News and Commentary

Black Lives Matter Says It Was Snubbed By Women’s March L.A.
People rally at the Third Annual Women's March LA in downtown Los Angeles, California on January 19, 2019.
David McNew/AFP via Getty Images

Black Lives Matter says the activist group was excluded from speaking onstage at Saturday’s 4thannual Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles, suggesting organizers should consider rebranding the event the “White Women’s March.”

“(Women’s March L.A.) did not invite Black Lives Matter to participate, failed to respond to an email request for inclusion, and further refused speaking time during a subsequent telephone conversation,” said Dr. Melina Abdullah, a college professor who co-founded BLM’s L.A. chapter.

In a written response to the perceived rejection, Abdullah noted, “this marks the first time that BLMLA will not participate,” stating the rebuff was “the culmination of ongoing disagreement and tension,” accusing Women’s March L.A. (WMLA) of “blatantly engaging in anti-Blackness.”

“In past years, BLMLA has utilized the WMLA space to inspire on-the-ground action,” Abdullah wrote. “It has always been our desire for the masses of women, girls, femmes, and allies assembled under the banner of the Women’s March to engage in actual work that transforms the world, rather than gather for a feel-good parade.”

Abdullah claims that her teenage daughter, Thandiwe, who addressed the crowd at the 2018 march, was “accused by WMLA leadership of making specific, violent, anti-Semitic threats during her speech.”

“I was told I said ‘Death to Jews’ by @womensmarch when speaking on the injustices happening in the apartheid state of Israel,” Thandiwe recently tweeted. “Nowhere in my speech did I ever say such disgusting words.”

In a statement provided to LAist, the Women’s March Foundation said this year’s speaking program was “focused on highlighting organizations and individuals who have a mission to register and encourage people to vote.”

Featured L.A. speakers included Mayor Eric Garcetti, attorney Gloria Allred, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), and transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner. Actress June Diane Raphael was scheduled to appear but canceled to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

“I am spending the day reflecting on how white supremacy works to divide us and how I can dismantle it in my own life,” Raphael posted on social media.

Other BLM allies also declined to take part in this year’s L.A. festivities, including the ACLU of Southern California, the Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance, and the Anti-Capitalist Feminist Coalition.

Still, the Los Angeles Times reported: “more than 300,000 people…gathered downtown for the march, according to the Women’s March Foundation.”

“We invite Women’s March Los Angeles to follow through on their previous commitments, engage in intersectional feminist work throughout the year, and employ practices that lift up Black women, who stand at the bottom of virtually every social, political, and economic measure,” Dr. Abdullah wrote.

The first Women’s Marches took place in several hub cities on January 21, 2017 – the day after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. They were organized, in part, as a protest against Trump’s previous controversial comments about women. However, the Washington Post reported that three prominent March leaders were replaced last year due to “accusations of anti-Semitism, infighting and financial mismanagement – controversies some say have slowed the organization’s progress and diminished its impact.”

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