CSU Diversity Symposium: Keynote speaker Melina Abdullah

Molly O'Shea

Colorado State University kicked off its 20th Annual Diversity Symposium Monday with multiple panels on racial issues and a keynote address. 

The first keynote speaker of the week, Melina Abdullah, is a professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, womanist scholar-activist, author, producer, mother and co-host of the radio show “Beautiful Struggle.”


Described as an “expert on race, gender, class and social movements,” Abdullah was among the original organizers of Black Lives Matter and now serves as the LA chapter leader, according to the Symposium’s website

“I believe that we can do better. I believe that as the mother, as a single mother of three children, that I owe it to them to build a world where my three Black children can live and walk freely.” -Melina Abdullah, keynote speaker

Abdullah’s talk focused on calling out the white supremacists and patriarchal heteronormative capitalism that has targeted her and other people in America for many years.

Abdullah also called on people to take action and recognize everything that goes into being an abolitionist and revolutionary.

She said that, to do this, people needed to be “calling on the end of the policing system and criminal systems of injustice, fundamentally dismantling the systems of oppression and to vote and to organize.” 

Abdullah also discussed her reasoning behind what she fights for every day.

“I believe that we can do better,” Abdullah said. “I believe that as the mother, as a single mother of three children, that I owe it to them to build a world where my three Black children can live and walk freely.”

She explained that she wants to live in a world where her daughter is not targeted by police in the schools she attends and where her son is not being put in gang databases as a first-grader. 

“I believe in imagining and building something new that’s grounded in community,” Abdullah said.  

This came after she acknowledged the world being “cracked open” by the seemingly recent increase of police brutality toward the Black community, according to Abdullah.

This police brutality stems from the history of policing in this country, she said.


“I want an end to a system that hails from slave-catching,” Abdullah said. 

Monday morning, University President Joyce McConnell reached out to the student body to address Abdullah’s keynote address and offer clarification for matters surrounding connections between Abdullah and anti-Semitism.

McConnell explained that she has been made aware of the concerns within the CSU community surrounding Abdullah’s views posted on social media and her appearances at events held by the Nation of Islam, lead by Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan is known to use anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.

“As president, let me be clear that I unequivocally condemn the racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric of the Nation of Islam, which is recognized as a hate group by most experts,” McConnell wrote. “I will always stand up for our Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities to ensure they receive equal protections against hate.”

Abdullah responded to these claims, saying that “radical white supremacist forces” target her through physical threats and discredit her.

“Those who are committed to racial and social justice should consider what side they stand on and challenge sources of such nefarious attempts to derail Black freedom struggle and my work in particular,” Abdullah said. “I am not going to be forced to justify my existence or answer obviously false allegations. That’s their work.” 

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to provide context on the Nation of Islam.

Molly O’Shea can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Molly_O23.