Every seat in the Sol Price School of Public Policy auditorium on Thursday evening was covered with a paper that said, “Two students were called ‘n—gger’ today.” The flyers, which referenced two incidents of bias that had flared up on campus in recent days, were part of a panel discussion on the status of the Black Lives Matter movement and its role following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.
The panelists included Lisa Hines, the mother of a woman who died while in LAPD custody; Melina Abdullah, a professor of pan-African studies at California State University, Los Angeles; Pete White, founder of the Los Angeles Community Action Network; and Nyallah Noah, a sophomore majoring in popular music and a member of Black Lives Matter LA. The event was moderated by LaMikia Castillo, an adjunct professor at the Price School.
Trump has long been accused of racism by activists due to his encouragement of stricter policing as well as support he has received from white supremacists like the Ku Klux Klan. Over the past several days, claims of racist acts carried out by his supporters have appeared across the nation. Noah expressed her astonishment at the continuing racism around the country and her realization of the necessity of movements such as Black Lives Matter movement.
“The reality is that this country isn’t that open-minded and that there’s a lot of hatred around this country that was suppressed during the Obama era that is finally coming out,” Noah said. “Just as we want to see change, they want to see their type of change as well. That’s why this movement is so much more important now than it ever was.”
Abdullah said that a sustained movement was all the more necessary because anger at injustice couldn’t just flare up every time someone is killed, as it did during a series of highly publicized police shootings of unarmed black people across the country over the past few years.
“We have to engage in the black radical tradition,” Abdullah said. “And for me, the question is what the black radical tradition looks like now. I find the answer in Black Lives Matter, and feel that Black Lives Matter supports who I am as a black mother.”
Hines had a more personal reason for joining Black Lives Matter. Following the death of her daughter Wakiesha Wilson, who was found in a Los Angeles jail days after missing her trial in court, Hines immediately joined the movement to support other individuals facing forms of oppression.
“My daughter is not resting, and will not rest, until we get justice,” Hines said. “For me, the only way I can get justice is by being part of a movement that stands up to our oppressors. You don’t want to get involved until it happens to you, and now even though it’s for my own child that I’m fighting for, I know that it’s not all about her — it’s about all of us.”
Some of the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, White said, are to promote equality of diverse groups, to ensure the safety of black people across the country and to decrease funding for the police. For the final goal, White rationalized the importance of using funds from police departments to instead create larger budgets for housing and other safety nets for underprivileged groups. Beyond that, however, White discussed the subliminal threat police represent through historical instances of police brutality against the black community.
“Police are not just slave catchers — at every point in history, they were used to oppress any movement that attempted to create greater equity,” White said. “That’s why a big goal of Black Lives Matter is to decrease funding for the police — because at a certain point, the police are no longer keeping us safe.”
Abdullah added that one of the best ways to support the movement is to show up.
“Yes, we do need financial support among other kinds of support,” Abdullah said. “But beyond that, we need your skills — whatever you can bring to the table — whether it’s singing, dancing or just being present. That’s the most important thing we need from our black supporters and our allies in general: just be present, and that’ll make us that much stronger.”