Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
Growing up as a small girl in East Oakland, my family and community raised me and compelled me to be a part of the movement. I was taught by my elementary school teacher mother, organized with my union-carpenter father, learned the power of Black art as resistance from my playwright teacher Baba and imbued the vital importance of one’s faith from my grandparents.
As a student in Berkeley High’s Black Studies Department, my teacher, Mr. Navies, steeped us in our culture and power, even as our neighborhoods were ravaged by the crack cocaine epidemic and accompanying violence and police abuse. My time at Howard University shaped me into a student activist, and after moving to Los Angeles for graduate school, I earned my place in the Black activist community. It was as a fully grown Black mother in 2013, that I came to know Black freedom struggle as my sacred duty and life’s purpose.
When Trayvon Martin’s murder was acquitted on July 13, 2013, I was one of thousands who flooded the streets. We shut down and blocked major neighborhoods and roadways over the course of three days. On the third day, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors called us together to build “a movement, not a moment.” Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles was birthed as the first, largest and one of the most active chapters in the global formation. We stepped into our own power, and over the course of the last eight years, we challenged everyone from Hollywood to corporations and politicians to affirm that “Black lives matter.”
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) rallying cry took tangible form in 2021, in the name of George Floyd, as BLM Los Angeles led efforts that defunded $150 million from LAPD and pressured the mayor to pledge $250 million to the Black community. We worked with community organizations and leaders to remove school police from public schools and invested nearly $100 million in Black student resources.
Beyond Los Angeles, BLM solidified its organizing under BLM Grassroots to work toward an abolitionist vision across all local communities. #DefundThePolice and #ReImaginePublicSafety became our clarion calls that envisioned communities and neighborhoods free of police, prisons and jails.
Our Black Survival Fund has worked to provide millions of dollars into the hands of Black people suffering amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and launched #VerifiedBlackOwned to support Black-owned businesses.
Through BLM’s Political Action Committee, we activated millions of voters to elect progressive candidates and helped oust Donald Trump. And through BLM’s Global Network Foundation, we provided $26 million in funding to Black-led revolutionary organizations around the nation and partnered with Love Not Blood to resource the tremendous organizing work of families directly impacted by police violence.
We continue to build towards radical and transformative policy. In California, we co-sponsored the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Bill to reform our criminal system to protect instead of harm Black lives. We continue to push visionary federal legislation like the BREATHE Act and the People’s Response Act to set a precedent for public safety where all communities can thrive.
Yet, even as the movement grows, unjust systems continue to dig in its heels, attempting to increase police budgets, criminalize houselessness and poverty, erode voting rights and assault protestors.
This is why we remain steadfast in our commitment to topple oppressive systems and build a future that is fit for generations to come. Black liberation and complete freedom is our vision. It is certain to be realized when we struggle together and unceasingly for it. As we celebrate the victories of the last eight years, let our wins and the unrelenting will of our people propel us forward. Eight years of Black Lives Matter and many more to go.
Dr. Melina Abdullah is Professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Abdullah was among the original group of organizers that convened to form Black Lives Matter. She continues to serve as a Los Angeles chapter lead and co-director of BLM Grassroots.