Patrisse Cullors American artist and activist

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Patrisse Cullors
Patrisse Cullors.jpg
Cullors in 2015
Born (1983-06-20) June 20, 1983 (age 37)
EducationUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BA) University of Southern California, Master of Fine Arts
OccupationActivist, artist, playwright
Notable work
Black Lives Matter
Spouse(s)Janaya Khan (m. 2016)

Patrisse Cullors (born June 20, 1983), an American artist and activist, is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Other topics on which Cullors advocates include prison abolition in Los Angeles and LGBTQ rights. Cullors integrates ideas from critical theory, as well as social movements around the world, in her activism.[1]

Early life and education

Cullors was born in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in Pacoima, a low-income neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley,[2] and attended Cleveland High School in Reseda.[3] She became an activist early in life, joining the Bus Riders Union (BRU) under the leadership of Eric Mann as a teenager[2][3] during which time she attended a year-long organizing program led by the Labor Community Strategy Center[4] (which organised the BRU[5]). She learned about revolutionaries, critical theory and social movements from around the world, while practicing activism.[1]

Cullors recalls being forced from her home at sixteen when she revealed her queer identity to her parents.[6] She was involved with the Jehovah's Witnesses as a child, but later grew disillusioned with the church. She developed an interest in the Nigerian religious tradition of Ifá, incorporating its rituals into political protest events. She told an interviewer in 2015 that "seeking spirituality had a lot to do with trying to seek understanding about my conditions—how these conditions shape me in my everyday life and how I understand them as part of a larger fight, a fight for my life."[7] She later earned a degree in religion and philosophy from UCLA.[2] She also received an MFA from USC.[8]


Cullors teaches at Otis College of Art and Design in the Public Practice Program.[9] She also teaches in the Master's Arts in Social Justice and Community Organizing at Prescott College.[10][11]

Black Lives Matter

Along with community organizers and friends Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, Cullors founded Black Lives Matter.[12][13] The three started the movement out of frustration over George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.[14] Cullors created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in 2013 to corroborate Garza's use of the phrase in making a Facebook post about the Martin case.[15] Cullors further described her impetus for pushing for African-American rights stemming from her 19-year-old brother being brutalized during imprisonment Los Angeles County jails.[16]

Cullors credits social media being instrumental in revealing violence against African Americans, saying: "On a daily basis, every moment, black folks are being bombarded with images of our death ... It's literally saying, 'Black people, you might be next. You will be next, but in hindsight it will be better for our nation, the less of our kind, the more safe it will be."[17]

In 2017, she said that the movement would not meet with United States president Donald Trump just as it wouldn't have met with Adolf Hitler, as Trump "is literally the epitome of evil, all the evils of this country — be it racism, capitalism, sexism, homophobia."[18][19]

Other activism

She has served as executive director of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails.[15] The group advocated for a civilian commission to oversee the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in order to curb abuses by officers. By organizing former jail inmates as a voting bloc, the group hoped to sway the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to create such a commission, as well as gather enough votes to elect a replacement for L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, who resigned in 2014 for separate reasons.[20] However, the group did not succeed in its efforts.

Cullors co-founded the prison activist organization Dignity and Power Now, which succeeded in advocating for a civilian oversight board.[21]

She is also a board member of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, having led a think tank on state and vigilante violence for the 2014 Without Borders Conference.[22] She recently launched a production company with a deal with Warner Bros. Television.[23]

Ideology and policy positions

Cullors defines herself as an prison, police and "militarization" abolitionist,[24] a position she says is inspired by "a legacy of black-led anti-colonial struggle in the United States and throughout the Americas".[25] She also favors reparations for what she describes as "the historical pains and damage caused by European settler colonialism", in various forms, such "financial restitution, land redistribution, political self-determination, culturally relevant education programs, language recuperation, and the right to return (or repatriation)".[24]

She cites the activist and formerly incarcerated Weather Underground member Eric Mann, as her mentor during her early activist years at the Bus Riders Union of Los Angeles.[26] She draws on various ideological inspirations. One is black feminists such as Audre Lorde and her "Black, queer, feminist lens",[24] as well as bell hooks : both "helped [her] understand [her] identity".[27] She cites Angela Davis for her "political theories and reflections on anticapitalist movements around the world", her work towards "a broader antiracist and antiwar movement", and her fight against white supremacy in the US. Frantz Fanon is another inspiration, his "work on colonial violence in Algeria and across the Third World [making] timely connections" for the understanding of the context in which Black people live across the world.[24] She also cites Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, as "provid[ing] a new understanding around what our economies could look like".[27][28]

Also known as public artist and curator, her website (see External Links section) states that she relies on art to reflect social spaces in ways that words fall flat. A journalist who interviewed her for Rolling Stone noted that Cullors turns to art "as a complimentary form of resistance-building." [29]

Asked whether she believed in violence as a method of protest, she has said that she believes in "direct action, but nonviolent direct action", and that this was also the belief of the Black Lives Matter movement.[19]

In February 2020, she co-endorsed Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[30]

Personal life

Cullors identifies as queer.[6] In 2016, she married Janaya Khan, a social activist who co-founded Black Lives Matter Toronto.[31][32]



In 2014 Cullors produced the theatrical piece POWER: From the Mouths of the Occupied, which debuted at Highways Performance Space.[45] She has contributed articles about the movement to the LA Progressive,[46] including an article from December 2015 titled "The Future of Black Life" [47] which pushed the idea that activists could no longer wait for the State to take action, and called her followers into action by encouraging them to begin building the world that they want to see. Her book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir[48] was published in January 2018.


  1. ^ a b Walcott, Rianna (April 5, 2018). "How the founder of Black Lives Matter started a global movement". Dazed digital. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Aron, Hillel (November 9, 2015). "These Savvy Women Have Made Black Lives Matter the Most Crucial Left-Wing Movement Today". L.A. Weekly. Archived from the original on July 8, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Greene, Robert (2015). Newton, Jim (ed.). "Black Lives Matter". UCLA Blueprint. No. 1. Archived from the original on October 15, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  4. ^ Fern Tiger Associates for the Marguerite Casey Foundation (2005). "A case study: LABOR / COMMUNITY STRATEGY CENTER" (PDF). (pdf). pp. 21–22. Retrieved August 1, 2020.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ Lucas, Karen (2004). Running on empty: transport, social exclusion and environmental justice. University of Bristol: Policy Press Books. pp. 220–242. ISBN 978-1861345691.
  6. ^ a b "Queerness on the front lines of #BlackLivesMatter". MSNBC. February 19, 2015. Archived from the original on January 3, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  7. ^ Farrag, Hebah H. (June 24, 2015). "The Role of Spirit in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement: A Conversation with Activist and Artist Patrisse Cullors". Archived July 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "About – Patrisse Cullors". Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  9. ^ "Public Practice faculty Patrisse Cullors talks about co-creating #BlackLivesMatter". Otis College of Art and Design. Otis College of Art and Design. Archived from the original on January 19, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 17, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "A Short History of Black Lives Matter". therealnews. Archived from the original on July 24, 2015.
  12. ^ Goldhill, Olivia (November 15, 2016). ""We can feel sad, hurt, demoralized. But we can't give up": A Black Lives Matter founder on Trump's presidency". Quartz. Archived from the original on August 27, 2017. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  13. ^ Garza, Alicia. "Herstory". Black Lives Matter. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  14. ^ "Opinion | A decade of Black Lives Matter gives us a new understanding of Black liberation". NBC News. Archived from the original on April 25, 2020. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Guynn, Jessica (March 4, 2015). "Meet the woman who coined #BlackLivesMatter". USA Today. Archived from the original on February 20, 2018. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  16. ^ Segalov, Michael (February 2, 2015). "We Spoke to the Activist Behind #BlackLivesMatter About Racism in Britain and America". Vice. Archived from the original on July 4, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  17. ^ Gebreyes, Rahel (September 10, 2014). "Patrisse Cullors Explains How Social Media Images of Black Death Propel Social Change". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on April 20, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  18. ^ Relman, Eliza (August 25, 2017). "Black Lives Matter founder likens Trump to Hitler: He is 'literally the epitome of evil'". Business Insider. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  19. ^ a b Simmons, Ann M. ,; Kaleem, Jaweed (August 25, 2017). "A founder of Black Lives Matter answers a question on many minds: Where did it go?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 1, 2020.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  20. ^ Sewell, Abby (April 14, 2014). "Activist battles L.A. County jailers' 'culture of violence'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 12, 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  21. ^ Hing, Julianne, "In L.A., Civilians Will Have Power Over Sheriff's Department" Archived July 21, 2015, at the Wayback Machine,, December 15, 2014.
  22. ^ "Staff and Board" Archived May 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Ella Baker Center.
  23. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (October 15, 2020). "Warner Bros. TV Group Signs Overall Deal With Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors". Deadline. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  24. ^ a b c d Patrisse Cullors (April 10, 2019). "Abolition And Reparations: Histories of Resistance, Transformative Justice, And Accountability". Harvard Law Review. Retrieved July 9, 2020. Our task is not only to abolish prisons, policing, and militarization, which are wielded in the name of “public safety” and “national security.”
  25. ^ "Abolitionists still have work to do in America | Patrisse Cullors". The Guardian. July 30, 2017. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  26. ^ Democracy Now! (January 16, 2018). ""When They Call You a Terrorist": The Life of Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors". Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  27. ^ a b Jenkins, Aric (February 26, 2018). "Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors on Her Book". Time. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  28. ^ Walcott, Rianna (April 5, 2018). "How the founder of Black Lives Matter started a global movement". Dazed. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  29. ^ Rolling Stone (June 23, 2020). "Black Lives Matter Co-Founder on Building a Movement Through Art". Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  30. ^ Walker, James (February 25, 2020). "Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Endorses Sanders and Warren, Says It Is Time for Biden to Stand Down". Newsweek. Archived from the original on February 26, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  31. ^ Lewis-Peart, David (March 21, 2016). "Janaya Khan, Black Lives Matter Toronto Co-Founder, On Racism And Self-Care". The Huffington Post (Canada Edition). Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  32. ^ Khandaker, Tamara (April 6, 2016). "This Is What Sets Toronto's Black Lives Matter Movement Apart from America's". Vice News. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  33. ^ Beckman, Hank (January 19, 2016). "Black Lives Matter co-founder brings message to Naperville". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  34. ^ Wheaton, Sarah (August 20, 2015). "Black Lives Matter isn't stopping". Politico. Archived from the original on July 12, 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  35. ^ "The Mario Savio Young Activist Award :: The Award". Archived from the original on July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  36. ^ ""NAACP History Makers"". Archived from the original on August 5, 2016. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  37. ^ "Person of the Year: The Finalists". November 5, 2015. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  38. ^ "Glamour's Women of the Year 2016: Gwen Stefani, Simone Biles, Ashley Graham, and More Honorees". November 1, 2016. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  39. ^ "Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi". Fortune Magazine. Archived from the original on January 19, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  40. ^ "Commencement 2017". Clarkson University. Clarkson University. Archived from the original on January 19, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  41. ^ "LGBTQ Pride Month: A Conversation with Patrisse Cullors". Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  42. ^ "Queerty Pride50 2020 Honorees". Queerty. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  43. ^ Tracer, Daniel (June 26, 2020). "Meet 6 Black trailblazers fighting racism: "I didn't come to play; I came to dismantle white supremacy."". Queerty. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  44. ^ "Black Lives Matter Founders: The 100 Most Influential People of 2020". Time. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  45. ^ "PATRISSE CULLORS – Power: From the Mouths of the Occupied". Highways. Highways Performance Space. Archived from the original on January 19, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  46. ^ "About Patrisse Cullors". LA Progressive. Archived from the original on February 27, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  47. ^ "The Future of Black Life". LA Progressive. December 31, 2015. Archived from the original on February 8, 2017. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  48. ^ Deahl, Rachel (March 31, 2017). "Book Deals: Week of April 3, 2017". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on October 10, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2017.

External links

External video
video icon After Words interview with Patricia Khan-Cullors on When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, February 10, 2018, C-SPAN
Original content from Wikipedia, shared with licence Creative Commons By-Sa - Patrisse Cullors