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Who Is Melina Abdullah? Cornel West VP Running Mate Revealed

The 10th anniversary Black Lives Matter Festival

At the 10th anniversary Black Lives Matter Festival, in Leimert Park, Dr. Melina Abdullah, one of the founders of BLM, gets emotional addressing mothers whose children have been killed by police, on July 15, 2023, in Los Angeles. | Source: Jason Armond / Getty

Independent presidential candidate Cornel West looked to his familiar worlds of academia and activism when he named his vice presidential running mate candidate on Wednesday.

Using a virtual press event moderated by pundit Tavis Smiley, West revealed that he had selected noted scholar and original Black Lives Matter (BLM) leader Dr. Melina Abdullah to join him on what is now the first-ever all-Black presidential ticket.

West called Abdullah — a co-founder of BLM Los Angeles who is also a professor and former chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles — “one of the great freedom fighters of her generation.”

Presidential candidate Dr. Cornel West Speaks At Church

Presidential candidate Dr. Cornel West speaks to the community and congregation at Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana on March 29, 2024. | Source: MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images / Getty

Abdullah, 51, said her candidacy with West, 70, also made for the first presidential ticket to include a Muslim and credited “divine timing” for her selection as West’s running mate.

Referencing her faith, Abdullah noted that Wednesday is Eid, “the holiest day for Muslims.”

West, a faculty member at Union Theological Seminary, is a noted Christian.

Watch the press event below.

Abdullah described West’s phone call asking her to be his running mate as being completely unexpected and “the furthest thing from my mind.”

Abdullah’s candidacy was celebrated in prepared statements posted to West’s campaign website.

“At this historic and pivotal moment, it is my profound honor to stand alongside my dear sister, Dr. Melina Abdullah, a fierce and tireless advocate for truth, justice, and transformative change,” West said. “Sister Melina’s incredible courage, keen intellect, and deep vision have greatly served the cause of liberation in education, worker rights, and both racial and gender justice. Her unique Black analysis and witness helps us confront our crumbling era of empire, white supremacy, and patriarchy. I look forward to working with her as we strengthen our commitment in our campaign for truth, justice and love!”

Abdullah expressed the urgency of her candidacy with West.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to join Dr. Cornel West as his Vice Presidential candidate at this critical moment as we work together for transformative change. This campaign offers a real vision for the world that stands in opposition to oppressive forces and holds fast to the universal principles of truth, justice, and love,” Abdullah said. “As we work arm-in-arm with justice-loving people everywhere, we reimagine and work to build a world that chooses goodwill over greed, courage over cowardice, and liberation over exploitation. Together, we are igniting a movement to not only dismantle harmful systems, but establish the firm foundations of a just, nurturing, and free world.”

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Who is Dr. Melina Abdullah?

From Abdullah’s bio on Cal State LA’s website:

Professor Abdullah is a womanist scholar-activist – understanding the role that she plays in the academy as intrinsically linked to broader struggles for the liberation of oppressed people. Professor Abdullah is a leader in the fight for Ethnic Studies in the K-12 and university systems and was a part of the historic victory that made Ethnic Studies a requirement in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She was among the original group of organizers that convened to form Black Lives Matter and continues to serve as a Los Angeles chapter lead and contributes to the national leadership. She is co-host and co-producer of the weekly radio program Beautiful Struggle, which airs on KPFK, part of the Pacifica radio network. Dr. Abdullah also serves on boards for the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA), California Faculty Association-Los Angeles, Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA-CAN), National Association for Ethnic Studies, Reverence-Wellness Salon, and Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE).

Abdullah was among the small, hand-picked group of BLM executives who led the social justice activism group following the departure of co-founder Patrisse Cullors in 2021 after heightened scrutiny over the organization’s finances. In particular, Abdullah, Cullors and co-founder Alicia Garza were all named in a New York Magazine article that claimed BLM used donations from supporters to purchase the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s home based in Southern California, a sprawling 6,500 square-foot Los Angeles-area compound. The $6 million property was created as a hub for Black filmmakers, musicians and artists to come together and “foster creativity,” but its purchase invited a partisan backlash that prompted Cullors’ resignation.

In a statement at the time, Cullors referred to Abdullah as “BLM Grassroots Co-Director” and “an original member of BLM and co-founder of its first chapter in Los Angeles.”

Cullors has vehemently denied the allegations.

“I have never misappropriated funds, and it pains me that so many people have accepted that narrative without the presence of tangible truth or facts,” she wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post.

A few months after Cullors stepped down, Abdullah was targeted with a series of “swatting” — a form of harassment that sends a law enforcement response team into someone else’s home. Often mischaracterized as a kind of prank, “swatting” incidents are dangerous and can lead to deadly results.

The second such instance came one day after Abdullah filed a lawsuit accusing the LAPD of having a disproportionate response to the first “swatting” incident months earlier.

The first reported the first incident involved police forcing Abdullah and her children out of their home at gunpoint. In 2020, an estimated 20 LAPD officers in complete tactical gear surrounded Abdullah’s house with guns drawn, terrorizing her and her children amid racial justice protests and demands for police accountability.

“This underscores why we continue to loudly say #DefundThePolice and #ReimaginePublicSafety,” Abdullah said at the time. “If indeed, there were a medical emergency, paramedics should have been the ones to respond, not police, who came to the house of a neighbor approximately an hour later to ‘check on me.’”

That same year, the husband of then-Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Jacey was shown on a video pulling a gun on Abdullah during a protest in front of their home.

“Get off!” David Lacey can be seen telling people off-camera while pointing a handgun directly at them, aiming from side to side.

“Good morning,” Abdullah can be heard saying.

“Get off of my porch!” David Lacey says with his gun aimed steadily.

“Are you going to shoot me?” Abdullah asks incredulously.

“I will shoot you,” he said. “Get off of my porch!”

“Can you tell Jackie Lacey that we’re here?” Abdullah asks in an even-toned voice, clearly undeterred.

“I don’t care who you are,” David Lacey says, finally lowering his gun to his right side. “Get off of my porch! Right now!”

He then threatened to call the police while raising his gun back in an aiming position.

Watch the troubling video below.

Cornel West’s candidacy

West kicked off his presidential campaign last June when he announced he was seeking the People’s Party nomination.

“I enter in the quest for truth, I enter in the quest for justice, and the presidency is just one vehicle to pursue that truth and justice — what I’ve been trying to do all of my life,” West said.

Not two weeks later, West announced that he was switching to the Green Party, a declaration that he said at the time was in “the spirit of a broad United Front and coalition strategy.”

Fewer than four months later, West declared himself an independent candidate.

Now, West has his running mate.

Known for his intellectual activism, West has had an illustrious career in the education sector. He has taught at Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Pepperdine University and the University of Paris. He also hosted a radio show with talk show host Smiley from 2010 to 2013.

In 2008, West endorsed Barack Obama during his run for president, but would later retract his support in 2011 for Obama’s centrist ideals. In 2016 and 2020 West supported and campaigned for Bernie Sanders. Once Sanders was defeated by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, West turned his support toward Green Party nominee Jill Stein.


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