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Black Lives Matter movement wins Sydney Peace Prize

23 May 2017
Prize jury awards 'powerful movement for racial equality'

Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi will receive the 2017 Sydney Peace Prize at a ceremony in Sydney in November. 

Black Lives Matters co-founder Patrisse Cullors.

Patrisse Cullors (above), Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi will receive the Sydney Peace Prize in November. 

The Black Lives Matter Global Network (BLM) has been announced as the recipient of the 2017 Sydney Peace Prize.

Black Lives Matter emerged as a global phenomenon in 2014, when the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri catalysed #BlackLivesMatter into a rallying cry for a new generation of US civil rights activists and organisers in streets and communities across the United States.

The 2017 Sydney Peace Prize Jury’s citation reads: “For building a powerful movement for racial equality, courageously reigniting a global conversation around state violence and racism. And for harnessing the potential of new platforms and power of people to inspire a bold movement for change at a time when peace is threatened by growing inequality and injustice.”

Founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, who created the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, BLM is a dedicated web of 39 chapter organisations, that give communities the tools, hope and courage to come together and demand justice, dignity and respect.

“It is a tremendous honour to receive this recognition,” Patrisse Cullors said. “It comes at a time when this movement is more important than ever – with an administration in office that is so openly racist, homophobic, anti-women, anti-children, anti-labour anti-immigrant. Black Lives Matter is our call to action, it is a tool to reimagine a world where black people are free to exist, free to live, and a tool for our allies to show up for us.”

Black Lives Matter founders Opal Tometi, Patrisse Marie Cullors, Alicia Garza.

Sydney Peace Prize winners: Black Lives Matter founders Opal Tometi, Patrisse Marie Cullors, and Alicia Garza.

The Sydney Peace Prize is Australia’s international prize for peace, awarded by the Sydney Peace Foundation at the University of Sydney. The Award will be presented on Thursday, 2 November at Sydney Town Hall.

The Prize recognises leading global voices that promote peace, justice and nonviolence. Past winners include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, Arundhati Roy, Senator Patrick Dodson, Professor Noam Chomsky, and Naomi Klein.

This is the first time that a movement and not a person has been awarded the Peace Prize. The Jury commended Black Lives Matter for capturing public consciousness, and compelling societies all over the world – from everyday people to lawmakers and political leaders – to question how it devalues Black lives and reimagine what equality and justice for all can, and should, look like.

“Black Lives Matter offers bold and visionary solutions to build societies where black people, and by extension all people, are free to live safe and dignified lives,” said Archie Law, Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

“This vision of love, hope, and resistance that resonates around the globe and particularly in Australia where the struggle with racism towards our First Peoples, people seeking asylum, and other excluded communities scars our country and tarnishes our international reputation.”

“We have become inured to the high incarceration rates and deaths in custody of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples - it’s as if their lives do not matter,” said Senator Patrick Dodson, 2008 Sydney Peace Prize recipient.

“When there is ignorance, hostility, discrimination or racism, and they are allowed to reign unchecked, then we are all diminished. As human beings, we are capable of being better. We are capable of concern, solidarity, inclusiveness and respect. Black Lives Matter reminds us that this is not only possible, but essential for our common humanity.

"Black Lives Matter is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression,” Cullors said.

“By combating and countering acts of violence and creating space for Black imagination and innovation, BLM is building power and winning immediate improvements for Black communities every day.”

Purchase tickets for the City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture at Sydney Town Hall on Thursday 2 November and the celebratory Gala Dinner on Friday 3 November here, by email or by calling (02) 9351 4468.