CLOSE

Speaking from Madrid, President Obama said the Black Lives Matter movement shouldn't be judged by the actions of a few non-peaceful protestors.

LINKEDINMORE

After a week of conflict in the United States that included the police-involved shooting deaths of what Black Lives Matter is and what it stands for.

What is Black Lives Matter?

Black Lives Matter was founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi as both a hashtag and a political project after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. Distraught at the verdict, Oakland, Calif., community activist Garza wrote an impassioned Facebook plea ending with the words "black lives matter." Cullors, a community organizer from Los Angeles, shared the Facebook post and put a hashtag in front of those three words. The ideals expressed — the economic, political and social empowerment of African-Americans — resonated nationwide.

Since 2013, Black Lives Matter has moved from social media platforms to the streets, morphing into an organization and a movement that gained national recognition during demonstrations after the 2014 police-involved killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

How does Black Lives Matter work?

What sets Black Lives Matter apart from other social justice groups, however, is its decentralized approach and reliance almost solely on local, rather than national, leadership. Cullors said organizing is often spontaneous and not directed by one person or group of people.

“We don’t get (people) onto the streets, they get themselves onto the street,” she said.