Alicia Garza is an activist and writer who now lives in Oakland, California. Although she has organized around issues related to health, student services, and rights for domestic workers as well as violence against trans and gender nonconforming people of color, she is best known one of three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013.
Garza was born in Los Angeles, California on January 4, 1981. She has a mixed-race background; her father is white and Jewish, while her mother is black. Garza describes herself as a queer social justice activist and a Marxist. In 2002, she graduated with a degree in anthropology and sociology at the University of California in San Diego. In 2008, she married her husband, Malachi Garza, who is a transgender male activist.
In 2009, Garza served as the Executive Director for People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) for the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2011, Garza was also board chair for Right to the City Alliance (RTTC) in Oakland which fought gentrification and police brutality. On February 26, 2012 when unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by neighborhood security guard George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, Garza took her frustration and rage to Facebook and crafted a post and first used the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” In 2013, Garza along with Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors officially created the Black Lives Matter Movement. The movement works to end the violence towards African Americans particularly by the police and fights against the institutional issues of poverty and mass incarceration.
In addition to the work she does with Black Lives Matter, Garza is currently the special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) which strives to get better pay and working conditions for nannies and housekeepers. She also serves on the board of directors for the School of Liberation and Unity (SOUL) in Oakland. This school works to help underprivileged youth and people with low-income develop skills so they can improve their communities. Garza also on the board of directors of Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), another Oakland organization which helps black activists further develop their organizing skills. Garza has written for WarTimesmagazine and her articles and editorials have also been featured in The Guardian, The Nation, The Feminist Wire, Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, and truthout.org.
In 2015, Garza and the two other women who founded Black Lives Matter were runners-up for The Advocate’s Person of the Year award and in 2016, the trio was added to Fortune magazine’s 50 of the Most Influential World Leaders list. Other honors that Garza has received are recognition on the Root 100 list of African American Achievers between the ages of 25 and 45, the Local Hero award from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Jeanne Gauna Communicate Justice Award from the Centre for Media Justice, and the Harvey Milk Democratic Club’s Bayard Rustin Community Activist Award (won twice). In 2017 Garza, Tometi, and Cullors were awarded the 2017 Sydney Peace Prize in Sydney, Australia.