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Black Lives Matter co-founder to receive UC Merced’s Spendlove Prize

Alicia Garza
Alicia Garza

Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza has been selected as the recipient for this year’s Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize at UC Merced.

A virtual award ceremony — free to the public —  is scheduled to take place on April 20 at 6 p.m. Registration is being accepted on UC Merced’s Engage website.

Black Lives Matter is an activist movement which began as a hashtag (#BlackLivesMatter) after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager killed in Florida in July 2013.

Garza started the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.

The movement became more widely known and popularized after two high-profile deaths in 2014 of unarmed African-American men — Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY; and Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Neither of the police officers involved in their deaths were indicted.

The frustration nationwide only grew with the subsequent violent deaths of Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Today there are organized chapters of Black Lives Matter in cities around the world to bring awareness about violence and institutionalized racism against Black people.

“There is hope for humanity,” Garza once said, “but in order for us to get there, we really have to interrogate not just what it takes to change laws, but what it takes to change culture that supports laws that uplift humanity and also supports laws that serve to denigrate it.”

Garza has also founded the Black Futures Lab that “works with Black people to transform communities, building Black political power and changing the way that power operates —locally, statewide, and nationally.”

She has also made the list of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

The Spendlove Prize at UC Merced was established in 2005 and made possible through a gift from Merced native Sherrie Spendlove in honor of her parents, Alice and Clifford.

The recipients are chosen for their contributions towards social justice, diplomacy and tolerance.

Previous recipients have included Merced native and Harvard professor Charles Ogletree, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum, and attorney and professor Anita Hill.

The committee that selects the award winner is chaired by UC Merced’s dean of the School of Social Science, Humanities and Arts. It also includes a representative from the Spendlove family, an undergraduate student, a graduate student, a faculty member and representatives from the university community.

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