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Black Lives Matter Movement Launches New Initiative In Houston

Leaders are in town for the presidential debate and they hope the #WhatMatters2020 hashtag will start a conversation.

Kailee Scales, director of strategic partnerships for Black Lives Matter global network.

The Black Lives Matter movement got started with a viral online hashtag in 2013, as organizers responded to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case.

“When that happened, it was a moment of devastation to say the least. And as a result of that, Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders, posted the hashtag on Facebook, #BlackLivesMatter. And then shortly after that, it became a global phenomenon,” Kailee Scales, director of strategic partnerships for Black Lives Matter global network, said. “It just sort of ignited like fire.” 

Now the movement is launching a new hashtag, #WhatMatters2020, for this election cycle. They’re announcing the initiative from Houston, while Black Lives Matter leaders are attending the third presidential debate at Texas Southern University.

Kailee Scales visits Houston Public Media.

Scales said she’s hoping to hear candidates discuss clear plans to address criminal justice reform, reparations and police brutality. 

“We’re really encouraging people to use the hashtag, to think about those issues, to amplify those issues, to call folks out if they’re not speaking to those issues,” she said. “Our social media is followed by candidates. It’s followed by news outlets. We have a platform, and we’re encouraging people to share that platform.” 

This is the first time leaders from the movement have been invited to a presidential debate, Scales said.

“It’s a really great opportunity for us to be in the room and listen. And it’s also a great opportunity to let the world know that we’re in the room listening,” Scales said. 

So far, she said, she’s been disappointed that the first two debates didn’t highlight issues on their agenda.

Black Lives Matter leaders are also meeting with TSU students, Houston interfaith ministers and local officials.

“While we’re here, we also want to talk to TSU students and other members of the community and really talk about this campaign and this initiative that we’re launching,” Scales said. “It is also an opportunity for us to engage and hold our candidates accountable to those issues, and to the black community, and to Gen Z.”  

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