Black Lives Matter in San Diego

The United States is a veritable melting pot, and its very foundation has been built on the premise of complete inclusion and acceptance of our neighbors. However, while this may have been the original intent of our fine nation, we managed to lose sight of this principle somewhere along the way. 

Sadly, despite being a nation of immigrants, not everyone has been extended the basic courtesy of being treated with equality. One such glaring example can be found in our black American community, which has oftentimes borne the brunt of appalling racial injustice. While the tireless work of previous civil rights movements has indeed led to significant change, the reality is that so much more still needs to be done.

Black Lives Matter arose out of this urgent need for a closer look at this stark inequality that black Americans face, unfolding as a long-overdue response to the injustices they have endured throughout our rich but tumultuous history. 

Since its inception in 2013, BLM has managed to grow from a social media hashtag to a national civil rights movement. Today, there are branches of this movement throughout the country, including a significant group of BLM members in San Diego. 

Home to one of the largest chapters of BLM, the San Diego branch is now one of the more powerful and vocal advocates for the rights of our black community.

What to Know About the Black Lives Matter in San Diego

The principles of Black Lives Matter in San Diego are fairly simple, as is their message: Black lives should matter, do matter, and will continue to matter, no matter what obstacles the black community might face. Through social action — including rallies, demonstrations, and protests — their voices both demand and deserve to be heard. 

While BLM may have started as an online movement, it has now developed into one of the more prominent national civil rights organizations, spanning not only across San Diego but also the entire country. The San Diego chapter is but one of many, yet its impact on our community is finally transforming how racial minorities in our city are being treated.

How Did The Black Lives Matter Movement Begin in San Diego?

The history of the Black Rights Movement, both nationwide and in San Diego itself, is both fairly straightforward but also remarkably complex. The result of concerted grassroots efforts, this new civil rights movement first emerged in 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. 

Indeed, San Diego has had its own history of discrimination, ranging from Jim Crow laws to La Jolla housing discrimination. With this awareness in mind, its own chapter of BLM came into existence shortly after the tragic shooting of Alfred Olango, a 38-year-old Ugandan refugee by an El Cajon police officer. In September of 2016, Olango’s sister had called the police, citing concerns of her brother not “acting like himself.” 

Two officers met Mr. Olango in a parking lot behind a mall and, after determining that he had what they believed was a gun, fired upon him. Sadly, Olango succumbed to his wounds, and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office later ruled that the shooting was justified. It was later revealed that Olango was unarmed, and the object in his hand was nothing more than a vaping device. 

Another heartbreaking incident, which is regrettably not one of the many urban legends of UCSD, occurred when a man opened fire at a pool party, robbing a young mother by the name of Monique Clark of her life. It’s believed that this shooting, which took place near the UC San Diego campus, was racially motivated.

These unfortunate deaths soon became a catalyst for our city’s rallying call for change, turning a spotlight onto the disparity not only between our black neighbors and law enforcement officers, but also our everyday community. 

These senseless deaths are a stark reminder that, despite the progress we’ve made, the nation is still not yet fully safe for black Americans. While what happened to Alfredo Olango and Monique Clark — as well as the many others who have suffered due to this inequality — cannot be undone, perhaps overdue systemic reform can help prevent other families from suffering as our black community so greatly has.

Black Lives Matter & What It Means in San Diego

It would be an understatement to note that Black Lives Matter, in San Diego and throughout the country, has been met with more than just a bit of controversy. However, while there have been heated protests in other major metropolitan areas, San Diego’s BLM chapter has striven to stand apart from the very beginning. 

With an ultimate goal of peaceful reform, the leaders of our Black Lives Chapter are driven by a desire to impart change without the aid of violence or hostility. Black Lives Matter in San Diego has been extremely careful to avoid endangering the members of this organization, instead electing to use social media to spread the message of future peaceful protests.

Indeed, while San Diego’s original branch of BLM may be one of the largest, it has managed to serve as a launching point for neighboring communities and their own burgeoning BLM groups. 

One such group, the Point Loma Black Lives Matter, arose out of one high school teenager’s desire to create change after experiencing racism firsthand. Her social media page is now the voice of the local BLM group, allowing the various branches to plan peaceful rallies and protests throughout the region. Together, along with Black Lives Matter in San Diego, El Cajon, and other surrounding areas, our local BLM organization continues to strengthen and grow in numbers. 

Despite resistance from those who may not agree with the principles of BLM, our San Diego BLM chapter has been met with both support and empathy from the majority of our community. 

The San Diego chapter of Black Lives Matter includes both members and allies, and even though they have been vocal about refusing assistance from local law enforcement, the relationship between BLM and the San Diego police is anything but antagonistic. While early protests were met with tear gas and rubber bullets, thanks to concerted efforts from our local BLM chapter to keep the movement peaceful, they are now primarily peaceful demonstrations.

Past and Future Protests

Indeed, the protests between San Diego’s Black Lives Matter organization haven’t always been one without conflict. Some of the more early protests were somewhat less organized, leading to initial conflicts between BLM members and our local law enforcement officers. 

Today, however, these protests are much more civil, an intentional effort from our local chapter of BLM. Members of Black Lives Matter in San Diego have focused carefully on self-policing to minimize any undue conflict between themselves and the San Diego law enforcement, allowing their efforts to continue to proceed. 

Using social media, our city’s BLM protests are often planned far in advance. Furthermore, there is a firm emphasis on using only peaceful protesting measures, as our local branch is acutely aware of the potential risks to its members and other attendees. All protests are thoroughly vetted, and members and protestors are advised to use due diligence when engaging in one. 

When the organizer of a protest is unknown, they convene with caution, only proceeding when they know it will be a safe and peaceful rally. These protests are typically mobilized on social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, and only proceed when confirmed to have a permit.

Because of this combination of caution and compassion, our branch of San Diego Black Lives Matter in San Diego has been able to be fairly successful in its efforts to draw attention to the racial inequalities that occur every day across both the nation and within our city limits. 

It’s not unheard of to witness literally thousands of members congregating in the heart of San Diego, and one recent rally included these impressive numbers marching from downtown, all the way to North Park. With how successful these peaceful protests have been, it’s evident that Black Lives Matter San Diego is here to stay — at least, until racial equality finally comes to fruition.

How to Support BLM in San Diego

BLM has made incredible strides in spreading its mission statement throughout the city, but nevertheless, there is still so much more to be done. In order to make it possible for racial equality to finally be achieved in our city, our chapter of BLM needs help from not only its members, but also its allies. 

Fortunately, providing assistance to Black Lives Matter in San Diego is simple, and there are a myriad of ways a person can do so. For instance, something as simple as advocacy can be incredibly beneficial. Speaking up when you see instances of injustice can help demonstrate that such behavior will not be tolerated.

Other ways you can help BLM is through donating, whether it’s your time or your financial resources. Attending a protest, and lending your voice to the movement, can help bolster the strength of Black Lives Matter in San Diego. 

In addition, contributions to various charitable organizations — such as BLM, Campaign Zero, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — can help funnel resources to help further those who stand against inequality. Patronizing black-owned businesses, and donating to Bail Out Funds for wrongfully incarcerated protestors, can also be greatly beneficial. Whatever you do, your assistance will be gratefully received.

The Continuous Fight For Justice

Creating lasting change won’t happen overnight, and attaining racial equality will unquestionably be an ongoing process. However, through the concerted endeavors from individuals and organizations alike — such as the admirable Nextdoor racism-prevention efforts, as well as those from our own San Diego residents — we can help pave the way to dismantling the systems that serve to disenfranchise our black community. 

In turn, we can finally hope to see permanent, demonstrable reform from the indefatigable labor of Black Lives Matter in California and throughout the nation, allowing our black neighbors to finally be treated with the respect and equality they deserve.

Note: The banner photo from this article is from an IG post by @blmsandiego from Aug. 28, 2020.

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