Nearly three years after they started a national movement around issues of race and equal justice, the founders of Black Lives Matter are set to give high-profile speeches to thousands in Oregon this month on Black History Month. Portland State University invited movement co-founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrissa Cullors to speak during the university’s “Living Legacy” event honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month, the Oregonian reported.
But soon after the university opened up free ticketing for the Feb. 16 event, it sold out of its 2,000 tickets. Organizers booked the Portland State’s Peter Stott Center, a 1,500-seat multipurpose area located on its 50 acre urban campus.
Despite a small marketing effort, "the response has been fantastic," Portland State spokesman Scott Gallagher told the Oregonian. The university was reportedly opening an overflow room to welcome 600 more people in the Smith Memorial Student Union, where the speeches will be live streamed.
People interested in overflow tickets, which were still available Thursday, should contact the university. There will be no online live stream of the event, Gallagher said.
Garza, Tometi and Cullors created Black Lives Matter as a social media driven movement, following the 2013 shooting death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder charges. The movement has since spawned 25 local chapters, including one in Portland, which have protested high-profile police-involved deaths of black men and women, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Eric Garner in New York City, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, among many others.
"It is an honor and a privilege to have the founders share their vision of justice for all with our PSU students and broader Portland and regional community," Carmen Suarez, vice president of the office of Global Diversity and Inclusion at PSU, said in a statement, according to the Oregonian. "Their work in engaging audiences in discussions about race relations in America is courageous and born from the pain, frustration and anger over the ongoing state violence, police brutality and social injustice plaguing our country."
Cullors, the Black Lives Matter co-founder, will not be at the Portland event.