The strength of a strong organizational leader 

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How does one manage the responsibilities of being an organizational leader when there is great pressure for change in current society? Hosted by the Undergraduate Student Government, Alicia Garza spoke at 7 p.m. Wednesday on YouTube Live about her journey as a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and organizational leader in Los Angeles. 

After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Garza immediately took initiative to give back to her community in Los Angeles by advocating against environmental racism and gentrification. Alongside Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, Garza worked to help ensure transportation accessibility in Los Angeles before the Black Lives Matter movement was established.  

“For me, I don’t think a racial reckoning has happened,” Garza said. “What I think is that we have the opportunity to fight for a reckoning that this country has never fully embraced, and if we were to step into that opportunity to take the time to acknowledge what we have done and learn the lessons of the atrocities that we have committed in the name of this country then we have a real chance of making this country be what we tried to define it to be. Which is a place of freedom, justice, liberation, for people to live their lives on their own terms, that is the supposed story of how this nation came to be and why it came to be, so why are we standing in the way of that?” 

According to Garza, she was inspired to write her book, “The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart,” after looking back at her own experience as an organizational leader. When she first began her career, she wanted to find a book that would provide guidance, but all of the information she found was out of date. She then decided to document her experiences and teach others who might want to follow in her footsteps.  

“I think most people start with structure and it’s the wrong way to go; you have to be thinking about ‘what is the purpose of this vehicle?’ in order to build the vehicle.”

Alicia Garza

Garza said she stays positive by creating a clear vision about her goals and thinking about the effort she has made toward them. While self-care is important, asking oneself the purpose of participating in a movement and what one might need to do on a daily basis to achieve those goals is also helpful to stay motivated. She added that change often occurs gradually, so people have to continue fighting for equality even if progress is not immediately visible.  

“I think most people start with structure and it’s the wrong way to go; you have to be thinking about ‘what is the purpose of this vehicle?’ in order to build the vehicle,” Garza stated. “Where I see organizations go wrong time and time again, if you have a great idea but you don’t really have a theory and therefore you’re not building the right structure to achieve the change that you want.” 

One of Garza’s biggest inspirations was her mother, who found ways to get along with everyone in the community. Garza was also inspired by her sister. At one point during her career, Garza only saw the obstacles she had to face, causing her purpose to become clouded. However, her sister helped shed light on all the things she had fought for and helped define her purpose as an organizational leader.  

Garza said that America was built on enslavement and genocide but that’s not how America was supposed to be. “I don’t believe that there’s some utopia on the other side of the complete destruction of what we know, there’s not,” Garza said. “What there is, is clarity. Clarity about where we have fallen short and where we can still go. America as a project has failed, but it doesn’t mean it’s doomed, and there can be an America that is based on justice, fairness and equity and dignity, there can be that America, I find it really fascinating that people have this vision for this country that can be like liberated space.” 

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