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By Chris Spencer, The Diamondback

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Natoli

Originally a hashtag, now a prominent campaign for equality, the Black Lives Matter movement has spread throughout the country, including on the University of Maryland campus.

To continue the conversation, one of the Black Lives Matter hashtag’s co-creators, Alicia Garza, arrived at this university Tuesday afternoon to host an open discussion and forum as part of the third annual Rise Above “-isms” week.

“It’s about exploring our identities, our stereotypes, our biases. It’s about interpreting interpersonal, intrapersonal and structural ‘isms,’ like racism, classism and sexism,” said Kumea Shorter-Gooden, the university’s chief diversity officer.

Greeted with celebratory cheers, claps and snaps, Garza was introduced to a crowd of about 500 in Stamp Student Union’s Grand Ballroom by Nancy Mirabal, an American studies professor.

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter seeks to bring awareness to inequalities affecting the black community and an outcry for social change. The name was inspired by the unrest following the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, as well as other deaths and court rulings around the country.

Mirabal began the discussion by asking Garza what empowers her. Garza said her mother led her on the path to advocacy, and she shared anecdotes about her background as a child in Oakland, California.

“I grew up with a single mom who had me and didn’t plan on having me, had to figure out how to raise a girl who was black,” Garza said. “I grew up with an understanding some people had access to information and had access to choices, and some people didn’t. I lived that.”

Garza said her mother struggled to put her through first grade amid financial difficulties.

Garza also criticized current trends within the country and commented on the potential 2016 presidential candidates.

Watching Democrats merely mention the Black Lives Matter movement is not enough, she said, adding that she feels some Republicans have racist, homophobic and sexist agendas.

While Garza spoke during the discussion, students could react using the #TerpRiseAbove hashtag.

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