Images of black deaths are fairly easy to find on the Internet. You don’t have to look too hard for photos of Trayvon Martin’s lifeless body splayed out on a Stanford, Florida, lawn, or Michael Brown’s corpse laying on a street in Ferguson, Missouri. Those images sparked widespread outrage and a national conversation on police brutality in black communities in America. But recently, Black Lives Matter, the online and on-the-ground organizing effort that swept the country last year, launched an online photo project aimed at shifting the conversation of black life in America to something more positive.
Black Lives Matter teamed up with the 24 Hour Project, a group of street photographers, to gather images from professional and amateur photographers that celebrated black life. The project also represents a strategic shift for an activism effort that’s made its name largely in protests and calls for justice. More than 640 photos on Instagram were hashtagged with #BLM247 last weekend as part of the project.
“So much of our focus is on freedom and what freedom looks like,” Patrisse Cullors, cofounder of Black Lives Matter, told TakePart. “For black folks it’s important that we remember all the ways that we’re resilient, and these images showcase the miracle of black life.”
Black Lives Matter is an organizing effort that began taking shape shortly after Martin’s death in 2012, and made national headlines in the wake of Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Cofounded by three seasoned organizers— Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi— it became the rallying cry for black communities protesting police brutality across the country. It’s also slowly wound its ways into America’s cultural lexicon, earning shout-outs from an array of celebrities, including Hillary Clinton and Kanye West, and Fox’s breakout hit Empire.
For those who participated, the project was also an effort to rally black artists. “I’m a black artist and photographer and I’ve struggled a lot to make art in an art world that’s super white,” said Tanya Lucia Bernard, who helped organize the project and works on cultural strategy with Black Lives Matter. “These images are helping to transform what people are seeing and what they understand to be happening in these different communities.”