Cornel West Chooses Black Lives Matter Activist Melina Abdullah As His Vice President

Cornel West Chooses Black Lives Matter Activist Melina Abdullah As His Vice President

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By Brittany Gibson | MSN

Cornel West tapped university professor and prominent Black Lives Matter activist Melina Abdullah to be his running mate on his long-shot presidential bid.

Abdullah has never run for political office before and is the former chair of the Pan-African Studies Department at California State University, Los Angeles.

“I wanted to run with someone who would put a smile on the face of Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin Luther King Jr. from the grave,” West said.

He announced his pick on Wednesday’s episode of the Tavis Smiley Radio Show on KBLA radio.

West is running as an independent candidate and faces significant challenges in his campaign for the White House. West’s fundraising has lagged behind his opponents, raising less than $1 million since launching his bid last summer.

Since getting in the race, West has switched parties twice, leaving the People’s Party and the Green Party to ultimately run as an independent. The switch mandates an expensive and difficult process to get his name on the ballot in 50 states and Washington, DC. Officially choosing his vice president allows him to start collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot in about 20 states.

“Both of us want to disrupt the narrative that you have only two choices,” Abdullah said of their ticket. “We can be expansive and imaginative … we enter this really as faithful people who are not more pragmatists than we are faithful.”

Through partnerships with existing third parties, West is already on the ballot in three states. But this method was not successful in California, one of the hardest states to gain ballot access, as West lost the Peace and Freedom Party’s primary to the Party for Socialism and Liberation candidate in March.

Abdullah, who is also an organizer of grassroots and local Black Lives Matter chapters, said she “was not expecting the phone call that I got last week at all, like it was the furthest thing from my mind. And then he and his wife Annahita [Mahdavi West] asked and immediately my heart just soared.”

Black Lives Matter doesn’t endorse candidates, she said, but individuals involved with the organization may endorse her separately. Abdullah, who is also a Howard University graduate and member of the AKA sorority, said she would not step away from her work organizing with the grassroots local chapters.

West also said there wouldn’t be any political “burden” being associated Black Lives Matter, which has called for defunding the police and was alleged to be associated with property destruction at civil rights demonstrations in 2020.

As a practicing Muslim, Abdullah also spoke of the auspiciousness of her announcement on Eid, the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. She talked openly about her faith, using a similar approach to West’s on the campaign trail. West is a Christian and the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary.

“I’m running for Jesus. She’s running for Allah. That’s a beautiful thing,” West said.

The announcement was a major milestone for West’s campaign but was not without issue. A technical difficulty affecting West’s audio input cut him out from their joint interview for almost 10 minutes.

Democrats were swift to criticize West’s announcement. “Despite Cornel West announcing a running mate, our view remains the same: only two candidates have a path to 270 electoral votes, President Biden and Donald Trump,” said DNC spokesperson Matt Corridoni. “The stakes are high, and we know this is going to be a close election — that’s why a vote for any third party candidate is a vote for Donald Trump.”

On the morning of West’s announcement, the New York Times reported that Trump allies view third-party candidates as advantageous for Trump’s reelection chances. One ally, Scott Presler, has messaged both West and the Green Party’s Jill Stein about helping them get on the ballot on social media.

West co-campaign manager Ceyanna Dent said, “Scott Presler has not worked with the campaign in any capacity.” Though Dent added that the campaign staff was briefed on his overtures.

West was asked by Smiley about being a possible spoiler in 2024, and said, “No politician owns a vote. We stand for what we stand for. If you go with us, then come with us and change the world.”

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