Students were packed inside the Industrial Technology Building at Fresno State to hear Melina Abdullah, chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and Black Lives Matter organizer.
The event was sponsored by the Fresno State Afrikan/Black Coalition, African-American Edge Initiative and the California Faculty Association, Fresno chapter.
Her lecture was titled, “The Rise of the New Black Power Movement: Black Studies, Black Students and Black Lives Matter.”
The talk began with Abdullah noting the recent death of Wakiesha Wilson and advising the room to write down her name.
Abdullah proceeded to tell the story of the 36-year-old Los Angeles woman, who police claim committed suicide while in their custody.
She said the official story given by authorities about Wilson’s death doesn’t make sense. The Wilson family also doesn’t believe Wakiesha committed suicide.
The discussion then transitioned to black people claiming their own identity and not the one marketed and assigned to them by pop culture and “the colonial capitalist state.” She cited Bill Cosby as an example of the “state and the corporate media machine producing a white-friendly mold as to what it is to be black.”
“I think the black community is uneducated about their own history. All they know about is Martin Luther King and the basic figures,” said Keyauna Morris, a mass communication and journalism major.
The acknowledgement of state-sanctioned violence is nothing new, Abdullah pointed out. She talked about the life and murder of Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton. The reason she said she focused in on Hampton is because in his speeches he challenged us to constantly ask ourselves what side we’re on.
Abdullah then explained that she believes that between the Black Power Movement in 1978 up to the Black Lives Matter movement of today, there has been a campaign to fool the black community into believing its interests were the same as the interests of the ruling class.
“There are informants. The system tries to set up ways of gaining access to movements, and that’s not surprising,” she said. “One of the important things to consider during this current era is the role of the Patriot Act and the amount of money that is invested in surveillance now.”
She pointed out corporate media consolidation and urged students to seek out alternative media outlets.
In a question-answer session following the lecture, a student asked Abdullah if she feels like the two-party political system has been oppressing black lives, and her response was, “Hell yeah.”
Abdullah said she hoped that people would understand their power.
“Whatever you vision and imagine and work toward is what you can have,” Abdullah said. “President Obama has not done enough on this issue. I think he’s an unauthentic leader for black people. He’s been unwilling to really advance the issues of black folks.”
She explained that the Black Lives Matter Movement interests aren’t aligned with those of the ruling class, because the two party system is controlled by corporations, which is also why the Black Lives Matter Movement doesn’t identify with any of the presidential candidates.