A history professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) recently announced plans to partner with anti-incarceration groups to shape Black Studies on campus, including one organization that has received at least $800,000 from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and others with deep ties to Black Lives Matter.
Dr. Kelly Lytle Hernández — who was appointed Interim Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies in June — will coalesce with local activists to pursue “research that advances the movement to end mass incarceration in the United States.”
For the first time in 16 years, the Center is under new leadership.
UCLA Newsroom, an extension of the school’s Office of Media Relations and Public Outreach, reports:
As the director of the Bunche Center, Lytle Hernandez plans to team with the Los Angeles Black Worker Center as well as several community partners that are working to transform the U.S. criminal justice system such as Dignity and Power Now and the Youth Justice Coalition.
“Together, we will build upon the Bunche Center’s rich history of developing and deploying Black Studies as a field of study that transforms the world in which we live,” she said.
The Black Worker Center — which has received at least $800,000 from Soros’ international grantmaking network since 2010 — “develops organized power and authentic grassroots leadership among Black workers,” including formerly incarcerated people and the unemployed.
Dignity and Power Now is led by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors — a prison abolitionist who started organizing former inmates more than four years ago. She also heads a large alliance formed to stop Los Angeles County from spending billions of dollars on two new jails — a coalition which includes other progressive activist groups with whom Lytle Hernández has been collaborating for several years.
UCLA recently produced a video promoting an ongoing research project between Dr. Lytle Hernández and the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) — an organization that has also received funding from Soros’ foundation.
A group of district attorneys called out the YJC’s leader earlier this year for telling “multiple lies” while testifying before the California Senate. Still, the group frequently co-sponsors and lobbies for criminal justice reform legislation crafted to benefit “families of color,” including six bills recently signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The YJC is closely aligned with Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles.
“I reached out to the rebels who are now hard at work dismantling mass incarceration in Los Angeles, the nation’s carceral core,” Lytle Hernández explained in an interview promoting her most recent book.
In “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and The Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles,” she explores the concept of settler colonialism.
“Los Angeles was founded by a racial fantasy; the idea of creating idyllic, white, reproductive, exclusive communities on native land,” Lytle Hernández contends. “This fantasy also led to the rise of black incarceration.”
At a book signing in April, she was joined by Dr. Melina Abdullah, lead organizer for the L.A. chapter of Black Lives Matter — a group Lytle Hernández praised in her book for “organizing creative, militant actions.”
In her new role at the Bunche Center, Dr. Lytle Hernández takes over a campus institution that has been associated with revolutionary activism since it was founded in 1969, as the Center for Afro-American Studies.
As its website recounts:
While the fight to have African American Studies acknowledged as a legitimate field of study was taking place all over America during the 1960s, it took on special significance at UCLA when two Black Panthers were killed at Campbell Hall in January 1969 after a clash over who would lead the center.
Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and John Huggins, leaders in the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party, were shot and killed. Two brothers, who were members of the rival Black power group, the US Organization, were convicted for the murders, but escaped from prison in 1974. One of the brothers surrendered to authorities in South America many years later.
Huggins’ widow and others believe the United States government orchestrated the incident.
In 2010, a UCLA history class memorialized the slain Black Panthers, unveiling plaques on campus which honored them as social justice advocates.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.