM supporters dramatize visual tactics like dramatic die-ins and light brigades, which convey that ubiquitous violence and death face black people. On the other hand, the Black Panthers were a narcissist movement that believed they could grab power from the white race through force. In fact, the Black Power Movement advocated for extremely armed resistance to the extent of publicly displaying their weapons and protesting to keep their guns (Carson and Garrow 335). Clearly, BLM and Black Power Movement differ to a great extent as the latter embraces nonviolence approaches, while the previous one made it through armed resistance.
In addition, both movements contrast in that the Black Power Movement was fighting for radical democracy and expansive hopefulness of the Black people in America, while BLM focuses more on criminal justice. According to their agenda, BLM demands the end of wars against the black inhabitants of America. In addition, the movement fights for inclusiveness, maintaining that all people should be treated equally despite their place of work, their sexual affiliation, or genders. Moreover, Black Lives Matter has managed to reshape and spark endless debates on the atrocities committed by the criminal justice systems in America. Their hope to achieve equality is embedded in their active online activist group growing daily (Cobb n.d.). Clearly, BLM focuses on police aggression; hence, it overshadows that of racial inequality.
In the 1960s, the black panthers had core agendas that were very different from those of BLM, as the activists in this era advocated for more policy and enactment of the law in the minds and hearts of people. Their efforts eliminated segregation, ensured that people gained voting rights, and opened up employment for the black people during the era. Moreover, Stokely Carmichael came up with a slogan that black people needed power where the people of color lifted their fists in the air to show solidarity and the need for empowerment (Payne 429). Notably, this slogan was embraced by all individuals, including athletes, as seen in 1968. For Instance, when America won the City Olympics Gold and Bronze in Mexico, they raised their fists high as a sign of black salute.
Apparently, the above discussion has shown that black movements have mostly budded from the extreme racism in America. The first radical group, the Black People Movement, used violent tactics and developed their newspaper to cover their agendas. In addition, they fought more for liberal democracy, thus eliminating racism and empowering most black people economically. On the other hand, the BLM uses nonviolent approaches and fights for an equal criminal justice system through a well-defined communication platform.
Carson, Clayborne and Garrow, David. The Eyes on the Prize: Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle, 1954-1990. Penguin Books, 1991.
Cobb, Jelani. “The Political Scene: The Matter of Black Lives.” The New Yorker, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/14/where-is-black-lives-matter-headed. Accessed 5 December 2016.
Payne, Charles M. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. University of California Press, 2007.