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Patrisse Cullors is many things, but she is definitely not a terrorist. She is a catalyst. She is a crusader. And she helped found Black Lives Matter. Cullors, 34, recently published a memoir titled When They Call You a Terrorist. It’s a work in halves: “All the Bones We Could Find,” which recounts her adolescence, and “Black Lives Matter,” which demonstrates how tragic incidents of her youth propelled her to create one of the most influential — and polarizing — social justice groups today. The movement took shape in the wake of the 2013 killing of Trayvon Martin, but for Cullors, its roots are centuries deep in American history, and a lifetime within herself. Cullors first wrote the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in a comment on a Facebook status of co-founder Alicia Garza, who was lamenting the acquittal of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Since then, the movement — with the help of its third co-founder, Opal Tometi — has become a national coalition for protesting violence and systemic racism against black people. As Cullors tells TIME, “This call, this need and this desire for a Black Lives Matter started when I was much younger.” Cullors was nine when she saw her 11- and 13-year-old brothers needlessly slammed into a wall by police. She grew up in Los Angeles in the 1990s, raised by a single mother in Section 8 housing, along with her sister and two brothers — one of whom would later be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. His mental illness resulted in multiple trips to prison, where he was beaten and forced to drink toilet water, Cullors says. And then there was her father — not the mostly absent but loving man she grew up believing was her dad, but her biological father, whose identity her mother revealed when Cullors was 12. He also served several stints in prison, both before and after he came into Cullors’ life. His offenses were related to crack possession — i.e. substance abuse and addiction. Jail, Cullors and co-author Asha Bandele write, “is how our society responded to his drug use.” “I think we have a crisis of divesting from poor communities, black communities in particular, and reinvesting into these communities with police, jails, courts, prisons,” Cullors says. When They Call You a Terrorist deals with the incarceration and disenfranchisement of black men like her father, but it also explores facets of Cullors’ personal identity — black womanhood and sexuality, as well as spirituality. Cullors identifies as a Queer person who is mostly interested in other Queer people, though she has had multiple heterosexual relationships. She muses on her experience as a Jehovah’s Witness who remained committed to the faith for years, even in exile. (Jehovah’s Witnesses disfellowships members who are judged to have committed a serious sin, which meant that Patrisse’s mother as well as her children were shunned from the religion and other family members after she got pregnant with Patrisse’s oldest brother as a teenager.) Cullors weaves her intellectual influences into this narrative, from black feminist writers like Audre Lorde and bell hooks, to Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. Reading those social philosophers “provided a new understanding around what our economies could look like,” she says. Reading Lorde and hooks “helped me understand my identity.” Read more: