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University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

Cal State LA’s Melina Abdullah nominated for U.S. vice president

Marisa Vasquez
Dr. Melina Abdullah welcomes attendees of the Black Community Honors event on behalf of the Pan African Studies Department on Oct. 29, 2018 at Cal State LA’s Golden Eagle Ballroom.

Earlier this month, Cal State LA Pan-African Studies professor and co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter, Melina Abdullah, was announced as the running mate of independent presidential candidate Cornel West.

“I was always very adamant that I would never run for office,” Abdullah told the University Times. “I’ve been an enthusiastic and inspired supporter of Dr. West for many years. As an intellectual, his work has been really pivotal to my discipline and African Studies. There’s no one else that I would even consider running with.”

She is now the third woman from California to enter the race for vice president, along with incumbent Kamala Harris and Nicole Shanahan of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign. Donald Trump has yet to announce his running mate. 

Abdullah, previously the chair of the PAS department, is the first Muslim nominated for the position and is well-known in local activist circles — focusing on prison and police reform as well as racial injustice. 

Abdullah said that West was a guest on her radio show days prior and assumed the call from him was a follow-up about their interview. She noted that West was the first high-profile speaker for the PAS forum, during her time as chair.

West, a philosopher and social activist, who has published more than 20 books on race, politics and social justice, enters the presidential race at a time he describes as “national crisis of moral bankruptcy and spiritual obscenity,” on his campaign website

Despite her influence, Abdullah also has her fair share of controversy. She is named in an ongoing lawsuit filed by a colleague in the PAS department, against the Cal State LA Board of Trustees. The lawsuit filed by PAS Chair Nana Lawson Bush V, accused the university of harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination, and accused Abdullah of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress for statements she made against him, according to a recent LA Times article. The story also stated that the accusations impacted Bush’s run as interim dean of the Ethnic Studies department, a position currently held by Lena Chao.

When asked about the ongoing case, both Bush and Abdullah declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A statement from the article claimed that “Dr. Abdullah has the knowledge and understanding of how her allegations negatively affect Dr. Bush as an African American man.” 

Abdullah was a key figure in organizing protests across Los Angeles in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. She was forcibly removed from the 2022 Los Angeles mayoral debate, held in the U-SU theater, after being asked to leave for not having a ticket. She and other students at the event claimed the right to observe the debate, despite not having a ticket because the event was on a public campus. Abbdullah is one of the original founders of the Black Lives Matter movement and founded Black Lives Matter Grassroots, a collection of organizations that supports BLM chapters.

“This is the time. We’re in a political moment, where people, especially the age of our students, are looking for real choices,” Abdullah said. “Being invited into the campaign as a vice presidential candidate offers me an opportunity to bring ‘us’ into the campaign and by ‘us,’ I mean the movement for ethnic studies.”

Although the White House is a long shot as a group of independent candidates, Abdullah’s goal in the meantime is to advocate from a position not just based on herself and her own ambitions, but to organize as a “people’s campaign” for the entire community. 

Editor-in-chief Anne To contributed to this story.

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About the Contributors
Marcos Franco
Marcos Franco, Managing Editor
Marcos is a journalism major who focuses on news coverage of underreported people, communities and nonprofits on the Eastside and South L.A. He also has experience in entertainment reporting and freelances for local news outlets.
Marisa Vasquez
Marisa Vasquez, Editor-in-Chief
Marisa Martinez formerly worked as Editor-in-Chief at the Corsair Newspaper at Santa Monica College where she studied her way out of the community college to Cal State LA. There, she join the TVFM Journalism program to further her studies in News/Media while functioning as the Editor-in-Chief for the weeks ahead and working alongside with her fellow reporters and photographers.

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