“Black Lives Matter” has become a rallying cry for racial justice—as well as a highly organized movement—around the world, but for its co-founder Alicia Garza, its was a childhood spent with a mother who never hesitated to call out injustice in everyday life, and raised her firstborn child to do the same. Now principal of Black Futures Lab, Garza is working to dismantle the dynamics that make inequality possible at a policy level, the next phase of a career that will always be rooted in grassroots activism.
Those roots are retraced in Garza’s first book, The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When Things Fall Apart (Penguin Random House), which deputed last October. Now out in paperback, Garza explains the purpose of The Purpose of Power on this week’s episode of The Root Presents: It’s Lit! podcast.
“I did mean to write a guidebook and it’s not a script at all—I mean, it’s not like a ‘Rules for Radicals,’” she laughs. “But it’s the book that I really wanted when I was starting out as an organizer. And you know, back then, there weren’t a lot of books that helped make sense of the things that I was experiencing every day...like organizers knew what community organizing was, but nobody else did.
“So this is intended to be a guidebook. And I started it off, you know, not with the story of BLM,” she continues. “When I first got this book deal that I was going to write about BLM and I that’s not what came out when I sat down to write. Actually, I started thinking a lot about how I got to this place.
“I think sometimes people look at folks like me and they think we, like, fell out of the sky, right? Like you come to where you are exactly as you are right now,” Garza later notes. “And that’s just not true; like every single person who has taken a step to change the things that we can no longer abide by, they come from somewhere, right? And something shaped them and inspired them and activated them. But the other thing that I really wanted to do by putting this moment and myself and people like me in context, is to help people understand what it is that we’re dealing with right now. This isn’t about good people or bad people, right people or wrong people...It’s really actually about another movement that has been shaping our lives for the last 40 years.”
Hear more from movement builder Alicia Garza in Episode 49 of The Root Presents: It’s Lit!: Alicia Garza Explains the Purpose of Power, available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Amazon, NPR One, TuneIn, and Radio Public.