Dr. Melina AbdullahIm The Lion of BLM
What if you own bug them to another edition of Toray show? Dr Molina, Abdullah is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. She's one of the original members of black lives matter. She was there that first night that Patrisse Cullors call people to join her for a strategy session that was about creating a movement in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Dr Bella is a fierce activist who's considered the staunchest and most public critic of the LAPD she's a professor and the chair of the department of pan African studies at cow state in LA, and she's a woman of fear strength, deep wisdom and profound love who inspires her students and her friends to see her as a mother figure recently, Dr Bella was in serious legal jeopardy. The LAPD arrested her for assaulting a police officer of. She was alleged to have touched an officer's arm. She faced years in prison. And when you're the LAPD's biggest critic you can't expect to get a fair shake in a situation. Like that. You've got to -ticipant the system trying to silence you, but Dr Billah has a huge community behind her people who love her in a profound way, and they rallied on her behalf and all sorts of ways, and because of intense public pressure. The charges were dropped we started there. It's doctor Melina Abdullah on Toray show. You recently came through a bit of a fire. You had a. It as where the cop said that you had. Hint one of them or touched one of them and you faced a year or more in prison and the charges ended up getting dropped. But I'm sure it was extremely frightening. Just to even be in that situation. Can you give us your overview of what happened? Sure. So they didn't allege that. I hit anybody what they charged me with his battery, which the legal definition is any unwanted touching. So the only allegation came from a single officer. I was surrounded by, you know, at least ten officers and a single officer says that I touched his arm in the midst of kind of this chaos that was happening inside of L A police commission. I didn't even touch his arm. But that's what the initial charge was what they did with the police. Try to do is then tack on seven additional counts. And so I was looking at if the counts were concurrent, it could have been up to three and a half years if or is that right consecutive, it would have been three and a half years if they were concurrent it was a year. But thankfully, you know, we were organizers, and so people understood that the reason I was being prosecuted was because I'm an organizer. And so that this wasn't just about descending on me as an individual. But it was really kind of the criminalization of black protests. And so I'm really appreciative of the community. Tens of thousands of folks signed a petition there were thousands of folks who sent in letters made phone calls daily phone. Calls the city attorney's office, and then at least two hundred people showed up to every single court date that I had in. We believe that. That's why the charges were dropped along with having a really stellar legal team that volunteered their services to get me off. And so I am relieved. Always that. You said I must have been frightened. I always tell my children. I'm not scared of anything. I tell my people. I'm not scared of anything, but I was concerned up -solutely concerns. So do you read this because you are known? In in LA, at least with if not the rest of the nation as one of the most effective most passionate critics of the LAPD d you look at this as targeting as let's get Molina. Let's put some fear in her maybe make her shut up maybe put her in jail, something it was absolutely targeting. In fact, the officer who says I touched him said exactly your words, he said getting Malina, so they were absolutely targeting me. But I think more than just me it was about a movement. I'm actually the third black organizer to be charged inside a police commission in the last couple of years. Another black lives matter member was charged before me, and he was actually went to trial his name as a key Lee. And he actually went to trial on his case and before him. There was a brother. Named Jeff page general Jeff who organizes around police brutality as well. And he was charged. What's interesting is none of our white allies or non black allies have ever been charged with a crime. They might be pulled out of police commission meeting. They might be even arrested on rare occasion. But they're never charged. One of the counts that I was charged on our one of the days. I was charged on I was actually arrested with two white allies to white women allies and for the exact same action. I was charged but those two white women were not charged. So I mean, when you know a lot of 'em, you know, that this attempt to criminalize protest is part of the resistance to be a limb that occasionally as would have seemed to target people and make it so that their legal situation is such. That they can't protest for for a little while because they had to get out of their legal morass. I mean. God. The ways that they use to try to silence. You guys is insane. Yeah. I mean, and it's really like when you think about back away from the situation kind of take a hawk side view of it. All right. So if we think about what's happening, they're killing black people with impunity officers are not charged. They're not prosecuted for murdering our people. Right. Most of the time. They remain on the same force that they committed these murders with we have officers at LAPD who've committed to three or four murders, and there's no disciplinary action, and there's no legal action against them. And then when black people say stop killing us that becomes the criminal act. And so it's an absolutely insane system. But it's also not different from what we've experienced from our entire time in this country. If you think about, you know, protests again. Chattel slavery. Right. How what was the harshest punishment meted out against black and slaved folks, it was when we dared to stand up against the system of chattel slavery. If we think about the first lynching era, right? And the way in which women like either be wells and Mary church to rela the black club women were targeted with IB. Wells, you know, home office burned down, right? It was her speaking up against lynching, civil rights black power the same thing so this targeting and criminalization of black protests is nothing new, but it is something that we need to see a huge injustice and something that we need to resist. It should make us redouble our efforts and continue to struggle for the freedom of our people have when you were in custody for a few hours on this arrest were you treated fairly. No, absolutely not. And I think that was part of their attempt to. Intimidate me. I was arrested along with the aunt of wacky show Wilson Sheila Heinz Brehme. So the chaos that was happening in the room that day was because she la- Heinz Brehme is alleged to have will now she's already been through her own court battle thrown the ashes of her niece wacky show Wilson into the face of the ousted police chief, Charlie Beck. And so we were both arrested at the same time. I didn't know what had happened because I was just entering the room. And I didn't see any of this win. They arrested me I was really trying to see what was happening trying to come to the defense of sister Sheila 'cause we try to protect the families as much as possible. Although she lose a really strong woman probably doesn't need our protection. But we were in community together. I was shocked when we were put into these. Holding rooms that the people who came to see me were homicide. Detectives and that was troubling to me I've been arrested many times out of police commission in the midst of protests, I've been arrested before but never have I been interrogated I was taken into a room called the hard interrogation room. We were separated, and I was taken into a hard interrogation room, and I was interrogated by two homicide officers which has never happened before. And so that did bring some alarm I was concerned that I was being arrested for something that was much more than protest. What else happened when you're in custody that was in appropriate illegal meant to intimidate? I mean, they were clearly trying to get me to buy into this narrative that protest is something that shouldn't happen. And is something that's a legal. So those officers kind of they interrogated me for many hours. And so they even though I've been arrested before I did break down a little bit. And they kept asking me. Well, you know, don't chew think that you should just be quiet. Don't you think? And I didn't know how I was going to get myself out of that situation when we were finally booked into the jail the jail that we're booked into his the same jail where they killed wacky Wilson. And so it was for me. It was difficult. I've been booked into that jail before but she la- Hines hasn't. And so the bigger. Issue for me is how does her aunt feel being booked into the jail. Were her niece was murdered. And I just feel that that is, you know, it's it's psychological. It's a it's it's it's an attempt to really kind of retraumatize both of us, but especially her, and so I was especially concerned about that. They kept us much longer than they normally do initially. They said they weren't going to release us. They were holding. I think on fifty thousand dollars bail or something like that. And we couldn't muster that kind the kind of money they were talking about. But there was so much pressure that we were both released on our. And so that was you know, good at the time. Again, we didn't know that they were going to tack on these additional counts for my case. So I didn't know what I was facing. It was actually the period after coming out of jail that I was most. Concerned when we went to court that first date when instead of one charge it was eight charges. I understood that the first charge was one that I could beat because there's video evidence, right? I could show that I hadn't committed battery on an officer. I didn't know how I was going to beat eight charges, and I think the lesson in this is we always have to organize. We always have to fight. Don't let them intimidate us into silence. And so that's kind of what I've learned from this is that the fight, especially if it's righteous right? If it's a righteous fight, you gotta keep fighting. And I think we're on the eve March twenty seventh is the anniversaries the three year anniversary of wacky show Wilson's murder. And so I'm a strong believer that the work that we do is also spiritual work and quiches spirit is all up in this. And she wasn't going to let her aunt go down or me. Go. Down. And so that's also a reminder to us that there are forces that we can always see working. Are there other ways that you see the police are following you intimidating you trying to democrat you pulling you over the highway these sorts of things are parking outside your house, or are there other things they're doing all the time? I mean, we rarely see there was I live not close to a freeway exit. Not where you know, the highway patrol would be sitting in front of my house, but they're constantly sitting in front of my house. There have been marked cars and unmarked cars. There's only one way in one way out of my street kind of did ended and there's always cars parked marked. And unmarked police cars part there. We did try to get some. Records through PR a request. They were denied. So we're not quite sure what's happening with that. But we know that we're being monitored. We know that we're being surveilled police constantly say, they're, you know, even you know, flying to different cities just a few months ago. I was flying into DC. And there was a DOJ agent who I never introduced myself to who told me, I know who you are and police constantly try to tell us not just me, but several of us call us by name when we don't know who those officers are. And I think that those are all intimidation tactics. You know, they like to let us know that they're watching it. I'm sure that there's other ways that they're watching in surveilling and monitoring that were not always aware of so. Yeah, we know that that's happening. I know that you are selfless. Within this realm. But you are a mother of three children I have three children yet. And you're also one of the mothers of the movement. There's a lot of people who look to you to lead the organization and lead the organizing. So is there is there a fear that something will happen to you that would make life harder for all these other people who are relying on you. So I don't have fear. You know, there's a saying you're in faith can't occupy the same space, and I'm a faithful person, and I know that I speak a lot in spiritual terms, but I believe in a creator. I believe in ancestors, I believe that as long as we move righteously that I'm divinely protected, and I know that that didn't protect some folks who were taken out in this movement. Right. But I believe. And my children are very aware of what I do might children are organizers themselves. My oldest daughter is, you know, the lead of the black lives matter used vanguard, one of the leads of the black lives matter, youth, vanguard and beyond the spiritual connections fearful protection, I think we all understand that we've developed really strong relationships in loving relationships within our community so organizations from, you know, the Brown berets to the nation of Islam to, you know, a key Lee who I call baba, right? Are there to protect me? And I understand that. I know that you know, my people that I'm in community with are there to protect me as well. And so I'm not afraid, and I believe in living a life of purpose. And I believe that this work is my calling and so I'll continue to do the work in. No cop or white supremacist or anybody else's going to shake me from doing the work. It's really inspiring wear in your life going back further wearing your life does this courage. And this this faith in faith. Come from who are the people or or what are the experiences that led you to this current state of I am not afraid? I am going forward. No matter what. I got it from. My mother is absolutely fearless. My mother, you know, she she's everything. And you know, if I can do work that honors her if I can do work that honors my grandmother, and my great grandmother, and you know, all of my maternal line. You know, I think about I carry the middle name of the first person in my family to be brought here as an enslaved person. My great, great great. Great grandmother, Rachel, and I think about what it must have been for her. And so any any danger that I face is nothing compared to that. Right. It's nothing compared to what our ancestors went through. I was always raised to believe. My my I grew up across the street from my grandpa, and he called me as all right? And I was always raised to believe that. I was special, and you know, that we were all special, and that we all had a calling, and, you know, just keep doing the work. That's the whole point. There's nothing to be afraid of grandpa, he trained all of our all the grandkids were taught to swim. Now, he didn't teach me this way. But all the other grandkids were taught this way by throwing them off a boat and making them swim back to the boat. And they all did. Nobody drowned. Right. And I think that was also a lesson though, encourage right grandpa, always taught us to be courageous not be afraid of the lizards. Like, the girls we catch lizards, and snakes and all that stuff too. Right. So I've never been afraid. And I think I'm becoming more conscious of the need to reject fear. And that's what I teach my children as well. To reject. Fear. Fear is now. Sound like Will Smith right fear is a choice. Danger is real but fear is a choice. So. Yeah. You told me great story once that I want you to tell the folks about when you were occupying the LAPD headquarters and was your son wanted to go to the bathroom, and he had to sort of stand down stand up to this cop following what you taught him. Yeah. Yes. So we also, you know, the kind of idea of courage is also rooted in spirituality, so we're meditators my family, we meditate daily, and my son who I believe he was he had to be four the time. Maybe five. It was the first quote unquote accusation, we now, call them decolonization. But I keep pation of the black lives matter movement. We had taken over LAPD hit quarters, and we were demanding Justice for easel Ford. And it's a public building. APA course quarters is a public building. That's open twenty four hours a day. And so my son who was a little boy, it he was still for he needed to use the restroom, and we had been kind of going in and out using the restroom and this officer is this was a middle of the night because it was a twenty four seven encampment. We walk in this officer, this really tall was well over six feet officers stands in front of us and tells us we can't use the restroom, and he looks at my son any puts his hand on his gun. And. You know, it's still every time. I say that part it makes me emotional because I just think about how could you right? And my son. Brings us all down. He sits on the floor at the officers feet. And it crosses his legs. You know, criss cross applesauce and puts his fingertips together. And he begins to go meditate at the feet of this officer. And it totally like re-centred us. And he wasn't able you know, the I don't know what it did to the officer. But for us all of the anxiety and fear in a motion kind of dissipated. And we were watching this little boy know exactly what to do, you know? And so I think that for me was one of the pivotal moments of be eleven but also of being his name is on men of being amends, mama. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So pull bekker's I can do you think that the LAPD is reform little or is it policing in general that is the problem? Both LAPD is reform -able, however, those reforms or not going to save our lives. So those reforms might reduce the killings of our people at the hands of police, but it's not gonna save all of us. And so, you know, we've been talking a lot in the movement about the difference between a victory and Justice. So we just wanna victory last week LAPD officers who murdered GRA sharia MAC inside the Crenshaw ball when hills mall the blackball without even bothering to evacuate them all before they poured seven shots into the back of this man was having a mental health episode, right? Those officers were found to be out of policy by the police commission that sets it up. So the officers can be fired by the police chief and prosecuted by the DA the DA can prosecute regardless of outcome. The truth is so that was a victory. We had to fight for that. There were only they're only been four occasions in the almost six-year existence of be Elim where LAPD his found that the officers were out of policy. So this was a victory. It was a huge fight. And it was a huge win. However LAPD is still killing people. Right. And so we can look at reform we can say will they kill less people and twenty eighteen and they didn't twenty seventeen and they killed less people in twenty seventeen and twenty sixteen but until the killings of our people stops, you know, it's not Justice. And so we need an end to violence at the hands of police in the only way to do that is to really kind of Dopp an abolitionist frame, and I know people go, wait. What does that mean? How are we going to be safe without police? Well, I think that for black. Folks, we need to think about how police treat us, right? It doesn't mean the end of public safety. What it means is the end of policing as we know it. And so when we look at most major cities spending upwards of fifty percent of their city's budget on police, harass or veil, brutalizing kill our people and feed a prison system that further traumatizes in decimates our community, then we need to think about other options. I love some of the work that show way on our members. Doing Jackson Mississippi some of the work that razz Barack is doing a Newark where they're taking money back from policing, what our community solutions to public safety. What if we gave people maybe even formerly incarcerated people jobs to create safe communities, and you're seeing crime go down as a result. So I think we have to be more creative. We have to stop saying. Ng that we need to invest in a system that evolves from slave catching and people always say that's an extremist thing to say. But I encourage folks to read books read books like city of inmates by Kelly Lytle, Hernandez, right that talks about the history of policing in jails where we know that yesterday's slave patrols today's police forces, and those are not reform -able institutions, we need other public safety systems. And so that's what we want to encourage people to do. That's how we get to Justice not just these kind of measurable victories that don't mean that any of us are really free. So just back for one thing when you say abolitionist, you mean, you want to see the the end of the Imada American police force. Absolutely. And I think that when we think about the term. Term abolition people think about the end of something. But they don't think about the ways in which abolitionists like most people when you say abolition, they think about the abolition the end of chattel slavery. Right. They don't think about abolitionist is just as not only ending the system of chattel slavery, but building towards Freda abolition means two things abolition means ending oppressive systems that exist, but also imagining and building new systems, and so yes, I mean an end to policing as we know it. I also mean the development of creative and beneficial systems of public safety, your what would. I wanna say what would replace policing. But then that would be the same thing. But do you foresee civilian patrols like what would there not be a need for something in its place? So we don't have all the answers to everything. But I can give you a couple of examples. Right. So I mentioned GRA sharia Mack who was murdered inside the Crenshaw having a mental health episode. Why would we call LAPD on someone who is not armed with any illegal thing? Right. He was alleged to have been holding a kitchen knife, not attacking or threatening anybody but holding a kitchen knife. Right. Why would we call LAPD come in with what one witness called every gun blazing? Right. Why wouldn't we have a mental health team that could come out and talk to GRA sharia about what's happening with him? Why wouldn't we give him the? Space that he said he needed. He said just leave me alone. Why wouldn't we give him time and space to settle himself? Right. That's an example of public safety and other example of public safety's when I first moved to an area of Los Angeles. Call Lamar park there were these I always wondered why are all these old people sitting out on their porches in the morning. Well, the neighborhood had organized itself working class neighborhood. So that the grandparents sat out on the porch from seven AM to about eight thirty every morning watching the children walked to school, and it made the children's walked to school safe. Why can't we think of creative things like that? When we think about the things that most people call police force police for there's a study out of UC Berkeley that says upwards of ninety percent of those calls are calls where we really don't need police. It's nuisance calls. It's people calling police because their neighbors playing the radio out to lower reviewing in the wrong place, right barbecue becky's way. Why don't we learn to say if your neighbors playing the radio too loud, you can get up and go knock on their door and say, you know, what the baby trying to sleep. Do you mind turning down the radio, you know, we don't need police coming in and possibly killing someone because of something that we could handle just by developing stronger community ties or you, okay? Just to push the point one more step. I mean that is not going to work when you have a criminal organization that is selling drugs or doing whatever the mafia does or any other sort of groups that organized to have a criminal operation. So what then so I don't have that answer. I don't have all the answers. I do know that we're talking about much lower than ten percent are kind of these organized crime pieces. Right. I do know that when you're talking about crime in black communities, right? The things that they say that we should be afraid of so-called gang members. I do know that most of the folks who are engaged in this kind of work in black neighborhoods. It's because they have little alternative, I do know that if we reinvested portion of that money to make sure that children there was a study out of rand which is not like some bastion of liberalism. Right. Let's say you could virtually eliminate youth crime just by having quality after school programs from three to seven pm. Right. So if we took in Los Angeles, it's fifty three percent of the city's general fund if we took some of that money. And invested it in quality after school programs. You could wipe out so-called real crime. Right. Among us, if we took some of that money and talked about, you know, livable wage jobs for folks when we talk about gang involvement, some of the things that people are doing our so called gang crime, right? These are crimes of need. Right. They they don't have livable wage jobs when you and it ties into like larger policies like people who are convicted of crimes then carrying that with them forever. So they can't get housing. They can't get food stamps. You know, they can't get another job. And so those are things that we need to think about is also public safety questions. No, you're definitely right? That the specially within the black community the police are often criminal genyk, perhaps even more so than they are preventing crime. So in an in an analysis of a question of abolition. It. We definitely are facing more from the police than from the other organizations within the community that might be trying to. Respond to their lack of options with crime. But what? So so outside of abolition in a world that accepts we may have to live with the LAPD what specific reforms new most want to see. Well, I think that the biggest one is thinking about how to divest from an over reliance on policing. So divert some of those funds into we don't have to completely eliminate LAPD tomorrow. But we do have to get that budget number down. We do have to use that budget. Number two, invest in the things that make community safe like mental health resources housing livable wage jobs after school programs diversion programs, those kinds of things I would love to see that happen. We also it took me some time to get to this position. But we also have to have accountability. So. Police who kill people absolutely have to be prosecuted for those crimes. Right. And then we also have to do away with this notion that police can justify killing people by simply saying that they're scared for their lives in California. What we're seeing is, you know, a murder after murder were even when there's recommendations for police to be prosecuted. DA's are rejecting those cases or the police are kind of beating those cases by using the I feared for my safety excuse. And so in California, we are starting to look at what we call non-reformist reforms last year. We passed a police transparency Bill which allows us to kind of see who are the problematic officers. What have they done in? What do these cases? Look like right in. In california. They were previously, you know, under this veil of secrecy. So when police killed somebody. So if we think about the murder of Liqun McDonald in Chicago, which is why we should never believe Chicago police, right? One of the reasons, right. That's a shoutout to Jesse small and. But when we think about the murder of lukewarm McDonnell, the only reason that we ever got to how they murdered the seventeen year old boy is because we were able to get the surveillance video from Burger King. Right. And then we saw at the community accounts of what happened were true. The police accounts were lies right that they murdered Kwan McDonald in cold blood in California up until the passage of this Bill that was the first cosponsored black lives matter Bill. We didn't have that. Right. So Keith Bercy, for instance, was murdered and his murder was captured on video on a from a convenience store. Video his grandmother had no right to that video. Even though it was there. And so we passed this Bill that now we can see this video evidence. We can see, you know, evidence about officers like eat in Medina who killed Jessie Romero, a fourteen year old boy for tagging and had just killed another young man in the same neighborhood. I believe it was sixteen days before. So we can start to kind of root out these especially murderous officers. What we're doing this year with our follow up. Bill is really stiffen Clarksville. Everybody will remember Stefan Clark was murdered in his grandmother's backyard last year while holding a cell phone that the police say that they mistook for. A gun bay said that they feared for their lives. And so the DA in Sacramento refuse to prosecute them. What this Bill will do assembly Bill. Three ninety two were pushing for it to pass it changes, the use of force standards. So it says that police don't get to kill people in us what they call the reasonable officer standard. Was there a reasonable fear? Instead it has to be a necessary standard. And I hate that word, but it has to be that they've exhausted all other options. So in the case of Gregorio MAC it requires the time and distance right in the case of Stefan Clark. You know, it requires that they take a pause and not murder him and his grandmother's backyard. And so that's what we're thinking of when we talk about you know, what kinds of non-reformist reforms we can institute implement. We're trying to pass legislation that does that. On the federal level. There's one more that's happening. The chair of the Congressional Black caucus Karen bass who happens to be my member of congress of former community organizer here in Los Angeles. And I mean, a real organizer. She's the founder of community coalition. She's tomorrow on why kisha Wilson's death anniversary. She's introducing a family notification Bill because the other thing that we're seeing is that in addition to murdering folks when folks are killed when are people are killed by police. They're not even treated as human beings, they assassinate their character. But then they also sometimes keep their body bodies in custody without notifying families for days and days in the case of wacky show Wilson, her family wasn't notified for almost four days. And so those are all things that we're working on legislatively that we think can move down the. Path to Justice. What do you shut out to longtime supporter of the show policy genius? They make it easy to get life insurance. And look everybody needs life insurance because that's how you take care of your family. I mean like when I go to sleep at night. I wanna know that if something happens to me, I don't wake up for some reason, my family will be taken care of. And they're not going to end up homeless. How do you do that? Make sure you have insurance of something will be there to save you in case of a rainy day in case of the typhoon in case of a monsoon. Somebody will be there looking out for you policy. Genius is the easy way to buy life insurance online. 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Spend less time comparing life insurance and more time doing literally anything else like listening to more Tory show podcast by going to policy genius handle that adulting stuff real easily and get back to living. One of the things about the feared for my life line that you hear over and over and over that just kills me e- read a study several years ago about the superhuman as Asian bias that white people feel toward black people. So we are magic to have superhuman strength speed. You know, sometimes the ability to have bullets bounce off of us. So when the officer is in this sort of struggle, and he's imagining this younger black male as being physically superior to him. Of course, he would go into a mode of fear and wanting to kill, and that's not about what is actually happening with that black boy or man in front of you. That's about your biases that you take into the job. Absolutely. We remember what Darren Wilson said about Mike Brown. Right. That that bias that? You're talking. About also imagine like if you if they walk in a room, and there's two black people in the room. They all also imagine that there's more. So it's each black person as imagined is being more dangerous. And they always imagine that there are more of us than there actually are that is a sickness, right? And I think that those kinds of fears or things that they need to deal with themselves that should not justify the murder of our people. Right. And so I think you know, when we're talking about those imagined realities these fantasies black these fantasies of who black people are then it shows that many of the police were policing may be all of the police who were policing aren't fit to do. So. You're big on supporting victims and their and their families who survived them, and you know, quick to something happens to go out and reach out to the family and try to comfort them and try to help them politically and spiritually, and I wonder the impact on you of being part of still many police killing so many heartbreaking black deaths that are unjust. What impact does that have a your spirit? I'm not quite sure. I don't feel burdened. You know, a lot of folks talk about like, you must feel burdened. I don't feel burdened by and fact, like the relationships that I have with the families are a great honor to me, I feel honored that. So I'm particularly close with both wacky show Wilson's family. And Kenneth Ross is family, Kenneth Ross's mother. And you know, Kenneth Ross's mom will call me sometimes midnight, and we'll just talk on the phone and show mention Kenneth. But that's not all we talk about. We'll go. And you know, we're talking about what we don't do our kids around the same age. What are we going to do with our kids? Right. Kendrick mcdade's mom, you know, we have dominos game that we got to get together on right? And, you know, those are, you know, it's it's not just tr-. Tragedy. Right. It's people. Ryan Stevenson says that people shouldn't be are much more than the worst thing that they've ever done. Right. I think also people are much more than the worst thing that they've ever experienced, right? Like there's so much more to these families than tragedy. You know, I met a cousin of mine actually in this work when we had our first movement for black lives convening in Cleveland. There was a panel of moms. And there was this one mom who I don't know why I just connect it with her face and later, I saw her back at the hotel where everyone was staying, and we were talking and she was from Florida, and I don't have any family in Florida. But as we started to talk about like house, she got to Florida. She hit come from New Orleans. She actually it's it's terrible. She fled Hurricane Katrina. To Florida and thought she was finding space in Florida Florida's where Tampa Florida's were her son. Andrew Joseph the third was killed. But we kept talking and it turned out that she wasn't from New Orleans either really that her family was from Beaumont, Texas, which is where my family is from. So then I call my mom, and my uncle, and we all walk it back, and we go, we're we're related, right? So now Deanna hardy Joseph, and I we spend time together we're talking about. How do we take? Her daughter deja is the same age as my oldest daughter. How do we go on spring break together? Right. And so it's not just the tragedy of Andrew's murder. It's also the beauty of the lives that remain. And so it's not burdensome to me to deal with the families to you know. Forged relationships with them to do spiritual work with them. It's an honor. And yeah, there's some heaviness when we go out the first thing, we try to do is like go out when someone's killed and pour libation and pray for their spirit pray for their families do vigils that part is sad. But it's also kind of getting through it together that I really think not only bonds me in them but bonds are higher community together. In one of the stories about you said I carry a lot of guilt about what? I don't know if guilt was the right word. I don't know what the word is. Maybe maybe it's guilt. It's I know that when I meet a family. That I'm going to bond with them that I'm gonna feel the spirit of their loved one. And then I'm gonna struggle for Justice with them. And I know that I'm not gonna get it. I know that the system that we live under we're not going to get Justice. It's not gonna come tomorrow or next week or at the end of the year or two years. You know, we're not gonna get to Justice right now. And you know, sometimes I think about now there's there's this mom who's probably one of the strongest moms and the movement. Her name is Helen Jones, her son, John Horton was beaten to death inside of men's central jail ten years ago ten years ago. That is still an open investigation that district attorney won't even give her closure of saying she's going to charge. The officers are not charge. The officers ten years later. Helen Jones is still struggling, and I think she's view like a lot of black women are viewed like she comes to these demonstrations every single week in front of the DA's office. And she's one of the most powerful speakers you've ever heard in your life, and I've never seen sister Helen break until last week. And last week. She started to give this powerful speech that we all feed off of. But the day before it was John's birthday and Helen broke. And she cried. And nobody knew what to do because sister. Helen, never breaks. Right. She never cries. We know she's morning, but her morning comes out in like this fear struggle for him. And so she broke, and you know, I I talked to her that night and after but I feel like how can we how can we do something? So she doesn't have these Frakes, right? I don't ever wanna see her cry. But I know that when we go his anniversary is on Saturday. It will be ten years on Saturday. And I don't know what we're going to experience when we're standing in front of men central jail on Saturday. So I wanna do more. You know, I want. Can't I can't fix it. We can't fix it. The movement can't fix it right now. But it needs to be fixed right now. 'cause every moment that goes by somebody else's child or mother father. That's killed. What do you get out of meditation? Sanity. Get sanity out of it. I learned to meditate before the black lives matter movement. I went through terrible divorce now telling you all my business, but terrible divorce like seven years ago, and I was working with someone just a friend. And he said to me if you don't learn to meditate, you're gonna lose your mind. And I don't wanna lose my mind. I'm the only parent my children have right. And so I started meditating and for me meditation sanity, I always describe it. I meditate with my students to who. I call my spirit children. Right. So in most of my classes, especially my activism classes, we meditate once a week at least, and I tell them that to do Justice work we have to restore ourselves and for me meditation is restoration. It's it's a shower for your soul. It's the way to get all of that muck off of you going into police commission. Standing in front of Jackie Lacey, hearing these white supremacists. Say crazy stuff, right? You gotta wash that off your spirit and so- meditating as that. And then meditation is also like a rain coat. So like. All the stuff they're hurling at you like exists, this kind of this protective cover, so it doesn't really stick to your spirit. And so for me like I would be different. Maybe I'll say a different kind of crazy than I am. If I didn't meditate what is your practice. Look like how long do you meditate is it daily? Do you have a a spot diva mantra? I do have a spot. I have several spots. I often meditate on campus and invite other people to meditate with me. I am even though I've been doing it for about seven years. I'm not very good at meditating without a guided meditation, so I use a guided meditation right now Oprah Deepak just launched their new meditation for the season. So I'm doing that one. And I know people say ho, that's like, you know, not real meditation. Hey it works for me. Right. So so I use oh for Deepak when it's out. But when it's not out there's a a sister that I went to undergrad with Toni Blackman who does meditation specifically that are like black women's meditations. And she has this one about water that I do almost. Like when Oprah Deepak is not on. I do that one almost every day. That's almost the only one I use which is about being like water, right? Like being fluid like water. And so I guess that's my mantra is learning to be fluid like water flow like water, and I loved it. There's music behind it. And that's the one I use in that one's pretty short. That one's only seven minutes, the Oprah ones or twenty one twenty twenty one minutes. Would you prefer to do like a twenty minute stretch? Yes. So after I do Tony's I kinda sit still for a little bit longer because I'm not ready to open my eyes yet. But twenty minutes is good for me. Part of why dig into this is that you know, when media talks about black lives matter and the people in it, they focus on the activism, the more telegenic aggressive activist moments, and they miss the self-care moments. And that is something that is very important to everybody in BMI I've ever met, and can you talk a little bit about about that side of things. And and how important that is. So that's funny because everybody laughs at me because I hate the term self care. I use. Well, part of it is I think that a lot of folks, especially younger folks have misinterpreted self care as selfish care. Right. So I think a lot of folks think that self care means that they get to do whatever they want whenever they want. They get to Bandon the movement. Right. Because you know, they don't have capacity. Right. They use that term a lot. I don't have capacity. Well, hell you don't even have children it. So how are you out of capacity when I have three children in a single mom. Right. So that part bothers me that doesn't mean that I don't believe in the care of our souls. Right. So I believe in prayer and meditation, I also, you know, believe in physical, you know, keeping ourselves physically fit. So, you know, I do daily walks which is part of both, my spiritual and my physical health, right? I try to eat clean all of that is part of what I think of is community care. Right. So it's me caring for myself taking time to care for myself. But it's also like why I often meditate in a group right Hauer. We taking care of each other. It's not enough to just say, oh, let's give Jan space. She needs. Jan is my sister in via limb. Give her the space. She needs to take. Her walks. No, let's say Jan did you do your walk today at into my walk today there. Let's go together. Right. So really deepening our community experience in that doesn't mean that it always has to be in community. But I think the community needs to take care of each other and needs to caution ourselves against selfish care, which can actually take the form of abuse against those of us who tend to carry most of the work when I think about some the emotions and the motivations that really power. You to be like a lion working in this in this space. This quote of yours jumped out at me the way I keep my kids safe is to transform the system. And when the motivation comes from being a parent and from home. And like I'm gonna take care of my children in this way. That is really really powerful. Can you talk about that part of it for you? Sure. I mean, you'll hear often mothers of the people who've been killed by police say, well, he was a good boy, you know, you'll hear I remember we were at a gathering in Tampa for Andrew and Mike Brown's debt was there. And you know, there were other families, they are, and they started talking about, you know, how their children were on the honor roll, right or how Andrew was like, this scholar athlete, and you know, his mother is, you know, well educated both of his parents are right. And they were talking about you know, he didn't deserve this. Right. And you'll hear them often say things like that he didn't deserve this. And then what I realized is, you know, for generations. We've always kind of put the burden of our children's safety on the children. And on ourselves. Right. We've had these speeches the one part. I did appreciate in the hate. You give was you know, the talk, right? This idea of what do you do with your hands? When you're pulled over by police, right? Because we all had the talk, right? My mother did that you know with us. My brother was taught especially how what tone. Do you use? Right. Don't really look in the eye right ligament little but not all the way, right? But when you're hearing these stories these kids got the talk these kids weren't doing anything wrong, Trayvon wasn't doing anything wrong. Right. And so how do you survive these encounters in the only way to really survive is not putting them on on a roll not telling them to pull their pants up? Not listening Bill. Cosby who says, you know, don't name them African names? Right. Not. It's it's not what music they listen to right? It's the system the system has to be transformed. These children are not going to be safe by pulling their pants up. They're not going to get to safety by not listening. Hip hop. It's the system that has to be transformed. So because I want my three children to be safe. And then all of the children that I call my spirit children in all of us who were connected by spirit. Whether we know each other and not because we want safety we have. To support the Trent we have to engage in the transformation of the system. So that's what I meant by that is that I'm gonna struggle as hard as I possibly can to transform the system to create a world where my children can get home safely, right? It's so important just for the historical record. And just because it's a great and interesting sort of story, you you were of course, at the first meeting of black lives matter that when Patrisse Cullors called many people to her space at Saint elmo's village and started this journey, can you tell us the story of that first meeting and Howitt's would have fanned out from their sure. So then night that Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin, a thousands of us of us in Los Angeles. And, you know, many more around the country in round the world kind of erupted into what I call intuitive organizing, right? So we convened there was a rage there. It was sadness. And then we commenced to shut and stuff down. Right. So we marched basically for three days we marched, and it was interesting. How quickly it was clear. It became clear that we had to be intentional about targets. Right. So we marched north which means north of Crenshaw is wider and more affluent. And we shut sites down that matter it to more affluent white folks, and that made sense. However, there was no discussion about the intention -ality. We just kind of moved and whoever had the bull bull Horner was at the front of the line was in charge of kind of picking out the route. And right, and I have talked about this before that that was really important to you in the group because so often we are activism protesting in our neighborhoods, but we need to take that conversation to white communities. So they can hear it not just preach. To the choir. Absolutely. And we also know that you know, if we're protesting white supremacist patriarchal hetero, normative capitalism, right? We we can't be marching south into our neighborhoods with all of the pinup rage. Right. We saw what happened in nineteen ninety Ninety-two. Right. Those forces don't really care what happens to our neighborhoods, but they do care if you March up to Hollywood and Highland and disrupt their Disneyland right and Hollywood and Highland for folks who don't know is this kind of tourist site. We're, you know, folks, go to get away from black folks and poverty in Los Angeles. Right. So people coming here. That's where they go. And so it was important for us that as their terrorizing our communities, and that is absolutely what these killings by white supremacists. And killings by police in security are right. It's terrorism in our community as their terrorizing our communities were not gonna just hold it in our communities. That's what those black brunches were that were done up in the bay area. Right. That's what all of these shutdowns or about is about saying, you don't get to have your spaces of comfort when our communities are being terrorized in. So we engaged in that work, and that was really important, and it was important that we are ticky lated it. So, you know, we kind of articulated for thousands of people on the Bullhorn, but not as a collective, and so those first couple of days, I was in the streets with, you know, thousands of people in the streets which included my own biological children in me as well. As my spirit children who are my students in pan African studies. Cal State LA and on the third day of protests. They decided that they were gonna shut down the ten freeway. It was the first freeway shutdown of the black lives matter era, and my daughter who's an activist herself right at the time. She was nine I believe she's going come on, mama. Let's get on the freeway, and I'm not that crazy of a, mama. So I was like we won't be doing that. Right. But we kind of watched this freeway shutdown. My son was still in a stroller. He was three. And so as we were standing there, I got a text message from Patrisse Cullors who I had already been in community with we had been building this black organizers collective together for the last couple of years. So I got to know her a bit, but the text actually came from a phenomenal journalist name tendencies, way Chiwenga. Who was close with both of us and the text said meet at nine pm at Saint elmo's village. And I always say sounded like a message from the underground railroad. Right. Like this secret, meet up points. Right. So I got I I sent the message out to my students, and we gathered that night, and I didn't know that Patrice it been in conversation with Lisa Garza and OPEL medi about how to build a movement Natta moment. But that first night. That's what it was. There were about thirty of us gathered in the courtyard of this black artists community called Saint elmo's village in mid city, Los Angeles. And it was you know, we met for hours and hours, and at the end, we circled up, and we did the chance that we call a Asada, right? It was the words of a Sukur and we committed to building a movement not a moment. Right. And we said the words it is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. Right. And we talked about what does that mean? What does that look like? And you know, what does it mean? To the words go on we must love and protect one another. We have nothing to lose chains. Right. So how do we build something like that? And. I think that as we were saying those words, and as we were kind of pledging to build a movement, not a moment. I don't think we completely understood with that meant, but the pledge meant something to us, right? And so when I was doing it. I was like, yes. You know, we have to do more than engage in the struggle for Justice for Oscar grant or Sean Bill or Margaret Mitchell or Devon Brown. Right. These are all people who were killed by police we organized for and then it some point we stop organizing for the right? We either win a victory or we realized that we're not going to win a victory that all of their lives and spirits in the struggle. For justices. All connected, you have to we have to transform ourselves. Right. I think about something tiff posted once and tiff is in an. Organizer from Ferguson. He's a hip hop artists organizer from Ferguson, and I've heard him say once he said, they keep asking us win. We're going back in the house. And then he said, we ain't never going back in the house. And I think that's what it has to be. We can never go back in the house. Right. We have to engage for the rest of our lives. We have to leave a world for our children. That's freer. And that's what we committed to even though we didn't know all of what it would entail. We didn't know that it meant, you know, late nights. We didn't know that it meant that, you know, sometimes vacation time means, you know, protests time or meet up time. Right. We didn't know all of these things. But that's what it is. So what happened at that first meeting? I don't remember everything. I remember. History. I know I remember the images of it. It's almost like I remember the circle I imagine in one day. I'll look it up. I feel like the moon was full. And I don't know if it was. But I felt it was like the circle outside. So the way saying almost villages set up is it really feels like an African village. There's this huge courtyard where we all it's and so for the first part of the meeting these this kind of shared space. It's almost like a barn that you open the door of. And we were all gathered different tables talking about what it means to build a movement. I remember that conversation. We talked about what we were willing to give to the movement. Right. We talked about like different people's gifts like artists and healers, and you know, we were also really. Attentional in talking about what it meant to be mothers. There were a couple of us who were mothers in that space. We talked about for some of my students. This was new right? Like there hasn't been a movement of the sort in their lifetimes. Right. If you're talking about eighteen nineteen twenty year olds right? Even our lifetimes. Right. We were born on the tail end of the black power movement. We don't remember it. Right. And so I think that kind of figuring out what this means and what our contributions are. And what we have to build from that with some of the conversation. And then I just remember the beauty of the chance. So after hours of having these conversations, I remember going out into the courtyard and holding hands with people. Some I knew in some I didn't. And these words Patrice with standing at the center of the circle, and we all repeated after her and at first we did it in a whisper than we did in our regular voice in the last one. I remember looking up in the sky was really black. But I do remember seeing the moon and like yelling it to the heavens. Right. Yelling it to our ancestors. Yelling it to the creator. And I remember feeling differently and feeling inspired and feeling like we can't lose right feeling like the. Justice that we were seeking was inevitable. And at that time it felt like we were gonna win it tomorrow. Thank you. Dr Bella for another crate interview in thanks to you for listening Toray show gives you fuel to power your dreams because you can use your dreams like a rocket ship to blast yourself into a life. You never imagined. You can make your dreams a reality. And this show can help on Twitter at Tori and on Instagram at Toray show. Please subscribe rate and review until your friends about the show. Tori shows written by me to arraign produced by Chris Colbert, our editor is Brandon Taegu. Our photographer is Chuck, Marcus. And we're distributed by D C, P entertainment, and we will be back next Wednesday with more knowledge from more amazing folks because the man can't shut us down.