Black Lives Matter Co-founder Patrisse Cullors Says It is ‘a Spiritual Movement’

Clergy put their fists in the air as Melina Abdullah, center left, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, addresses the crowd during an interfaith memorial service for George Floyd, Monday, June 8, 2020, in Los Angeles. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

A recorded prayer for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd played on repeat as Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors shredded sheets of paper with the words “police” and “white racism.”

In the background, a pair of wings hung against a wall as candles lit up the room. Cullors stood in the middle of the wings, shredding.

This was part of a live virtual performance, “A Prayer for the Runner,” that the Fowler Museum at UCLA hosted on Saturday (June 13).

The event was organized in May — before the police killings of Taylor and Floyd energized the nation and globe into protest — to, as curator Bianca Collins put it, “offer space for healing” after the unarmed Arbery was shot to death while out for a run in Georgia.

Now, the performance aimed to mourn the lives of the three victims and others, as well as “honor the power of an uprising” that has denounced police brutality and called on cities nationwide to defund their police departments.

After the performance, Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, joined Cullors in a discussion that touched on the role that spirituality and prayer has played in the movement.

“Part of our calling as people who do this work for Black lives is to lift our people up, both in their living, but also in their death,” Cullors said. “The need to lift our folks up feels so incredibly spirit-driven for me.”

Melina Abdullah, left, and Patrisse Cullors discuss the role that spirituality and prayer has played in the Black Lives Matter movement, during a program by the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Video screengrab

Abdullah and Cullors touched on the practice of calling out the names of the victims that they advocate for in protests and demonstrations. It’s kind of a way to invoke their spirits, Abdullah said.

Uplifting the names of victims goes beyond creating hashtags, Cullors said.

“It is literally almost resurrecting a spirit so they can work through us to get the work that we need to get done,” she said.

By highlighting their names, Cullors said she feels “personally connected and responsible and accountable to them, both from a deeply political place but also from a deeply spiritual place.”

Cullors touched on West African traditions that center on remembering ancestors.

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Source: Religion News Service