It started as a quiet chorus and then progressed to a loud roar.
Led by Black Lives Matter – the movement against racial inequality and police violence in the US – co-founder Patrisse Cullors students from across Fairfield joined in full voice at Cabramatta High School’s Peace Day Event on Monday to speak the words gifted to the movement by Assata Shakur.
It is our duty to fight for our freedom; it is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
What began as a powerful hashtag and became a global rallying cry, Black Lives Matter are the 2017 recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize.
Ms Cullers and Rodeny Diverlus from the Canadian chapter were the special guests at the school’s annual Peace Day event which this year was titled #racetoequity.
The festivities included a guard of honour by students in cultural costumes, lion dancers, the planting of trees in the Peace Garden and the releasing of white doves.
There were also performances representing social issues related to the concept of racial equity and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The phrase and hashtag was first used by activist and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza in a mournful, angry Facebook post following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, in 2013, for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The African-American boy was gunned down by the neighbourhood vigilante while walking home - unarmed - from a trip to a corner store.
It has been taken up by anti-racist movements around the world – including by protesters in Australia calling for an end to Indigenous deaths in custody – who feel the lives of black citizens are implicitly or explicitly treated as less valuable than others.
Ms Cullers spoke to the students about the movement’s journey saying it was an “honour and privilege” to accept the Sydney Peace Prize.
“We wanted to create something that could be bigger and it was important that the bigger wasn’t about the United States but could be used around the world because we knew wherever black people existed there was a significant amount of oppression they were facing,” she said.
“Black Lives Matter isn’t just for black people it is for everyone. It is a fight that we should all should engage in.”
The Sydney Peace Prize jury's citation for this year's winners applauded the movement "for building a powerful movement for racial equality.”