Melina Abdullah

© Image Copyright : Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Gage Skidmore

Overview

  • Socialist
  • Former chairwoman of the Pan African Studies department at California State University
  • Founding organizer and leader of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in Los Angeles
  • Supported Jussie Smollett when he was charged with a felony for having filed a false police report
  • Supports abolition of the police

Describing herself as a “pan-Africanist” and a “womanist,” Melina Abdullah is a tenured professor and former chairwoman 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 founding organizer 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, a self-proclaimed Trotskyist, and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. 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. 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 man 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.

Abdullah is a socialist. On June 12, 2017 she tweeted: “I’m down with dismantling capitalism. Until then, can we move our money outta the banks that finance our oppression?”

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.”

In January 2019, Abdullah and fellow leftists across the United States reacted with instant, horrified outrage when media outlets nationwide reported that Empire television actor Jussie Smollett, an openly gay African American, was claiming that he had just been the victim of a downtown Chicago hate crime perpetrated by two white men who had assaulted him, poured bleach on him, draped a rope around his neck, and shouted “This is MAGA country,” along with a variety of anti-black and anti-gay slurs. But less than three weeks after Smollett had first reported the alleged attack against him, it was clear that the actor’s tale was a fabrication, and that he himself had orchestrated the entire incident in order to gain publicity and to discredit President Trump and his supporters. On February 21, 2019, Smollett was charged with a felony for having filed a false police report. Smollett’s criminal trial began on November 29, 2019. Once the jury began its deliberations on December 8, Abdullah issued the following statement about the trial:

“As abolitionists, we approach situations of injustice with love and align ourselves with our community. Because we got us. So let’s be clear: we love everybody in our community. It’s not about a trial or a verdict decided in a white supremacist charade, it’s about how we treat our community when corrupt systems are working to devalue their lives. In an abolitionist society [with no police or prisons], this trial would not be taking place, and our communities would not have to fight and suffer to prove our worth. Instead, we find ourselves, once again, being forced to put our lives and our value in the hands of judges and juries operating in a system that is designed to oppress us, while continuing to face a corrupt and violent police department, which has proven time and again to have no respect for our lives.

“In our commitment to abolition, we can never believe police, especially the Chicago Police Department (CPD) over Jussie Smollett, a Black man who has been courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom. While policing at-large is an irredeemable institution, CPD is notorious for its long and deep history of corruption, racism, and brutality. From the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, to the Burge tortures, to the murder of Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up, to the hundreds of others killed by Chicago police over the years and the thousands who survived abuse, Chicago police consistently demonstrate that they are among the worst of the worst. Police lie and Chicago police lie especially.

“Black Lives Matter will continue to work towards the abolition of police and every unjust system. We will continue to love and protect one another, and wrap our arms around those who do the work to usher in Black freedom and, by extension, freedom for everyone else.”

Abdullah also tweeted on December 8, 2021: “As they move in to closing arguments in the #JussieSmollettTrial, we must courageously love and protect one another and always remember that POLICE LIE. We love you Jussie!”

On December 9, 2021, a jury convicted Smollett on five of six counts of staging the attack on himself nearly three years earlier.

For additional information on Melina Abdullah, click here.

Further Reading: “Melina Abdullah” (Twitter.com and LinkedIn.com); “California State Professor Brings Her 7-Year-Old to Lecture the Los Angeles Police Department” (The Daily Wire, 5-12-2017); “These Savvy Women Have Made Black Lives Matter the Most Crucial Left-Wing Movement Today” (L.A. Weekly, 11-9-2015); “The Politics of Occupy Oakland: A Marxist Viewpoint (by John Reimann, 2-1-2012); “Ben Shapiro Speech ‘Brutalized’ Students at California State, Professor Says” (Washington Times, 5-27-2016); “California State Professor: If You Don’t ‘Bank Black, You Are Funding White Supremacy’” (The Daily Wire, 6-18-2017); Reports regarding incidents of 8-11-201510-20-20155-17-2016, and 8-15- 2017; “Black Lives Matter: Boycott White Businesses for ‘BlackXMas’” (TruthRevolt.org, 11-29-2017).

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