Black Lives Matter Los Angeles (BLMLA) was excluded by organizers from officially participating in 2020’s annual Women’s March Los Angeles (WMLA), an event they have spoken at regularly, according to posts on BLMLA’s social media in mid-January.
“WMLA 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,” BLMLA said in an official instagram post. “This marks the first time that BLMLA will not participate.”
BLMLA, which was invited for the last three years to speak at WMLA, took to social media to inform others about their non attendance. Shortly after, WMLA tweeted a “just announced” informational graphic with speakers to be expected at the march.
“As the march drew near, we hadn’t received an invitation,” said co-founder of BLMLA, Melina Abdullah in a phone interview with the Courier. “When I saw there was no invitation, I reached out to the president of the women’s march. Upon hearing nothing, I tweeted that this would be the first year we wouldn’t be speaking at the Women’s March and were not invited. Almost immediately, I was contacted by someone from the March and confirmed to me that it was not an oversight or mistake.”
While WMLA explained to Abdullah that the exclusion was intended to create room for voiceless people at the march, Abdullah further questioned what black organizers were going to be involved in their place.
“I then had a conversation with the president and she told me the names of black woman organizers who had supposedly been invited, that had not been,” Abdullah said. “I was then given the explanation that they were focusing on electoral power.”
Abdullah brought up to the president of WMLA, Emiliana Guereca, that Black Lives Matter is one of the groups that crafted Measure R, which she argued has not only importance here in Los Angeles but has national implications on rolling back mass incarcerations.
“All of those would count as electoral politics,” Abdullah said. “Nonetheless, they doubled down on the fact we would not be allowed to speak this year.”
With that explanation, a line up of celebrity guest speakers does not seem to align with their goals, including personalities such as Bella Thorne and Jordin Sparks.
Following BLMLA’s instagram post, they received community support from American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance (APAWL), celebrity speaker June Diane Raphael and many other organizations who all chose not to participate in this year’s march.
“In solidarity with @blmlosangeles we will no longer have a booth at Women’s March LA as previously planned,” the ACLU SoCal wrote in an instagram post. “Stay tuned for future opportunities to learn about & engage w/ our work, including the crucial police & jails accountability work we do w/ BLM-LA.”
Raphael also took to Twitter to announce her support and call out the common critique facing women’s marches in online spaces in the last few years- that they are largely focused on white issues and exclusive of minorities.
“In solidarity with @BLMLA I’m no longer speaking at the Women’s March LA today,” Raphael tweeted. “I can only imagine the world we would live in if white women centered and organized around black women and all women of color. I am spending the day reflecting on how white supremacy works to divide us and how I can dismantle it in my own life. I look forward to talking to the women’s march organizers about how we can use this moment as an opportunity to learn and further our work toward justice.”
As of the publishing of this article, WMLA has not responded to the Courier’s request for comment and has not addressed the exclusion of BLMLA on any of their social media.
Their only statement on this matter was made to LAist. WMLA stated to them that BLM was not on its roster of speakers due to WMLA’s vote-focused agenda for the rally, but hoped the organization would participate to march for women’s rights.
“While we support Black Lives Matter and its work, since this is an important election year, our speaking program for Women’s March LA 2020 is focused on highlighting organizations and individuals who have a mission to register and encourage people to vote,” WMLA said in the statement.
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