Black Lives Matter co-founder Aislinn Pulley rejected President Barack Obama’s invitation to join him at the White House for a historic meeting of veteran civil rights leaders and youth activists.
In an op-ed published Thursday on Truth-Out.org, Pulley referred to the gathering as a “sham” and said that her participation would send the wrong message about her views as an activist.
“As the cofounder of Black Lives Matter Chicago, I was issued an invitation to this event, and various news outlets have already listed me as an attendee,” she wrote. “But as a radical, Black organizer, living and working in a city that is now widely recognized as a symbol of corruption and police violence, I do not feel that a handshake with the president is the best way for me to honor Black History Month or the Black freedom fighters whose labor laid the groundwork for the historic moment we are living in.”
A select group of more than a dozen people received invitations to this ”first-of-its-kind” intergenerational meeting, scheduled for Thursday. Topics of discussion will include “a range of issues, including the administration’s efforts on criminal justice reform” and “building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,“ according to the invite.
“I could not, with any integrity, participate in such a sham that would only serve to legitimize the false narrative that the government is working to end police brutality and the institutional racism that fuels it,” Pulley wrote.
Other invitees include activist Deray McKesson, President of NAACP Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill, student leader of the Concerned 1950 movement at the University of Missouri Deshaunya Ware and Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis. The meeting will occur in conjunction with the White House’s Black History Month reception, a decision aides have called a mere coincidence, Time reported.
In her piece, Pulley‚ who has coordinated protests against police brutality and government corruption for Black Lives Matter Chicago, claimed the meeting would be little more than a PR stunt for the president:
I was under the impression that a meeting was being organized to facilitate a genuine exchange on the matters facing millions of Black and Brown people in the United States. Instead, what was arranged was basically a photo opportunity and a 90-second sound bite for the president. I could not, with any integrity, participate in such a sham that would only serve to legitimize the false narrative that the government is working to end police brutality and the institutional racism that fuels it. For the increasing number of families fighting for justice and dignity for their kin slain by police, I refuse to give its perpetrators and enablers political cover by making an appearance among them.
She concluded her message by asserting that government is not the institution to turn to for the social change she is working to bring about through Black Lives Matter: “We assert that true revolutionary and systemic change will ultimately only be brought forth by ordinary working people, students and youth — organizing, marching and taking power from the corrupt elites.”