By Damele|February 7, 2018|Reflection, student-centered pedagogy|13 comments


2017 Fall 2150 students taking a picture in front of the colorful Our Lives Matter Index cards they created. The poignant and transformative things they wrote is the inspiration for this movement.


“The freedom and human capacities of individuals must be developed to their maximum but individual powers must be linked to democracy in the sense that social betterment must be the necessary consequence of individual flourishing.” — Henry Giroux

“What I really feel is radical is trying to make coalitions with people who are different from you,” maintains Barbara Smith. “I feel it is radical to be dealing with race and sex and class and sexual identity all at one time. I think that is really radical because it has never been done before.”


                                                     OUR LIVES MATTER

The Our Lives Matter movement began as a free writing assignment, in an English 2150 classroom at Baruch College. It embodies what Henry Giroux and Barbara Smith both believe: we achieve liberation, and consequently an improved society, when we develop the individual, as well as when we form a coalition of very different people, with perhaps different agendas, yet the common goal of liberation and social uplift. Our Lives Matter encourages our students to ask themselves a simple, and yet at the same time, very complex question: Why does my life matter? I asked this question of my students after reading “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  King believed that his life mattered, and from that existential epiphany, he encouraged others that regardless of the color of their skin, their religious preference, their gender, or their social class, their lives mattered, and were of distinct, and unquantifiable value. This knowledge allowed people to strive to make a positive difference in a fractured society. In the 21st century, understanding why our lives matter is no less essential than it was during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960’s.

We encourage our students to post freely about why their lives matter, in so doing they can affirm their power, as well as resist political, cultural, and social erasure, by expressing in writing that their lives do indeed matter. This is essential as we all seek collaboration, meaning, and identity.


Damele Elliott Collier / Ph.D. Student in Composition and Rhetoric / The Graduate Center, CUNY
Composition Instructor / Medgar Evers college, CUNY / Composition Instructor / Baruch College, CUNY






  1. My life matters because I am unique and absolutely NOBODY has the same circumstances as me or has to deal with the the things I have to deal with, or at least not with the same experience. Many people are always going on about how black lives matter, or that the DREAMER’s lives matter, but my life matters too. Just because I’m white, and some have even gone so far as to say privileged, doesn’t mean my life doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get paid attention to. Being white and American shouldn’t make me less important because I try my best, work hard, and pull my weight in society, just like everyone else.

  2. My life matters. All my life I’ve been told I cant act a certain way, dress a certain way, or even think a certain way simply because I am a female. I have been told that because of the color of my skin I wont ever achieve ultimate happiness or even excel in life. Coming from an influential neighborhood where you astray from obtaining knowledge and remain in the streets, I was told I’d definitely not get far. Although society is no longer as fractured as it once was, there will always be cracks and flaws. Educating myself, prospering as I climb the steps of my life, and ultimately finding peace and happiness is why my life matters. The constant oppression many have to face over something they have no control over is not fair or right. I want my voice to be heard loud and clear. No one should be treated indifferent. As fellow beings we should promote one another and strive for greatness. My life matters. All lives matter. Our lives matter.

  3. I assign value to my life through my experiences and accomplishments. Being able to grow up in a two parent home and accomplishing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and now pursuing a second degree in Nursing has made me stronger and given my life meaning. I conclude the meaning of my life is to give meaning by assisting others in healthcare through volunteering in hospitals and aiding others that are less fortunate. Even though my career path has changed the overall definition of my life is to experience and accomplish as much as I can. Because what matters to me is to simply give life a meaning. Don’t let it define you, you define it.

  4. There was a time where I did not think my life was anything near special. Why would I? Considering the size of our universe, mankind is just a speck of dust compared to the vastness of space and time. What I have come to learn is that every single person has a right to their life and the freedom of their own will. My life matters because I was put on this world for a reason. I may not know what that reason is just yet, but I am committed to figuring it out as my life continues. I know that my life matters because of the impact I can have on my surroundings. I choose to live my life believing this in order to better myself every day.

  5. My life matters because I want to show myself, and the world what I’m capable of. You see the many issues of this time we live in is the spread of continuous and increasing repetition of negativity about our fellow peers dreams. We deserve and have the right , as they would say “to be what I want to be”, especially if we work hard, plan, and keep a positive mindset. I know my life matters because everyday I push others ,because what I desire in myself, I also desire in others. I do matter like the many properties of matter , we all have a job to fulfill in this world and we must take pride in this opportunity. This is not only future success for us but a gift to the world.

  6. My life matters because all lives matter. We are all important to someone. We have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, etc who care about us. We all contribute something important to the world, whether it be big or small. When our lives are disregarded, an important piece of the whole goes missing. My life matters, your life matters, regardless of who you are.

  7. My life matters because without life how do you succeed? How do you breathe? How do I set Goals and achieve ? Everyday I wake up I thank the man above for allowing me to get up and pray for myself and my family. My life matters because I am a role model for my daughter. 6 years ago showed me the meaning of life and how I can change and make better decisions. Life is about change, getting better for today and forward. Life is about Value and Growth. My life matters because I am ready to live and be free. I want to be all that I can be so I can be great and my daughter will follow and do bigger and better things.

  8. Our lives matter because in a world with so many intertwining lives and events, it is easy to feel lost while trying to make sense of it all. Every person has a purpose on this Earth and without that person’s existence, that purpose is never fulfilled. Finding who you are and understanding what it means brings meaning into your life. Being surrounded by your loved ones and feeling connected with each one brings meaning into your life. One’s life matters not only because they owe it to themselves, but because it holds value to someone else too.

  9. My life is important based on the core principles of religion, family and respect for all individuals. If there is respect and common decency to all humans this place this world will become better. As a wise professor of mine used to say our job is to make this place a little better than it was when we were brought into it.

  10. There are many reasons as to why my life matters. The biggest reason of all that brings value to my life is that with every action I make and with everything I choose not to do, I’m impacting the world. Whether people realize it or not, every little action and decision made throughout the day alter everything around us. Every morning I wake up I’m in a position to create change and affect so much. I know my life matters because if I wasn’t alive, the world would be completely different.

  11. My life matters because it has worth and value. Understanding ones own value is important for every person to be successful in life. From a very young age I was always told that I was placed on this earth to do great and amazing things. Having this positive reinforcement has allowed me to grow into a man that knows that my life will create positive impacts on my surroundings. In doing so I can show everybody that I come in contact with that their life also matters.

  12. Debt
    There are mountains my father climbed so I could see farther
    Homes my mother built so I could be rooted

    There are shoulders that carried me miles
    Quietly rested me on the ground and said
    “Here we are, my child. Here is where you will learn and laugh and grow.
    Most importantly-here is where you will have the power to choose”

    My life matters because it is the voice of all those who have been silenced before me.
    It is the sacrifice of familiar roads and mother tongues in exchange for empty cities and broken sentences.
    Too many people have sacrificed their homes for me to be merely ordinary.

    I must repay my debts.
    I must be extraordinary.


  13. My life is a gift that was paid for by my mother, who fasted for months and prayed for years before I came to be. My value lies not only in my birth but in what I have to offer the world. I wish to liberate my country, Nigeria from the evil clutches of poverty, ignorance and greed. My life matters because I’m willing to sacrifice it for the good of my people.

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