Dr. Melina Abdullah, scholar and co-founder of the Los Angeles Chapter of Black Lives Matter, has been chosen as Prairie View A&M University’s (PVAMU) inaugural Activist-In-Residence for the 2021-2022 academic year. The Activist-in-Residence will be charged with teaching students more about their power as change agents in society.
The news comes almost a year and a half after PVAMU President Ruth J. Simmons wrote a letter to the university community following George Floyd’s unlawful murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Among Simmons’ four suggestions to “advance understanding of the impact of discrimination on the health of the country” included the establishment of a Center for Race and Justice. This came to fruition as the Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Justice. Another suggestion was creating an Activist-in-Residence position, which would bring individuals to campus who have made a difference in casting light on or solving systemic social problems.
Melanye Price, the Simmons Center’s first director, had the pleasure of choosing who would fill the position. She was already sold on Abdullah, but when she learned in conversation that Abdullah’s grandmother was a Prairie View A&M graduate, “it seemed like fate,” she said.
“For me, Prairie View connects me with her legacy,” said Abdullah, who currently serves as a professor of Pan-African Studies and immediate past Department Chair at California State University, Los Angeles. “My heart soars at the thought of walking the campus that nurtured and affirmed the Black-woman-brilliance of my family’s matriarch, who, even in 1932, was empowered to step fully into her intellect, her wit, her humor and her love for our people.”
“ I hope to tie them to the long history of the Black freedom struggle, to expose them to justice warriors who walked before them, to deepen their sense of ‘linked fate,’ to give them tools that enable them to do meaningful work in the world,
Originally from Oakland, California, Abdullah’s college career began with a bachelor’s from Howard University in African American Studies. Later, she earned her master’s and doctorate from the University of Southern California in Political Science.
A leading expert on race, gender, class, and social movements, Abdullah is among the original group of organizers who convened to form Black Lives Matter. She has contributed to numerous popular media outlets, The Root and the Los Angeles Times to MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN and Revolt. She is the creator, host, and producer of Move the Crowd and co-host and co-producer of Beautiful Struggle, both of which air on 90.7FM KPFK radio.
“As my grandmother’s spirit dances, so, too, does Sandra Bland’s spirit whisper to me,” Abdullah said in response. “As a Black Lives Matter organizer who will become the first activist-in-residence at Sandra Bland’s alma mater, I hope to inspire a generation of students to continue to struggle for justice in her name, to allow Sandy to ‘speak’ through their justice work. I look forward to grounding students in a tradition that ties intellectual work to justice struggle. I hope to tie them to the long history of the Black freedom struggle, to expose them to justice warriors who walked before them, to deepen their sense of ‘linked fate,’ to give them tools that enable them to do meaningful work in the world, to inspire them to bring their gifts and talents to the charge of Black liberation, and to deepen their understanding of and commitment to this movement moment.”