Rest in Power is a phrase mainly used by Black Lives Matter and/or LGBTQ communities in the US.
It’s purpose is to show that one cannot rest in peace – the original “R.I.P”, until justice is served and racism, homophobia and transphobia is eliminated.
When you find this phrase in context with a deceased person, it means the person died due to systemic prejudice and institutionalised discrimination.
It is also used when the person lost was a public figure that significantly supported and helped minorities that are generally oppressed.
It is a statement of solidarity.
The first use of the phrase is traced back to February 18, 2000, and was connected to California graffiti artist Mike ‘Dream’ Francisco. It was shared on a Usenet newsgroup.
Mike ‘Dream’ Francisco’s art served as critique and activism against the US Government’s treatment of poor people and minorities. He was shot in an armed robbery.
After the sudden death of the young graffiti artist, the phrase served as a tribute to many violent, premature deaths to come, often of people of colour or persons of the LGBTQ society.
During the first decade of the millenium, the phrase circulated on Twitter, e.g. during the deaths of black artists such as Prince and Eartha Kitt.
The phase has had a huge jump in usage as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement following the police-murder of George Floyd in 2020.
- Wikipedia – Rest in power
- Slate Magazine – “Rest in power”: The history of the phrase, from radical eulogy to kitschy Twitter meme.