Co-founder Black Lives Matter speaks to journalists

Sheldon McCormick | 11/25/2015, midnight | Updated on 11/25/2015, midnight
The 2013 acquittal of Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., in the shooting death

The 2013 acquittal of Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, led to a rally in Los Angeles’ Leimert Park. Among those outraged and embittered by the verdict was Melina Abdullah, Ph.D., mother of three children, a domestic violence survivor and chair of the Pan African Studies Department at Cal State Univerisity Los Angeles.

“It (the verdict) hit me really hard,” she told a group of Black journalists at a meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists Los Angeles chapter. She later discussed the case with three other mothers and formed a mother’s brigade in an effort to fight “state-sanctioned” violence against African Americans, particularly police abuse and to end it. In the process, the controversial group Black Lives Matter (BLM) was born.

Abdullah told the newsgatherers that police incidents, including several shooting deaths of Blacks, “Should not be just isolated in the Black community, but brought forward outside it.”

The tactics her group uses in accomplishing its goals are what she called “disrupting strategy”—non-violent direct action, “Shutting stuff down.” One incident occurred when BLM staged a “lie-in” on a Southern California freeway, which led to a traffic tie-up.

She noted that local church pastors have been supportive of her group, including many women pastors. “They (women) have always been part of the Civil Rights struggle,” said Abdullah, who cited women’s leadership roles as mothers and their spiritual motivations against injustice.

Abdullah has called for changes in American policing, more access to the Los Angeles Police Commission by the Black community and the firing of Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. She called the LAPD “the deadliest police force in the country,” citing 20 shootings that allegedly occurred at the hands of its officers.

The activist also noted the student protests and its success at Missouri State University, which forced its White president to resign in the wake of his inaction in the face of on-campus racism. She praised gang interventionists for helping reduce gang violence in the city and praised White allies to BLM who help create a buffer to protect the activists from hostile counter protesters.

“We’re just people joining to stand up and continue the struggle (against oppression),” said Abdullah who explained that the group’s name resulted from a letter she received after she and three other women formed a Justice For Trayvon Martin group; the letter ended with the line, “Black Lives Matter” and the name stuck.

BLM also protested the police shooting death of 18-year-old African American Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., which resulted in demonstrations and civil disturbances. The group was also involved in the disruption of a meeting at the Holman United Methodist Church in the West Adams District of Los Angeles.

Abdullah alleged that Mayor Eric Garcetti “went around [circumvented] the (Black) community, ailed to inform Black Lives Matter" and met with the local pastors.

The disruption of the Oct. 19 gathering, which caused so much controversy and prompted calls for an apology from BLM to the Holman pastor and the church. The incident came as a result of efforts (on the part of some at the meeting) to take a microphone her. Abdullah said someone decided she exceeded a time limit established at the event.