See also: Black Lives Matter
Describing herself as a “pan-Africanist,” a “womanist,” and a “socialist,” Melina Abdullah is a tenured professor and chair of the Pan African Studies department at California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA), where she has taught since 2002. Aside from her academic career, she is a co-founder and leader of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in Los Angeles. In that capacity, she involves herself frequently as a social activist in racial issues, particularly shootings of African Americans by members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). And since 2014, she has been a member of the Los Angeles County Human Rights Commission.
Abdullah was born as Melina Reimann in East Oakland, California on September 18, 1972. Her father, John Reimann, is a retired union organizer and a self-proclaimed Trotskyist. He also has been a leader of Occupy Oakland, one of the most violent chapters of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Reimann’s own father, the renowned Marxist economist Guenter Reimann, was a German Communist Party member who fled Germany to the U.S. during the Nazi years. (More information on Guenter and John Reimann can be found by clicking here.) Abdullah proudly emphasizes the radical lineage from which she and her East Oakland contemporaries hail: “All of our parents are Panthers, or Black Power organizers, or organizers. We come out politicized…. I was born on a picket line.”
While attending graduate school at the University of Southern California in the mid-1990s, Abdullah became involved with Rep. Maxine Waters' accusations of CIA involvement in the L.A. crack epidemic, and also with community protests in response to various police shootings.
Abdullah’s driving force is a view of the United States as a racist country that systematically oppresses non-whites, particularly blacks. “The system of white supremacist, heteronormative, patriarchal capitalism,” she contends, “constantly betrays us” and “is set up to keep us oppressed.” Most notable is Abdullah’s contempt for the American criminal-justice system, which she views as a thoroughly racist institution. Arguing that police departments nationwide should be abolished and replaced with community-based public safety teams, Abdullah has likened police officers to “former slave catchers” who still seek “to return enslaved people to their alleged owners.”
After George Zimmerman, a “white Hispanic” accused of murdering black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, was acquitted in July 2013, Abdullah participated in several Los Angeles-area protests including one that shut down a freeway. And with the emergence of BLM that same year, Abdullah helped organize that movement in Los Angeles.
Over the years, Abdullah has attended numerous L.A. Police Commission hearings as a member of BLM. She has sometimes been so disruptive in these meetings, that she has had to be forcibly removed, including incidents on August 11, 2015, October 20, 2015, May 17, 2016, and August 15, 2017. On one of those occasions, Abdullah cursed and threatened LAPD Commissioner Steve Soboroff after the latter had told a BLM-affiliated activist to “shut up.” “You shut the fu** up, Soboroff, you shut up,” Abdullah shouted as she was escorted from the room. “We know where your ass lives too. And we’ve got cars.”
Abdullah also hosts a weekly talk show on the far-left Los Angeles radio station KPFK (90.7 FM), much of whose programming is devoted to condemnation of the United States on numerous political and social issues. Abdullah’s program, entitled “Beautiful Struggle,” centers on matters relating to African Americans.
In May 2016, Abdullah was one of several CSULA teachers/administrators named in a lawsuit that arose out of a February 2016 appearance at that campus by conservative speaker Ben Shapiro, whom Abdullah described as a “neo-Nazi” and a “neo-KKK member.” The appearance was initially canceled by the school president, William Covino, after a number of students and professors threatened violence if Shapiro were permitted to speak. But when Shapiro, in turn, threatened to sue the university for canceling his lecture, the event was rescheduled, and protesters did disrupt it.
In June 2017 Abdullah took part in a Facebook panel sponsored by OneUnited Bank, the nation's largest African-American-owned financial institution. Though widely believed to have been engaged in questionable banking practices, OneUnited nonetheless received a $12 million bailout from the Troubled Asset Relief Program during the Obama administration -- thanks largely to intervention by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, whose husband sat on the bank's board of directors. During the aforementioned panel meeting, which also included Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the late Trayvon Martin, Abdullah was quoted as saying: “Wells Fargo and Citibank … they’re putting the dollars that you give them in the institutions that keep us oppressed. If you’re not going to bank black, you are funding white supremacy.”
In November and December of 2017, Abdullah supported and promoted the “Black Xmas” initiative of BLM's Los Angeles chapter, which urged African Americans to avoid patronizing white-owned business establishments for the remainder of the calendar year. The motto of that initiative was: “#DIVEST from White corporations / #INVEST in Black community / If you Must buy, #BUYBLACK.”
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