Patrisse Cullors Early Life
Patrisse Cullors was 13 when she watched Los Angeles police handcuff and haul away her older brother without knowing why it was happening. When Patrisse Cullors (Patrisse Khan-Cullors) was 16-years-old she came out as queer and moved out of her home in the Valley. She formed close connections with other young queer woman who were dealing with the challenges of poverty and being Black and Brown in the USA. At 22-years-old Patrisse was recognized for her work as a transformative organizer by receiving the Mario Savio Young Activist Award. A Fulbright Scholarship recipient, Patrisse received her degree in religion and philosophy from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012. That same year she curated her first performance art piece that fearlessly addressed the violence of incarceration, STAINED: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence. Early on Cullors identified as an activist; she joined the Bus Riders Union as a teenager. Cullors created her first piece of performance art that tackled the issue of the violence of incarceration. This performance helped to create the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence and her non-profit, Dignity and Power Now.
Patrisse Cullors Biography and Profile
Patrisse Khan-Cullors, born in 1984 in Los Angeles, California and grew up in the Pacoima neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. Her mother, Cherisse Foley, raised Cullors and her siblings as a single parent. At the age of 16, Cullors revealed her queer identity to her family and moved away from Los Angeles, is an artist, organizer, and freedom fighter from Los Angeles, CA. Co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Founder of Dignity and Power Now she is a New York Times Best Selling Author, Fulbright scholar, popular public speaker, and Sydney Peace Prize awardee. Patrisse recently toured her multimedia performance art piece, “POWER: From the Mouths of the Occupied,” a gripping performance piece highlighting the impact of mass criminalization and state violence in Black communities across the United States.
This year Patrisse teamed up with digital media company blackpills to produce RESIST, a docu-series following her Los Angeles grassroots community’s efforts to stop a $3.5 billion jail expansion plan. In August 2018 Patrisse announced her new role as an adjunct professor at Arizona’s Prescott College where she will teach a course she created that examines, social practice, cultural work, and art impact on community organizing as part of the Social Justice & Community Organizing (SJCO) Master’s degree program. In 2019, she was promoted to Associate Professor. Patrisse is also completing her studies as a 2019 MFA candidate at the University of Southern California.
Patrisse Cullors has always been traveling on the path to freedom
A self-described wife of Harriet Tubman, Patrisse Cullors has always been traveling on the path to freedom. Growing up with several of her loved ones experiencing incarceration and brutality at the hands of the state and coming out as queer at an early age, she has since worked tirelessly promoting law enforcement accountability across the world while focusing on addressing trauma and building on the resilience and health of the communities most affected.
Mario Savio Young Activist Award
When Patrisse was 16-years-old she came out as queer and moved out of her home in the Valley. She formed close connections with other young queer woman who were dealing with the challenges of poverty and being Black and Brown in the USA. At 22-years-old Patrisse was recognized for her work as a transformative organizer by receiving the Mario Savio Young Activist Award. A Fulbright Scholarship recipient, Patrisse received her degree in religion and philosophy from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012. That same year she curated her first performance art piece that fearlessly addressed the violence of incarceration, STAINED: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence.
Coalition to End Sheriff Violence
Touring that performance lead to the formation of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence and eventually her non-profit Dignity and Power Now, both of whom have achieved several victories for the abolitionist movement including the formation of Los Angeles’ first civilian oversight commission over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Murder of Trayvon Martin
In the summer of 2013 fueled by the acquittal granted to George Zimmerman after his murder of Trayvon Martin, Patrisse co-founded a global movement with a hashtag. Black Lives Matter has since grown to an international organization with dozens of chapters and thousands of determined activists fighting anti-Black racism worldwide.
Contribution to Oversight Award by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE)
In 2014 Patrisse was honored with the Contribution to Oversight Award by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) recognizing her work to initiate civilian oversight in Los Angeles jails. Patrisse then completed a fellowship at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership where she prepared and led a think tank on state and vigilante violence for the Without Borders Conference. There she produced and directed the first in a series of theatrical pieces titled POWER: From the Mouths of the Occupied.
NAACP History Maker
In 2015 Patrisse was named a NAACP History Maker, a finalist for The Advocate’s Person of the Year, a Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century by the Los Angeles Times, and was invited to the White House. Google awarded Patrisse with their Racial Justice Grant to support her ongoing Ella Baker Center project developing a rapid response network that will mobilize communities to respond radically to law enforcement violence, the Justice Teams for Truth and Reinvestment. In conjunction with the Justice Teams Patrisse is also supporting the ACLU’s development of their Mobile Justice app. Patrisse works with many organizations worldwide.
2016 a strong year for Patrisse Cullors
2016 was a strong year for Patrisse. She delivered the keynote address at over a dozen colleges and universities including American University, The University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell. She was named a Leading Edge Fund Fellow by The Rosenberg Foundation, a Senior Fellow for Maternal Mortality by MomsRising, a Kick-Ass Woman of Color by DLG Media, and received the Defender of the Dream Award from the AFL-CIO Executive Council Committee on Civil and Human Rights, the Revolution Award for Freedom from ImageNation Cinema Foundation, the Justice Award from National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Community Change Agent Award from BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc., the Glamour Women of the Year Award for The Justice Seekers, and honorary doctorates from Chicago’s South Shore International College Preparatory High School and Clarkson University.
2017 Patrisse accepted a book deal with St. Martin’s Press
In the early months of 2017 Patrisse accepted a book deal with St. Martin’s Press to publish her memoirs which were released in January 2018. The book is called When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir and was co-written with journalist asha bandele and has a forward written by Angela Davis. In 2017 Patrisse was honored on ESSENCE’s first-ever #Woke100 List and was gifted with a Woke Award for her commitment to advancing representation and raising community issues around anti-Black racism and state violence.
Patrisse was awarded the 2017 Sydney Peace Prize
As a Black Lives Matter cofounder, Patrisse was awarded the 2017 Sydney Peace Prize “for building a powerful movement for racial equality, courageously reigniting a global conversation around state violence and racism, and for harnessing the potential of new platforms and power of people to inspire a bold movement for change at a time when peace is threatened by growing inequality and injustice.”
Apart from becoming a New York Times bestselling author, in 2018 Patrisse has expanded her Los Angeles based coalition work with JusticeLA and Reform L.A. Jails. Her work fighting Los Angeles County’s $3.5 billion jail plan with JusticeLA is highlighted in the new blackpills docu-series RESIST.
Ballot initiative through Reform L.A. Jails
Patrisse is currently leading a ballot initiative through Reform L.A. Jails to obtain subpoena power for L.A.’s Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and research community-based alternatives to L.A. County’s jail expansion plan. Patrisse is also completing her studies as a 2019 MFA candidate at the University of Southern California.
Patrisse an adjunct professor at Arizona’s Prescott College
In August 2018 Patrisse announced her new role as an adjunct professor at Arizona’s Prescott College where she will teach a course she created that examines, social practice, cultural work, and art impact on community organizing as part of the Social Justice & Community Organizing (SJCO) Master’s degree program which combines a unique focus on critical race theory, anti-colonial theory, feminist and queer theory, critical political economy, and third world liberation theory with profound emphasis on developing, organizing, and mobilization as powerful tools for understanding the complex relations of history, politics, power and political/cultural/gendered oppression.
Patrisse Cullors then received a Fulbright Scholarship which allowed her to get a degree in religion and philosophy from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2012.
Black Lives Matter
In 2013, three radical Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman.
The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. Our members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
As organizers who work with everyday people, BLM members see and understand significant gaps in movement spaces and leadership. Black liberation movements in this country have created room, space, and leadership mostly for Black heterosexual, cisgender men — leaving women, queer and transgender people, and others either out of the movement or in the background to move the work forward with little or no recognition. As a network, we have always recognized the need to center the leadership of women and queer and trans people. To maximize our movement muscle, and to be intentional about not replicating harmful practices that excluded so many in past movements for liberation, we made a commitment to placing those at the margins closer to the center.
As #BlackLivesMatter developed throughout 2013 and 2014, we utilized it as a platform and organizing tool. Other groups, organizations, and individuals used it to amplify anti-Black racism across the country, in all the ways it showed up. Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Mya Hall, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland — these names are inherently important. The space that #BlackLivesMatter held and continues to hold helped propel the conversation around the state-sanctioned violence they experienced. We particularly highlighted the egregious ways in which Black women, specifically Black trans women, are violated. #BlackLivesMatter was developed in support of all Black lives.
In 2014, Mike Brown was murdered by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. It was a guttural response to be with our people, our family — in support of the brave and courageous community of Ferguson and St. Louis as they were being brutalized by law enforcement, criticized by media, tear gassed, and pepper sprayed night after night. Darnell Moore and Patrisse Cullors organized a national ride during Labor Day weekend that year. We called it the Black Life Matters Ride. In 15 days, we developed a plan of action to head to the occupied territory to support our brothers and sisters. Over 600 people gathered. We made two commitments: to support the team on the ground in St. Louis, and to go back home and do the work there. We understood Ferguson was not an aberration, but in fact, a clear point of reference for what was happening to Black communities everywhere.
When it was time for us to leave, inspired by our friends in Ferguson, organizers from 18 different cities went back home and developed Black Lives Matter chapters in their communities and towns — broadening the political will and movement building reach catalyzed by the #BlackLivesMatter project and the work on the ground in Ferguson.
It became clear that we needed to continue organizing and building Black power across the country. People were hungry to galvanize their communities to end state-sanctioned violence against Black people, the way Ferguson organizers and allies were doing. Soon we created the Black Lives Matter Global Network infrastructure. It is adaptive and decentralized, with a set of guiding principles. Our goal is to support the development of new Black leaders, as well as create a network where Black people feel empowered to determine our destinies in our communities.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network would not be recognized worldwide if it weren’t for the folks in St. Louis and Ferguson who put their bodies on the line day in and day out, and who continue to show up for Black lives.
The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.
Patrisse Cullors Awards and Recognition
- 2019: Champion for Justice and Peace Award, Trayon Martin Foundation
- 2019: Best Books of 2019, Library Journal
- 2018: Women Making History Honoree, The National Women’s History Museum
- 2018: Next Generation Award, ACLU
- 2018: 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, Women’s eNews
- 2018: Roger Baldwin Award Honoree, ACLU of Massachusetts
- 2018: José Muñoz Award, The Graduate Center, CUNY
- 2018: Lifetime Achievement Award, The African American Community of Pacoima
- 2018: The Etheridge Award, West Hollywood City Council Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board
- 2018: Chora Prize Recipient, Chora
- 2018: Redefining Justice Award, Just Leadership USA
- 2018: The Instant New York Times Bestseller, New York Times
- 2018: New York Times Editor’s Pick, New York Times
- 2018: Best Memoirs of 2018 So Far, TIME Magazine
- 2018: 10 Titles to Pick Up Now, O, Oprah Magazine
- 2018: Outstanding Works of Literature (OWL) Award, Politics and Current Events
- 2018: Best Books in 2018, The Root
- 2017: Black Community Honors, California State University – Los Angeles
- 2017: The Root 100, The Root
- 2017: Samuel S. Beard Award for Outstanding Public Service 35 Years or Younger, Jefferson Awards Foundation
- 2017: Sydney Peace Prize, Sydney Peace Foundation
- 2017: Woke Award, ESSENCE
- 2017: We Are EMILY Award, EMILY’s List
- 2016: Women of the Year Award for the Justice Seekers, Glamour
- 2016: Ambassador for Health Equity Fellowship, PolicyLink and FSG
- 2016: World’s Greatest Leader, FORTUNE
- 2016: Honorary Doctorate, Clarkson University
- 2016: Disruptive Advocate Award, The Greenlining Institute
- 2016: The 2016 GOOD 100, GOOD Worldwide Inc
- 2016: Chicago High School Honorary Medical Doctorate, Chicago, ILL South Shore International College Preparatory High School
- 2016: Community Change Agent Award, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc.
- 2016: Justice Award, National Center for Lesbian Rights
- 2016: Leading Edge Fund Fellow, The Rosenberg Foundation
- 2016: Kick-Ass Woman of Color, DLG Media
- 2016: Revolution Award for Freedom, ImageNation Cinema Foundation
- 2016: Defender of the Dream Award, AFL-CIO Executive Council Committee on Civil and Human Rights
- 2016: 40 Under 40, The Chronicle of Philanthropy
- 2016: 8 Activists Who Demand The World Knows That Black Lives Matter, The Huffington Post
- 2016: 20 Inspiring Women Making the World a Better Place for Us All, SheKnows
- 2015: Racial Justice Grant, Google
- 2015: Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century, Los Angeles Times
- 2015: 10 Most Inspirational L.A. Women of 2015, Los Angeles Magazine
- 2015: Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
- 2015: Edna Award, The Berger-Marks Foundation
- 2015: Honoree, The New York Women’s Foundation
- 2015: 40 Under 40, The Advocate
- 2015: AfroAmerica Network Black Woman of the Year, AfroAmerica Network
- 2015: Black Woman of the Year, The National Congress of Black Women
- 2015: Politico 50, Politico Magazine
- 2015: NAACP History Maker, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- 2015: Person of the Year Finalist, The Advocate
- 2015: Empress I Jose Sarria Award for Uncommon Leadership, The National LGBTQ Task Force
- 2015: Louis E. Burnham Award, Louis E. Burnham Award Fund
- 2014: 14 Women of Color Who Rocked 2014, AlterNet
- 2014: Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Fellow, Kalamazoo College
- 2014: Contribution to Oversight Award, National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement
- 2011: Fulbright Scholarship, United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
- 2008: Sydney Goldfarb Outstanding Student Award, Santa Monica College
- 2007: The Mario Savio Young Activist Award, Mario Savio Memorial Lecture
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
Patrisse Cullors Family
Patrisse Cullors’ Spouse: Janaya Khan (m. 2016). Cullors was born in 1984 in Los Angeles, California and grew up in the Pacoima neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. Her mother, Cherisse Foley, raised Cullors and her siblings as a single parent. At the age of 16, Cullors revealed her queer identity to her family and moved away from Los Angeles.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors will continue to create, organize, and shut it down until all Black lives matter.
Garza, Cullors, and Tometi are earning their place in history—notable, since too many black women have been little more than a footnote in civil rights textbooks. “They’ve brought the necessary ‘street heat’ to drive change and hold elected officials accountable,” says Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D–Calif.). “This movement, largely driven by young people, is really the civil and human rights struggle of our time.”
And while creating a movement is never easy—they’ve sacrificed family outings and weddings and relationships—all three say they find strength in one another.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors Biography and Profile (Patrisse Cullors / Black Lives Matter)