1. Making Our Lives Matter

Cullors, Garza, Tometti

Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi

The entire idea behind the 15 Fiercest Sisters is to select 15 individuals who have made an indelible impact on the lives of not just black women, but the world in general and celebrate both their accomplishments and their success.

Yet, sometimes you have to make an exception, as we have in this case for four women who have forever changed what the world knows about what it means to be black in America in a single, powerful act. They are Melina Abdullah, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, the founders of Black Lives Matter. Abdullah is the founder of the Los Angeles chapter of the organization, the foundation and inspiration for the national organization created by Garza, Cullors and Tometi.

This group of college-educated, middle-class, professional black women looked around them at what was happening to black women and men at the hands of the police and, in some cases, each other. They decided the status quo would not do.

In her explanation of why she felt Black Lives Matters was desperately needed, Abdullah said:


Melina Abdullah

“Our degrees won’t save us; our middle-class status won’t save us. Who’s being killed? Andrew Joseph in Tampa, Fla. His parents are college-educated, middle-class people. Trayvon Martin was killed in a gated community. Aiyana Jones, 7 years old, sleeping on her grandmother’s couch. I have two little girls. How can you sit back? That’s how a lot of us feel. We’re really facing war-time conditions.”

The actions of Abdullah, Cullors, Garza, Tometti and the men and women who work with them echo those of a much earlier generation of black activists.

Like Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Angela Davis, these sisters are fighting to raise our collective voice until each of us, our children and our families are free to walk, live, and work safely and peacefully in every community in America. — Sheree Crute

Behind the Hashtag: The Women of #BlackLivesMatter


Trayvon Martin

# Melina Abdullah, a tenured professor and chair of the Pan-African Studies department at Cal State Los Angeles

# Patrisse Cullors, a performance artist who studied religion and philosophy at UCLA — who coined the now-global hashtag #BlackLivesMatter

# Alicia Garza, self-described queersocial-justice activist who served as executive directorof the San Francisco-based People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) from 2009 to 2014

# Opal Tometti, a New York-based Nigerian-American writer, strategist and community organizer