Black Lives Matter has been top of mind for many Americans since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and more recently the death of George Floyd captured on video in May.
BLM originated in 2015 with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. Today it’s a central element in conversations about race, equity and social justice.
A recent (Sept. 25) colloquium for graduate students hosted by the University of Memphis Journalism and Strategic Media Department presented the topic-related work of two UofM professors, Drs. Andre Johnson and Amanda Edgar, co-authors of “The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter.”
The book, which was released in 2018, documents prior movements and conversations that describe the injustices and inequalities against black people, Johnson said.
Edgar added, “We wanted to understand the conversations on social media in 2015 with the hashtags #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter to find out the true intentions of conversation.”
Edgar said 16 focus groups were conducted and 46 people in Memphis were interviewed.
As a pastor, activist and theologian, Johnson uses a scripture verse (Genesis 1:26-27) to educate his congregation about the meaning of BLM and to explain the significance of Black life.
The passage reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.)”
Johnson said, “It was important to define the meaning of Black Lives Matter at the beginning of the book because The Blacks Lives Matter Movement is tied to the Civil Rights Movement. …
“Black Lives is an affirmation of the gospel in reclaiming a black body in America.”
Edgar and Johnson collaborated to provide a social movement framework through the messaging in the book. A social movement is directed to the people who are in power and they can sometimes bring about change, Edgar said.
The book seeks to explain the parallelism of the Civil Rights Movement with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“One of the contrasts in the book is the notion of All Lives Matter v. Black Lives Matter and how individuals can be criticized for the support of BLM,” said Edgar.
Since the release of the book, it has received an award from the National Communication Association.
Although BLM is a present-day movement, it is not a new movement.
We are still addressing the same issues as before like healthcare, jobs, economic justice and green justice, said Johnson.