By Andrea Castillo | LA Times
Melina Abdullah stood in the bed of a white pickup truck parked in the middle of Vine Street in Hollywood before a sea of people whose end she could not place.
Speaking into a microphone, she told the crowd on that early June day that they were going to honor the spirits of people whose lives had been stolen by police violence.
She called out George Floyd. She called out Ryan Twyman. She called out Wakiesha Wilson. She called out Kisha Michael. After each name, she poured water from a plastic bottle onto the hot pavement below, while protesters responded with “Àse” (ah-shay), a word used by the Yoruba people of Nigeria akin to ending a prayer with “Amen.”
“Our power comes not only from the people who are here but from the spirits that we cannot see,” said Abdullah, a Cal State L.A. professor, single mother of three and the leader of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. “When we say their name, we invoke their presence.”
Then they marched.
The unprecedented size and scope of recent rallies speaks to how Black Lives Matter has transformed from a small but passionate movement into a cultural and political phenomenon. And in few places has that movement generated more passion than in Los Angeles, home to two of BLM’s guiding forces, Abdullah and Patrisse Cullors.
A core group of Los Angeles activists has worked relentlessly for years protesting LAPD actions, advocating criminal justice reform, speaking out at Police Commission meetings and picketing outside City Hall. Now, four weeks after Floyd was killed when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, members are continuing to channel their outrage and grief over his killing into a sustained mass campaign for profound social change.
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