When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoirby Published 16 Jan 2018
|When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.pdf|
|Publisher||St. Martin's Press|
A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free.
Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.
Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin.
Championing human rights in the face of violent racism, Patrisse is a survivor. She transformed her personal pain into political power, giving voice to a people suffering in equality and a movement fueled by her strength and love to tell the country—and the world—that Black Lives Matter.
When They Call You a Terrorist is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable.
"When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir" Reviews
Oh man, a difficult, but powerful book.
A heartbreaking read. I was expecting the whole book to be about the immediate genesis of #blacklivesmatter, but it is really a true memoir in the sense that it gives Khan-Cullors' life story and how the horrors that befell her family and community led to this work. It opened my eyes, and while I used to consider myself fairly knowledgeable on this topic, this book humbled me and reminded me I do NOT really know. It also taught me just how diverse the movement is, with a large percentage of the founding activists being Queer and non-gender-conforming.
As a white, cis reader, I will not attempt to actually review this work beyond saying that it provided an education I very, very much needed. Required reading for all.
** Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the review copy of this title - all opinions are my own. **
When They Call You a Terrorist is a soon to be classic in black literary thought and canon. This is a stunning memoir that poignantly captures the vitality of Patrisse and her family's strong spirit and determination struggling against brutal and relentless injustice. bandele's signature writing style is prevalent and gives Khan-Cullors narrative an almost poetic feel. This memoir packs all of the fire, all the receipts and brings down the full weight of harm perpetuated in the black community. To read more of this review, see some of my pictures from Tampa's MLK Day Parade, and to see a book trailer about this stunning memoir CLICK HERE.
When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
We live in a world where we need to tell people that Black Lives Matter. It’s not meant to say other lives don’t matter, we simply need to address that Black lives do in fact matter and their deaths, murders and killings should be addressed, their lives should be whole and they shouldn’t be forced to live in fear. This book isn’t a discussion on whether you should believe or even appreciate that stance. This book is about the life of the one of the women who started the Black Lives Matter movement.
This book is split into two parts. The first reveals Patrisse’s upbringing in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles. She describes how she witnessed her brothers being approached by the police for doing nothing more than playing outside. She details her experiences going to different schools outside of her community in affluent neighborhoods during both middle school and high school and the affect that had on her upbringing. Patrisse also talks about her parents: the mother who was ostracized from her parents and her religion for having sex and becoming pregnant outside of marriage and her father who struggled with addiction most of his adult life. Patrisse also talks about being Queer, coming out and the family’s struggle with her brother’s mental illness and stints in jail.
The second part of the book brings with it many of the topics introduced in the first part but it delves deeper into the organizer that Patrisse has become. Her personal experiences dealing with law enforcement and the criminal justice system with her father and brother’s cases helped drive her to make a change. She works with different organizations working directly with youth, and eventually is called to even more action after the killing of Trayvon Martin and the decision made to let his killer go free. Patrisse, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi would eventually begin the Black Lives Matter movement, an organization that would eventually have over 40 chapters across the globe.
I was automatically drawn to this book after reading the title. I was well aware of the Black Lives Matter movement after the marches in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death, but I feel like there was a lot of confusion and no credit was given to the original founders Patrisse, Alicia and Opal. It wasn’t until recently that I learned their names and heard some of their actual story. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read a memoir written by one of the founders. It centers the narrative of someone who throughout her life has been part of a world that was actively working against her and the people she had in her life, because she was black and poor. Khan-Cullors has created with this memoir a passionate, well written, documentation of the abuses she has personally experience. It is heartbreaking and sobering and grounded in reality. Not everyone will share these same experiences with her but that does not take away how valid each of these experiences are and how they need to be addressed.
This is such a relevant book in this political climate. This is a book that will make people stop and think before they try to center themselves and utter All Lives Matter. This is a book that will force people to rethink the way the criminal justice system in the U.S. really works. This is a book that will make you question how people are taught to police and carry out their duties. This is a book that will make you think about mental illnesses, how they are discussed and treated throughout the U.S. And it will make you think about the roles of women and what it means to be Queer or Trans in this continual fight for change. Necessary, well thought out, emotional and direct. This is a book I highly recommend.
I could not recommend this book more highly.
Because it was evocative on so many levels, it is difficult to review. Maybe the best way is to acknowledge that I read it with trepidation because, while I felt like it was important to read, I have felt overwhelmed with how broken and wounded our country is in general. Yet from the first few pages of the introduction I knew how important this book is to read. I thought I was pretty aware of the impact of anti-black racism but this book woke me.
Reading about the treatment of her mentally ill brother was agonizing. As a psychologist I'm struggling with the inability of my profession to have a collective voice against the warehousing and abuse of the mentally ill and vulnerable. That Patrisse could hold those feelings around what she witnessed with her brother, and write about it, is remarkable. The author is an amazing human being.
The book is beautifully written. Of course it is memoir but it is also a collective memoir. We can't heal as a country until we come to terms with the cancer of systemic racism and its impact. Again, it needs to be read.
I saw a review by Kirkus which said something about how the narrative could drag on and might be for a select audience - and I thought that the reviewer could not have read the same book that I just finished.