In recognition of Black History Month, the Los Angeles City Council recently paid tribute to Thandiwe Abdullah — a local student-activist who was named among Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2018.
Abdullah, a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, co-founded the Black Lives Matter Youth Vanguard. The advocacy group — made up of children and adolescents aged 6 to 18 — started organizing students, parents, and faculty against the “over-policing” of L.A.’s public schools in 2016. The district is the second-largest in the nation with an enrollment of more than 600,000.
Thandiwe follows in the footsteps of her mother, Dr. Melina Abdullah, who is a founding member of the Black Lives Matter activist network and has led its L.A. chapter since its inception. The elder Abdullah has felt comfortable exposing her daughter to the glare of media for several years while Thandiwe has blossomed into a nationally-known fighter for progressive change.
“I have the honor and the privilege to present to you a young lady that is recognized as one of the 25 most influential young people in this country … out of 42 million children,” said L.A. Council President Herb J. Wesson during a presentation at City Hall on Wednesday.
Wesson went on to commend Thandiwe’s activism and work with the Youth Vanguard, whose members were featured speakers at a March For Our Lives gun control rally last year and currently lead a drive to abolish police in local schools incrementally.
Black Lives Matter is allied with the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) labor union, which went on strike for six days last month. According to Black Lives Matter, at least two of its members are also high-ranking UTLA leaders. The two organizations often work toward common goals to transform the institution of public education.
“We were campaigning with a lot of the teachers to get random searches out of our schools because we found out that they were criminalizing a lot of black youth,” Thandiwe said at the ceremony in her honor. “We actually won that with our last strike when a lot of students stood with the teachers, and we’re so thankful to them for doing that for us.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that the district “agreed to expand to 28 the number of schools that will no longer conduct random searches of middle and high school students,” adding, “that provision was especially important to students who marched in support of their teachers.”
At Wednesday’s presentation, the younger Abdullah also spoke about “an attack on black bodies and black people.” She stressed the concept of intersectionality, a theory that claims systems of oppression overlap, institutionally dehumanizing groups that identify as marginalized.
“It’s really important … to give way to the people who are most vulnerable: that’s black youth, especially queer black youth; black Muslim youth, which includes me; and black trans youth.”
She has also promoted that intersectional philosophy when advocating on behalf of “the Muslim women and femmes in Palestine,” whom Thandiwe says are victims of a “global war on terror” advanced by the United States and Israel. She made those comments before an estimated crowd of 500,000 people at L.A.’s edition of the Women’s March in 2018.
Thandiwe descends from a long line of progressive organizers. Her bloodline includes a grandfather who was an active participant in the Occupy movement and a grandmother who used to volunteer at a breakfast program run by the Black Panther Party. As The Daily Wire exclusively reported in 2017, her great grandfather was the late Gunter Reimann – a world-renowned Marxist economist who was part of the Communist resistance to Adolf Hitler’s accession to power in Germany. After Nazi officials raided his home in the 1930s, he fled to the United States as a political refugee.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter at @JeffreyCawood.