The Black Lives Matter movement was born in July 2013, when #BlackLivesMatter began trending on social media following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the February 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. In November 2014, a grand jury absolved a white police officer of killing another Black teen, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. Two weeks later, a second grand jury in New York cleared white police officers accused of killing an unarmed Black man named Eric Garner. Following these decisions, local protests in Missouri and New York began to spread across the country, leading to the national recognition of the #BLM movement.
Robert Gerhardt: Mic Check is a photography project by photojournalist and writer Robert Gerhardt, who relied on the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag to track and document these protests in New York City over the last seven years. This remarkable body of work includes photographs of protests from 2014 through 2021, across New York, in massive crowds, in rain and sun, during night and day, in motion during marches and stationary during speeches, and in the past year in the midst of a global pandemic. These candid works capture the passion, righteous anger, and frustration of the protestors. The title comes from the shouts of “mic check!” which mobilized protestors into a game of repeat-after-me, a technique that united the crowd and enabled the spread of the speaker’s comments and instructions without amplification.
Gerhardt speaking at Pennsylvania College of Technology, January 21, 2016