Patrisse Cullors (1983- ) is an American artist, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights advocate.

Cullors was born in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in Pacoima, a low-income neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, and attended Cleveland High School in Reseda. She became an activist early in life, joining the Bus Riders Union (BRU) under the leadership of Eric Mann as a teenager during which time she attended a year-long organizing program led by the Labor Community Strategy Centre (which organized the BRU). She learned about revolutionaries, critical theory, and social movements from around the world while practicing activism.

Cullors recalls being forced from her home at sixteen when she revealed her queer identity to her parents. She was involved with the Jehovah's Witnesses as a child but later grew disillusioned with the church. She developed an interest in the Nigerian religious tradition of Ifá, incorporating its rituals into political protest events. She told an interviewer in 2015 that "seeking spirituality had a lot to do with trying to seek understanding about my conditions—how these conditions shape me in my everyday life and how I understand them as part of a larger fight, a fight for my life." She later earned a degree in religion and philosophy from UCLA. She also received an MFA from USC.

Along with community organizers and friends Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, Cullors founded Black Lives Matter. The three started the movement out of frustration over George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Cullors created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in 2013 to corroborate Garza's use of the phrase in making a Facebook post about the Martin case.

Cullors credits social media being instrumental in revealing violence against African Americans, saying: "On a daily basis, every moment, black folks are being bombarded with images of our death ... It's literally saying, 'Black people, you might be next. You will be next, but in hindsight, it will be better for our nation, the less of our kind, the more safe it will be."

Cullors teaches at Otis College of Art and Design in the Public Practice Program. She also teaches in the Master's of Arts in Social Justice and Community Organizing Program at Prescott College. She identifies as queer, and in 2016, she married Janaya Khan, a social activist who co-founded Black Lives Matter Toronto.


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