© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

'We Do It Best When We Do It Together': BLM's Patrisse Cullors Inspires New Generation Of Activists

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Movement Patrisse Cullors attends the United State of Women Summit on May 5, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. (Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)
Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Movement Patrisse Cullors attends the United State of Women Summit on May 5, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. (Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

Author and political organizer Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, is inspiring a new generation of young activists with her recent young adult adaptation of her book “When They Call You A Terrorist: A Story of Black Lives Matter and The Power To Change The World.”

Book Excerpt: Introduction To ‘When They Call You A Terrorist’

By Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele

Days after the elections of 2016, asha sent me a link to a talk by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. We have to have hope, she says to me across 3,000 miles, she in Brooklyn, me in Los Angeles. We listen together as Dr. deGrasse Tyson explains that the very atoms and molecules in our bodies are traceable to the crucibles in the centers of stars that once upon a time exploded into gas clouds. And those gas clouds formed other stars and those stars possessed the divine-right mix of properties needed to create not only planets, including our own, but also people, including us, me and her. He is saying that not only are we in the universe, but that the universe is in us. He is saying that we, human beings, are literally made out of stardust.

And I know when I hear Dr. deGrasse Tyson say this that he is telling the truth because I have seen it since I was a child, the magic, the stardust we are, in the lives of the people I come from.

I watched it in the labor of my mother, a Jehovah’s Witness and a woman who worked two and sometimes three jobs at a time, keeping other people’s children, working the reception desks at gyms, telemarketing, doing anything and everything for 16 hours a day the whole of my childhood in the Van Nuys barrio where we lived. My mother, cocoa brown and smooth, disowned by her family for the children she had as a very young and unmarried woman. My mother, never giving up despite never making a living wage.

I saw it in the thin, brown face of my father, a boy out of Cajun country, a wounded healer, whose addictions were borne of a world that did not love him and told him so not once but constantly. My father, who always came back, who never stopped trying to be a version of himself there were no mirrors for.

And I knew it because I am the thirteenth-generation progeny of a people who survived the hulls of slave ships, survived the chains, the whips, the months laying in their own shit and piss. The human beings legislated as not human beings who watched their names, their languages, their Goddesses and Gods, the arc of their dances and beats of their songs, the majesty of their dreams, their very families snatched up and stolen, disassembled and discarded, and despite this built language and honored God and created movement and upheld love. What could they be but stardust, these people who refused to die, who refused to accept the idea that their lives did not matter, that their children’s lives did not matter?

Our foreparents imagined our families out of whole cloth. They imagined each individual one of us. They imagined me. They had to. It is the only way I am here, today, a mother and a wife, a community organizer and Queer, an artist and a dreamer learning to find hope while navigating the shadows of hell even as I know it might have been otherwise.


Excerpted from “When They Call You A Terrorist (Young Adult Edition): A Story of Black Lives Matter and The Power To Change The World” by Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele. Copyright © 2020 by Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele. Republished with permission of Macmillan Publishers. 

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.