#BlackLivesMatter has become part of a symbolic movement with a powerful message. First tweeted on April 11, 2012, following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, #BlackLivesMatter began trending heavily during protests after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Three years later, it remains relevant.

For me, the hashtag conjures up images of black men, women and children who have died due to senseless violence. I mourn daily for the black lives – all lives – lost because of these tragic events.

People are not racist for thinking the lives of black people should matter to everyone. I think the lives of all people are important. But in light of recent high-profile deaths of black men and the racial unrest in Baltimore, many in society need to be reminded that black lives do indeed matter.

But why focus on deaths, if black lives matter?

As a little girl growing up in Shreveport, La., during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, I had no idea what was happening in the world around me. I had two parents – a seamstress and a mechanic – who were my providers and protectors. I felt safe in a black community. A year after high school, I joined the military and was stationed in Germany. I lived in a small military town where I continued to feel safe and protected.

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