Opal Tometi is a globally recognized human rights advocate, strategist, and writer of Nigerian-American descent. She has been active in social movements for over 15 years and is widely known for her role as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, the historic political project, launched in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, and for her years of service as the Executive Director of the United States first national immigrant rights organization for people of African descent – the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) founded in 2006, is a national organization that educates and advocates to further immigrant rights and racial justice together with African American, Afro-Latino, African and Caribbean immigrant communities. (https://www.opaltometi.org )
The social conflict theory best explains Opal’s best advocacy work so far, Black Lives Matter. This theory views society as a system of groups that are not equal, and therefore consistently generate conflict and change. The same is true for the black lives matter movement which seeks to advocate against the seeming racial stereotype placed against African Americans as being “naturally prone” to committing a crime. Hence, they are often viewed as primary suspects by law enforcement officers. As such, this brings about a conflict between the African American community and law enforcement agencies, whom they view as being biased towards them. Therefore, seemingly driven by her own words, Opal seeks to advocate for an end to such racial stereotypes as she is quoted on her website as saying “we are all worthy of the celebration and defense of our inherent human dignity, and our rights.”
Did the Black Lives Matter Movement Invoke a Change?
Black lives matter is a good example of how social media can be used as a tool for advocacy. Opal started the movement online as a hashtag on twitter which quickly caught the wind and turned into the standard hashtag used to raise public awareness of the issue regarding American law enforcement’s perceivably discriminatory relationship with African Americans. (Devin, 2017). Apart from raising public awareness, the black lives matter movement has grouped to form a strong and unified voice to individuals whose opinions are too often lost under the voice of their oppressors. This accumulation and unity of people serve to legitimize and strengthen the movement. (Devin, 2017.) By drawing attention and raising public awareness and concern, Black Lives Matter has changed the dynamic of modern society regarding African American relations with police officers as it lends a voice to an issue that has existed for far too long. This movement has unquestionably been effective in this endeavor.
Lessons we can take away from Opal Tometi and the Black Lives Matter Movement
The biggest lesson drawn from the Black Lives Matter Movement is the need to never see we as to minute or singular cause a change in society. One simple action can be all that is needed to create public awareness and concern for an issue that affects the society we live in. We should therefore never cower from stepping up and advocating for a matter which we see as affecting the society we live in.
Iorio, Devin, (2017) “The True Impact of Black Lives Matter”. The First-Year Papers (2010-present).
Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford, CT. retrieved from https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/fypapers/80Opal, T. (2019) Biography, retrieved from https://www.opaltometi.org/about/biography/
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