Building the New World

Black Lives Matter’s Patrisse Cullors on her personal sacrifices for activism and motherhood

As one of the co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter, I’ve always given up parts of myself for this movement. For the past 15 years, the work has been my primary partner, often at the sacrifice of my emotional, physical, and spiritual safety. I have been challenged by hateful verbal attacks, the consistent killings of black children, and the never-ending feeling that there is always more work to be done. I’ve compromised my health, and sometimes my morals, for the ultimate goal of manifesting black liberation. We have a chant that we use at protests, before meetings, and when speaking to large audiences—one that was gifted to us by our revolutionary sister Assata Shakur:

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

The power in this chant comes from the word “duty.” Even in the most trying and grim moments of my life—my father dying, my brother being brutalized by the sheriff’s department—I understood that my role in this world is about supporting the freedom of black people.

That all changed the moment I became pregnant. I was no longer making decisions for myself. Now there was a growing fetus demanding that I first be present for its needs. I had to prioritize my well-being in ways that felt hyper-vigilant. In the last several months there have been amazing actions in Los Angeles led by this city’s Black Lives Matter chapter, but I was advised by my midwives to stay home and take care of myself. I missed demonstrations and cross-country strategy meetings, overwhelmed by morning sickness and unable to pack up and leave at a moment’s notice as I once could. It felt so unlike me, being forced into taking a step back and creating boundaries with friends, lovers, family, and colleagues. For years people had been begging me to slow down, and now that I was pregnant, here was my “opportunity” to make significant life changes. Still, it didn’t feel right, having to sit on the sidelines and wait.

The reality is that we live in a culture that not only disregards black people, but pregnant people and their unborn children as well. It devalues us. Whether by choice or not, we are sacrificing portions of ourselves in bearing life. We have so much to offer the world, yet we are isolated by a society that prioritizes work over human health and wellness. We need a world that sees the act of carrying and caring for a child as legitimate labor, both in the gestational period as well as in the years after birth.

Being born female, raised poor, out as queer, black, and now pregnant, this is one of the most difficult experiences I have ever been through. There is no mainstream media or literature that articulates the role of black queer parenting. And so we find ourselves making our own road, building it piece by piece. This means we must tell our own stories. Thankfully, my partner and I have found inspiration in some of the most amazing black queer parents in our current generation—trans men who have chosen to birth in a cis-obsessed culture, black queer parents who have creatively fashioned their own child-rearing approaches rooted in intention and love. This type of progressive parenting is forging new pathways for families like mine who are not interested in or able to fit cisnormative and heteronormative lifestyles.

I do this work because I am trying to develop a culture that values black life. That values our black children. That values our pregnant black people. I make these sacrifices because I dream of being a part of a black community that isn’t tied to a Christian, pro-life, anti-queer agenda. I want to be part of a society that values life and has the capacity to imagine a world where black people have a future.

I am trying to build a new world for my family, my community, and myself because, honestly, our lives depend on it. If we don’t interrupt black killing, if we as a society can’t imagine beyond the abuse of black people, we will not survive.

We have to show up now to build the world we want to see.


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet