URBANA-One of three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement spoke with students, community members and others at the University of Illinois in Urbana Friday.
Opal Tometi and two other women began the movement in response to the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial and acquittal of his killer, neighbor George Zimmerman. They describe Black Lives Matter as "an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise."
Speaking with reporters before the event, which was hosted by the University YMCA, Tometi said Black Lives Matter tapped into existing anger, frustration and concern among black people over their treatment by law enforcement and others.
"It's not just a hashtag ... it's real people engaged in real action," Tometi said of the movement which has come to include social media, public demonstrations and other efforts.
Along with addressing violence that involves police, Tometi said that in the years to come, the Black Lives Movement will also campaign for changes to city budgets which, she suggests, are too quick to spend money on additional police.
"If we were to ask community members, which we've been doing, what they want to see, they oftentimes tell us 'We want to see our children have access to education and not be criminalized in their own schools,'" Tometi said. "They say we need grocery stores. There are food deserts, right? People are really grappling with the fact that they don't have access to good food, folks are dealing with dilapidated housing."
Asked her thoughts about the relationship between police in Champaign-Urbana and members of the community, Tometi said she hoped to learn more during her conversation with community members, adding that such situations are always "nuanced and different" in different communities.