Black Lives Matter Activists Take It Off The Street And Into The Museum | KERA News

Black Lives Matter Activists Take It Off The Street And Into The Museum

Jul 10, 2016
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. In Los Angeles this weekend, an appearance by two leaders from the Black Lives Matter movement had been planned. But as NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, last week's tragic events led to a much larger crowd than expected and brought new emotion to the event.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: The line around the underground museum in the LA neighborhood of Arlington Heights stretched for blocks - hundreds of people, many artists, many black, mostly in their 20s and 30s and happy to be together. They waited for over an hour in sweltering heat along with news crews there to interview one of the founders of Black Lives Matter.

Patrisse Cullors stood outside in a purple dress and matching purple lipstick answering reporters' questions about activists calling for violence against police.

PATRISSE CULLORS: The leadership of the movement has never called for violence. In fact, what we've called for is an end to violence.

ULABY: Cullors spoke at several LA museums last week, including this little gallery built by and dedicated to black artists. Cullors says art at times of crisis is imperative.

CULLORS: Art allows for more honesty. Art allows for us to feel deeply and allows for us to evolve.

ULABY: Inside the gallery, Rachel Summers was passing out bottles of water. She jumped at the chance to volunteer after many emotionally taxing days on social media.

RACHEL SUMMERS: I feel like I needed a space to be around people instead of like sit in my house and cry all day or at work.

ULABY: A need to feel close also explained the crowd's size. Organizers allowed more than 100 people in than originally intended. Patrisse Cullors called the gathering a testament.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CULLORS: Now more than ever, we must rely on one another. Can I get a ashay amen?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Ashay.

ULABY: To remember black victims of police brutality, there was art, dancing, singing.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing) All I want to do is break the chains off.

ULABY: To serve, said Cullors, the hard and critical work of feeling.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CULLORS: That we keep feeling our sadness, our vulnerability, our rage, our fear, our love and our joy. I want to thank all of you all for continuing to feel because the worst thing that can happen to us is to be cut off from ourselves.

ULABY: So she asked every person in that hot, crowded gallery to do something right at that moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CULLORS: Look at your neighbor and thank them for being alive. Go ahead. Don't be afraid of each other. They got us so afraid of each other, you all.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Thank you.

ULABY: That sound you hear is hundreds of people thanking each other for being alive.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Thank you.

ULABY: Many of the people who turned out to remember Philando Castile and Alton Sterling had never before been to a Black Lives Matter event. Activists urged the largely artsy crowd to consider attending once in places other than art galleries. After all, said the movement's co-founder Patrisse Cullors, they're all about connecting to community and to the future. Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.