After her impassioned plea that black lives matter ignited the internet, Alicia Garza helped lead the movement that transformed the modern struggle for civil rights. Born Alicia Schwartz, Garza studied anthropology at UC San Diego and was an early activist for causes including LGBT rights, civil rights, and fair housing. In 2003, she interned at the School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), an Oakland, CA-based radical-leftist training organization; Garza’s involvement with SOUL introduced her to a career in activism. She became executive director of POWER, a San Francisco-based labor group, in 2009. In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, Garza reacted to how little black lives were valued by American society by posting her now-famous quote, which quickly went viral on social media. Together with two friends, she co-founded Black Lives Matter, which gained traction the following year when they organized powerful events across America to protest the police killing of Michael Brown. As part of that campaign, Garza stopped a BART train to represent the time Brown’s body was left in the street. She also participated in the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride, a mass mobilization of Black people to Ferguson. Those who came offered medical aid, legal expertise, or supported the movement in other ways. Garza left the Black Lives Matter organization in 2017 while serving as special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
In 2015, Garza was recognized on the Politico50 guide to Thinkers, Visionaries, and Doers. She has since collaborated with fellow activists Cecile Richards and Ai-jen Poo to co-found Supermajority, an organization dedicated to educating and mobilizing women as a voting bloc in the wake of the 2016 election. In 2018 Garza launched Black Futures Labs, which sought to build Black political power through initiatives like the Black Census Project, the largest census taken of Black people since the Reconstruction Era; one census was successfully conducted in 2018 and another is underway in 2023. Garza was also part of the first cohort of Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity in 2018, a year-long program for individuals working to disrupt white supremacy in the United States and South Africa. She was named to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2020.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Alicia Garza." (Viewed on September 29, 2023) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/garza-alicia>.