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.

  14. My life matters because I have a son to live for and I love life. I have a human being who depends on me daily for emotional, physical and mental support. I have core values and morals that I can share with people who may have different values, which can contribute to make the world a better place. I believe my life matters because I was brought into this world by God. I was chosen not by a choice of my own, but by God. My life matters because it matters to my family, it matters to me, it matters to others who I’ve shared positivity in their lives. I believe I’m fulfilling life’s purpose as I go by. My life matters because I make others smile. I make them rethink bad decisions that they’re about to make, by offering kind words of wisdom and encouragement. My life matters because I’m very protective of it, I want to cherish it, and I wouldn’t mind being able to keep it for eternity because my life matters.

  15. My life matters because I’m here for a reason. I was brought into this world to be something special. I am one of a kind. My name is unique, I am unique, the things I can do are different from others. I’ve accomplished a lot of things that matter to me. I have to continue accomplishing things to make my life more of another reason why it matters.

  16. My life matters because I Anastashie matter. I am unique, my personality and everything is different. I’m one of a kind and nobody is like me. I’ve accomplished many things that made me who I am today. I have many other things to finish to make me better and give other reasons why it matters. I’m here for a reason and it’s to show what I’m capable of as a person.

  17. My life matters because I am a woman of color. My life matters because I am a descendant of Mayans whose beautiful land is named Guatemala. My life matters because I am a child of the African Diaspora that stems from the island of Puerto Rico. My life matters because I am a powerhouse that is not afraid to be outspoken and talk about uncomfortable subjects. My life matters because I am a community organizer that gives her all on the field to liberate my people. My life matters because I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams. My life matters because I was able to survive living below the federal poverty line, attending an underfunded, over-policed and hyper militarized school that worked so hard to see my peers and I locked up but we persevered. My life matters despite the racist, patriarchal, capitalist systems in this country that say it does not.

  18. My life matters because everyone is born for a reason and I am the only Tyler Khani in the world. My family and friends depend on me to be there for them regardless of the circumstance. My life matters because I have a unique purpose, a purpose that I will keep building upon as my life progresses. My life matters because I am a leader that is not afraid to lend a helping hand or stand up for others that are in need. My life matters because I am the son of a Persian father and American mother that need me and my siblings to carry on their legacy. Every morning I wake up knowing that my presence alone is changing and influencing the world around me for the better. Although, I am also still figuring out who I am day by day and trying to understand how I can be better. I am unique, and no one can look at life the exact way I do, therefore I am important even though I am one of billions of humans in this world. My life matters because it is mine and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  19. I believe that everybody’s life is a gift. There is no difference between young or old, black or write, Catholic or atheist. Nobody’s life is more value than others. And no one has the right to decide whether you deserve this life or not. All lives matter. And I am not an exception. All of us have thing we are proud of; we all have people about whom we are worried and who love us. All lives matter because all of us got a chance to live.

  20. My life matters because everyone who is born is here for a reason. Everyone has a footprint to leave behind and it is up to that person to determine whether it is a positive or a negative footprint. My life matters because I have goals that I would like to achieve. I am on Earth to learn about everything there is to learn about, and I will not live my life without achieving all my goals. As a human race, we must all come together and show our support for one another. We cannot live a life of hate anymore, in regards to so many aspects in today’s society. I am here to make a difference, and I will not give up on my goals till the day I die.

  21. My life matters because I only get one life, and I plan to live it to my fullest potential. My life matters because I try to make a lasting impact on other peoples lives, and there has been many times that I have done things that really affected others. My life matters because when I give charity, I am helping improve someone else life. I also help the economy by buying products and services around the world. But most importantly, my life matters because I have a family that we are always by each others sides. They would not trade me for anyone else, and that is why my life matters, regardless of over 7 billion people in this world. I love my life. My life matters most to me because of how much I love life and how well life has treated me and hopefully will continue to treat me and those around me.

  22. I believe that everybody’s life is a gift. There is no difference between young or old, black or write, Catholic or atheist. Nobody’s life is more value than others. And no one has the right to decide whether you deserve this life or not. All lives matter. And I am not an exception. All of us have things we are proud of; we all have people about whom we are worried and who love us. All lives matter because all of us have a chance to live.

  23. My life matters because God put me on this earth for a reason. It may not seem like it sometimes but we are all here for a reason only time will tell. And as long as I’m still here I’m going to try to make the world a better place by spreading peace, love and the good word of God. Most importantly my life matters because it’s the only one that I have. You don’t get a second chance at life once it’s over so live it to the fullest and as best as you can. It’s ok to make mistake or take a couple losses. It’s all apart of life you live and you learn which helps prepare you for tomorrow. And no matter what race, religion, sexual orientation, or nationality, all lives matter!

  24. My life matters because God put me on this earth for a reason. All lives matter no matter what race gender, sexual orientation, or religion. We all have a purpose in life. It may not seem like it at times but only time is going to tell us what is it. And my life matters to me because it’s the only one that I have. I want to make sure I live it to the fullest and try to make the best of it while I can cause it’s short. You don’t get a second chance in life once it’s over. Everyone is here to make an impact that will affect the world in a positive or negative way. All you have to do is pick up the pencil and write your story.

  25. Everyone’s life is a blessing and I feel that we were put on this earth for a reason. Our lives matter because we can become the best version of ourselves, constantly learn new things and can put those things into good use.

    My life matters because I was put on this earth for a reason and to show people what am I capable of. I cherish every experience whether it’s good or bad to help me become who I am today as I still grow. I love my life and want to live life up to my fullest potential.

  26. My life matters because the butterfly effect of me not being born would cause unforeseen circumstances that may change the people around me in very negative ways. Telling someone that they should have never been born or that their life doesn’t matter makes no sense, because their life does matter. If they hadn’t been born the future might be very different. Imagine if a famous artist of the renaissance era never existed. Imagine how different the time period might have been without their art. Imagine if the guy who invented Pepsi was never born. Firstly, Coke would have a monopoly. Second, I wouldn’t be able to drink my delicious Pepsi drink today. And Pepsi tastes REALLY good. I wouldn’t want anyone to lose their life, including me because my life matters.

  27. I believe all lives matter but, my life matters because i am a human being who has big dreams and want to accomplish them. My live matters because I am a women of color and god put me on this earth for a reason and I’m here to figure out why i am here. My plan is to serve my country by going into the army and also become a veterinarian,saving animals from their abusive owners. My life matters because i have family who love me and want to see me grow into a beautiful young women and follow my dreams. I want to live a long healthy life and i deserve to live a long healthy life.

  28. My life matters because I was brought into this world to do something. I am young so I may not know what that something exactly is yet, but I do know for a fact, that we all have a purpose in this life. That is what keeps me going everyday. The more people that tell me that I can’t accomplish something, the more I try. This life seems like a competition sometimes but that’s the thrill of finding out who you are and why you belong here. Every life matters and what you do with that gift is your choice. Ive learned that my life should not be based off of, or influenced by the choices others have made.

  29. I believe that all lives matter. Whether you’re black, white, purple, or orange. Whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, or whatever you believe in your life matters. You can be old, young, a cop none of that matters, Every single person in this world is a gift and we all matter. We need to cherish life and cherish those we have around us. We need to respect each other’s differences and acknowledge each other for who we are. If one day we could all sit together and talk about why there’s so much hatred in this world I think we could one day achieve peace.

  30. My life and all lives matters because we all have a purpose in the world. Some of us may have not found our specific purpose but that is why we’re alive. I believe each of us have a purpose in life and can all contribute to making the world a better place by doing the small things everyday.

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