Each year the Sydney Peace Foundation, a nonprofit organization, teams up with the University of Sydney to honor deserving recipients with the Sydney Peace Prize for activists fighting to evoke positive social or environmental change.
This year, the Sydney Peace Prize has been awarded to the Black Lives Matter Global Network also known as BLM. It is set to be accepted by the three co-founding activists who started the movement: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. This gesture marks the first time that the prize will ever have been awarded to an organization instead of an individual.
The Sydney Peace Prize jury chose to give the award to BLM “for building a powerful movement for racial equality, courageously reigniting a global conversation about state violence and racism. And for harnessing the potential of new platforms and the power of people to inspire a bold movement for change at a time when peace is threatened by growing inequality and injustice.”
The prize itself includes a $500,000 award, funds that can help further the impact and outreach of the organization. This honor can also provide BLM with the opportunity to use this platform to further spread their message and bring awareness to their causes. The Sydney Peace Prize has been presented annually since 1998 as a valuable method of recognition for non-violent, influential activism. For example, last year’s recipient was the environmental activist, Naomi Klein.
The Black Lives Matter movement was initiated back in July of 2013, after the acquittal verdicts of George Zimmerman, for the murder of the unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Then, BLM co-founder Alicia Garza wrote an open letter via Facebook entitled, “Love Letter to Black Folks.”
Garza explains: “Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter.” Shortly after this, efforts were made by the two other cofounding members, with Cullors creating the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and Tometi creating an official website and social media profiles. Now, after four years of groundbreaking activism, Black Lives Matter is a highly influential movement hosting chapters all over the globe, organizing new and unifying events and peaceful protests to oppose police brutality and injustice against minority groups.
Though the majority of the organization's work is being carried out in the United States, it is imperative to recognize that this award is coming from an ally nation that is facing similar issues within its marginalized populations. In Australia, the indigenous community makes up 27 percent of the male prison population, 34 percent of the female prison population and 48 percent of all juveniles in custody, despite only comprising 3.3 percent of the national population.
The 2017 Sydney Peace Prize will be presented to BLM on Nov. 2 at Sydney Town Hall.