Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) has announced that scholar and co-founder of the Los Angeles Chapter of Black Lives Matter, Melina Abdullah, will be the university’s inaugural Activist-In-Residence for the 2021-2022 academic year.
At PVAMU, Activist-In-Residence is a position brought out to teach students more about their power as change agents in society. The news of Abdullah’s new positions comes almost a year and half after PVAMU President, Ruth J. Simmons, wrote his letter to the university after the unlawful murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. In it, Simmons suggested to “advance [the] understanding of the impact of discrimination on the health of the country”.
Melanye Price, first director of Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Justice, had the distinct honor of choosing Abdullah to fill this position. She states that after making her decision, she learned that Abdullah’s grandmother was a Prairie View A&M graduate making the position “seem like fate.”
Abdullah, who is currently serving as a professor of Pan-African Studies and immediate past department chair at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), stated that “for me, Prairie View connects me with her [grandmother’s] legacy. My heart soars at the thought of walking the campus that nurtured and affirmed the Black-woman-brilliance of family’s matriarch, who, even in 1932, was empowered to step fully into her intellect with her humor and her love for our people.”
Abdullah continued with, “[My grandmother] stepped into who she was as an educator, pledged our beloved sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, developed lifelong friendships, and received an education that would benefit not only herself and her family, but an entire community.”
An Oakland native, Abdullah’s college career began with a Bachelor’s degree from Howard University in African American Studies. She then earned her Master’s and Doctorate degrees from the University of Southern California (USC) in Political Science.
Abdullah is a leading expert on race, gender, class, and social movements. She is among the original group of organizers to form Black Lives Matter. Also, she is the creator, host, and producer of Move the Crowd and co-host and co-producer of Beautiful Struggle, both radio shows on 90.7FM KPFK radio.
In addition, she is a leader in the fight for ethnic studies in K-12 and university systems, and played a large part in the historic victor of making it a requirement in the Los Angeles Unified School District (2014) and California State University System (2020).
The role of Activist-In-Residence only adds to the impressive list of credentials that Abdullah has created for herself through the years. In a final statement about her new position, Abdullah states:
“As my grandmother’s spirit dances, so, too, does Sandra Bland’s spirit whisper to me. 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.”