Game on

Pasadena approves a 10-year soccer contract at the Rose Bowl as North America wins bid for 2026 World Cup

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 7/12/2018

Although the United States did not qualify for this year’s World Cup in Russia, soccer’s popularity in the United States — and especially in Pasadena — continues to explode.

On June 13, one day before kickoff of the first game of the World Cup between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) announced that the 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The joint North American bid beat out Morocco by a vote of 134-65, mostly due to the fact that all of the necessary facilities already exist in North America, whereas Morocco would have to build several stadiums and improve infrastructure to the tune of $16 billion.

According to The New York Times, President Donald Trump sent three letters to FIFA President Gianni Infantino over the past couple of months promising that “foreign teams, officials and even fans will face no restrictions on entering the US for World Cup matches in 2026 if their countries qualify for the tournament” and that Trump’s “hard line stance on visas would not apply to the World Cup.” The Trump administration’s travel ban and immigration policies almost derailed the North American bid.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the final game of this year’s World Cup in Russia. The final game between France and Croatia will be played at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, July 15, at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Sweet 16

The North American bid promises to generate $11 billion in profits for FIFA. It could also be beneficial for Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.

According to stadium General Manager Darryl Dunn, the facility, along with 22 other venues, is a candidate to host soccer games during the global, newly expanded 48-team tournament in 2026. Sixteen venues will ultimately be chosen by FIFA in 2020.

“We’re hopeful,” said Dunn. “Our fingers are crossed.”

When the United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994, the final game between Italy and victorious Brazil was held at the Rose Bowl. Mexico hosted the 1970 and 1986 tournaments. The US-Canada-Mexico bid forecasts that revenues will reach $14.3 billion.

International soccer has carved out its place in the Rose Bowl. The stadium has hosted several national teams, as well as European club teams such as Inter Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid and others. It hosted an international soccer match in 2013, another in 2014, two in 2015, four in 2016 and one in 2017. This year, Mexico and Wales faced off on the Rose Bowl’s Spieker Field on Memorial Day, and July will see AC Milan take on Manchester United and FB Barcelona take on Tottenham Hotspur as part of the International Champions Cup.

Next year, the Rose Bowl will present at least two games during the regional 2019 Gold Cup tournament, hosted by the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). The Rose Bowl hosted the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in 2002 and 2011, a group stage doubleheader in 2013 and a semifinal in 2017. The stadium also hosted Brazil vs. Ecuador, Colombia vs. Paraguay, and Mexico vs. Jamaica during the 2016 Copa America Centenario, a North, Central and South American regional soccer tournament.

In fact, international soccer is critical for the long-term financial viability of the Rose Bowl, Dunn told Pasadena City Council members at their June 4 meeting. That night, the council unanimously approved a 10-year exclusivity contract with one of Southern California’s two Major League Soccer teams, LA Galaxy, and promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which also produces the music festival Arroyo Seco Weekend, now in its second year at the Rose Bowl and Brookside Golf Course. The Rose Bowl Operating Co. and AEG are currently finalizing the contract’s language and are expected to sign it soon.

The other LA-based MLS team, LA Football Club, is a brand-new team with a brand-new stadium, the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park.

“Soccer is an essential piece [of the Rose Bowl’s financial viability],” Dunn told the Pasadena Weekly. “The Rose Bowl is the only venue in the world that has ever been the host of the gold medal match of the Olympics [in 1984] and the final matches of the men’s and women’s World Cups [in 1994 and 1999, respectively]. No one else has done it. Our history is second to none and we have the reputation of being the preeminent soccer venue in America. We want to build on that and strengthen that. Continuing to host high-level international soccer is very important for our future, which is the primary reason why we want to do this deal with AEG.”

The Rose Bowl will also likely host men’s and women’s semifinals and finals in soccer once again during the 2028 Olympics, to be hosted by Los Angeles. Dunn said that the RBOC had a handshake agreement with LA’s Olympic bid committee when it was aiming to host the Games in 2024.

“We’ve had some discussions [since Paris was awarded 2024 and LA was awarded 2028], and we do anticipate having the same events in 2028, but we need to finalize specifics related to that with the organizing committee,” Dunn said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that that’s going to happen. And certainly, our partnership with AEG is going to do nothing but make us — the Rose Bowl and therefore Pasadena — stronger.”

A Stronger Stadium

Pasadena’s contract with LA Galaxy and AEG stipulates that any soccer match with an expected attendance of 35,000 or more involving either of those two entities within the LA market must be offered to the Rose Bowl. In return, the Rose Bowl will involve AEG in all its soccer bookings. The agreement also allows for a higher license fee structure. Currently, the Rose Bowl earns about $165,000 per soccer match that it hosts; under the new agreement, the stadium will earn anywhere between $250,000 and $400,000 per match. Thirty percent of net revenues will go to AEG/LA Galaxy, excluding admission tax.

“We are confident that the minimum we will be able to generate [from special events such as international soccer games under this new agreement] is $300,000 per event,” said Dunn. “This is really an opportunity for the RBOC to give ourselves the best possible chance to continue to have soccer programming over the next 10 years.”

The increased soccer revenue will help offset the declining golf revenue that the RBOC relies on. Golf’s popularity is decreasing nationwide.

Jens Weiden, chief revenue officer of the RBOC, told council members that there is a real chance the Rose Bowl could be shut out of the soccer market if the city did not approve this contract.

“Over this 10-year span, that could represent millions of dollars in lost revenues for the RBOC,” Weiden said. “This deal will better align ourselves to hopefully book some of this programming. It could be said that outside of American football, our venue is known internationally as a soccer venue more than anything else. For us, soccer has been and will continue to be very important as far as programming and revenue for the RBOC. For a very long time, the Rose Bowl had very little competition in the market. That is changing.”

Weiden noted that the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum is currently undergoing a $300 million renovation that will be completed in 2019; the $350 million soccer-specific Banc of California Stadium opened earlier this year; and the $4 billion LA Stadium in Inglewood, which will be the home of the Chargers and the Rams and multiple other events, will open in 2020.

“Our landscape when it comes to attracting events, which is our business, has changed and is constantly changing,” he said. “AEG and LA Galaxy have been partners of the Rose Bowl for a very long time. When it comes to promoting a soccer match, you almost always partner with the local MLS team. This is because you need to be able to market and sell tickets, so you need to partner with somebody that has a database of people that buy soccer tickets in market.”

LA Galaxy, a founding member of MLS, first played at the Rose Bowl from 1996-2002.

“When we set out to renovate the stadium, this is precisely what we had in mind,” said Pasadena Councilman Victor Gordo. “Fortunately, we’re a couple steps ahead of the Inglewood stadium’s opening. That’s going to be the most expensive stadium in the history of this country — of the world, maybe. And they’re going to have to make up that $4 to $5 billion. They are going to be hungry for events, and they’re likely going to try to buy a lot of the business away from other stadiums. If we hadn’t done the work of renovating the stadium and positioning it ahead of time, we’d be in a world of hurt, potentially also losing UCLA. So I’d like to thank Darryl and his staff for having positioned the Rose Bowl in this way and giving us a fighting chance. This is the kind of deal that we need to drive for so that we’re not just responding to the market and trying to compete for very limited business.”

At the June 4 council meeting, Nina Chomsky, president of the Linda Vista-Annandale Association, questioned whether this deal represents “displacement creep,” meaning a gradual increase of large events at the Rose Bowl each year that are called “displacement events.” The city council has to approve any event over 15 per year. Dunn said they will reserve two displacement event slots for soccer each year over the 10-year period.

“Part of our agreement with AEG is anything over two, no matter what number it will be, would be subject to approvals by the city,” he said.

Pasadena UN Association chapter uses music to help children in some of the world’s poorest refugee camps

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 6/21/2018

With no end in sight to the unprecedented global refugee crisis, the Pasadena chapter of the United Nations Association (UNA) is hosting a concert Friday, June 22, to benefit two of the largest, most crowded and poorest refugee camps in the world.

The second annual concert will raise money for the Adopt-A-Future campaign, run by UNA-USA and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Launched in 2016, Adopt-A-Future raises money to benefit two UN refugee camps in Kenya: the Dadaab Refugee Complex and the Kakuma Refugee Camp, temporary home to more than 400,000 people. Those funds will be matched by the UN Foundation and the queen of Qatar, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.

About 18 million of the more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee their homes and their countries due to conflict and persecution are under the direct care of the UN. More than half of them are children, many of whom have limited if any access to an education. One of the UN’s global goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, is dedicated to “providing inclusive, quality education to all and promoting lifelong learning as a basic human right.”

Student musicians from the Colburn School in Los Angeles will perform at the benefit concert, which will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Westridge School for Girls, 324 Madeline Drive Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students.

Friends in Aleppo

One of those student musicians is herself a refugee from Syria. When Nanor Seraydarian was 11 years old, she and her parents and siblings were visiting her aunt in the United States in June 2012 when all hell broke loose in Aleppo, her home town. They haven’t been back to Syria since, and now live in Reseda, which she said has been difficult. She is entering 11th grade in the fall.

“We didn’t know English back then [in 2012], so I had to learn a new language,” she said. “It was hard making friends at school, especially in the beginning, because everybody would speak English and I wouldn’t know what they were saying. I think music helped me get through that because when I play music I forget about all my worries and about all my pains, and I think through music is how we’re going to get to tell people to help these refugees gain an education.”

Seraydarian is a violinist who performed in last year’s Adopt-A-Future benefit concert and is looking forward to performing again this year.

“I really liked the concert last year,” she said. “It was a great idea to tell people about the refugee camps and the kids who are having difficulties in getting access to education. It was my honor and pleasure to play in the concert. I’m definitely excited to play again this year.”

The destruction of Aleppo was a humanitarian crisis from 2012 to 2016 and became the symbol of a disastrous war that the international community failed to stop. Seraydarian still has family members in Syria who she talks to every week.

“They’re in a safe area, but most areas are still not safe to go,” she said. “They’re mostly at home and at school. I still have some friends there, but I have no contact with them. Some of them I know are in Armenia now, some of them I know are in Canada. I still don’t know what happened to most of my friends who stayed in Aleppo.”

Seraydarian said she misses Syria and wants to go back “when the conditions permit, of course, when it’s safe to go back.”

Special Care Needed

The benefit concert is the brainchild of Marta Sterns, who serves on the board of UNA-Pasadena.

“To me, the fact that those kids are trapped in refugee camps for an average of 17 years is really scary,” she said. “I point out to my progressive friends the fact that it’s a humanitarian crisis when you think of losing that much talent and mental capacity over the next couple of generations. I point out to my conservative friends that there will be 65 million illiterate people emerging from those camps with no home, no country and no place to go. That’s scarier than anything we’re looking at right now, in terms of the potential for radicalization.”

At Kakuma and the nearby Kalobeyei Settlement, which were established in 2015, an influx of refugees from South Sudan has stretched thin the available resources, including education. At Dadaab, 95 percent of the population is from Somalia. According to a UN report, “of 48,737 students enrolled in Dadaab schools in December 2017, there were 943 ‘special needs’ students.” Sterns pointed out that many refugee children need special care because they have experienced extremely traumatic situations, such as the killing of their parents.

Girls are also particularly vulnerable. They constitute nearly 70 percent of out-of-school children in the camps, according to the UN report.

“Girls face negative cultural practices such as early marriage, female genital mutilation, difficulties balancing school work and domestic responsibilities, overcrowding which tends to push girls out and family preferences to educate boys,” reads the report.

So far, the Adopt-A-Future campaign has helped to “expand school infrastructure (seven classrooms and 16 latrines), improve teacher salaries and training and provide desks and more than 9,000 textbooks. Primary education access improved 15.1 percent from 2016 through 2017, and refugee children who sat for the national primary exam achieved an 87.8 percent pass rate (the national average was 76 percent).”

However, these improvements have “not kept pace with the significant growth in school enrollment. Overcrowding threatens the quality of education as 160 children share a classroom meant for 40 pupils. There is one teacher for every 103 pupils, one book for every seven students and one desk for every seven students.”

A Human Right

At the benefit concert, Sterns is aiming to raise $30,000 to build a classroom in one of the refugee camps.

“Last year, we got about 200 people and raised about $8,000, but the auditorium at Westridge will hold 450. We want to fill the room this year,” she said.

Sterns will also be hosting a fundraising soiree at her house in Pasadena where a pianist and an opera singer will perform. She and other members of UNA-Pasadena plan to reach out to local progressive groups to raise funds as well.

“Last year, we had problems giving tickets to the benefit concert away because people thought it was a little kids’ recital, but when they showed up it was a jaw dropping experience,” she said. “These kids are really outstanding performers. They’re in the protégé category. They fill the room with music, and it is just so beautiful.”

Sterns said events like these are becoming increasingly necessary since the Trump administration is cutting US foreign aid, including the United States’ traditional contribution to organizations like the UN. In December, the administration announced $285 million in cuts to the UN’s budget.

“U.S. support around the world is disappearing,” Sterns said. “The remaining opportunities to make a difference in a very complex, violent world are that much more critical. It’s the kids that get me. To me, education is a human right. Besides providing some kind of a life, it’s survival for these populations. They’re not going to make it without an education. They can be trapped in a camp for 17 years, but we can free their minds. We can still give them a chance.”

UNA-Pasadena will also present the second annual Jon Charles Distinguished Service Award to Methodist minister, author, occasional Pasadena Weekly contributing columnist and social activist Inman Moore, in appreciation of his lifelong commitment for social justice, equality and human rights. The award is named after past UNA-Pasadena President Jon Charles, for “his selfless service and dedication to a world that works for everyone.” 

Tickets for tomorrow’s Adopt-A-Future benefit concert can be purchased at the door or online at: bit.ly/UNA-Colburn2018.

Beating the odds

Cancer survivor Gerald Freeny becomes the first black president of the Tournament of Roses

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 2/1/2018

Gerald Freeny of Altadena made history on Jan. 19 when the Tournament of Roses Association announced that Freeny will serve as the first African-American president of the 123-year-old organization, presiding over the 130th Rose Parade and the 105th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1 under the theme “The Melody of Life.”

Until recently, the Tournament had long struggled with the image that it was an exclusive organization run almost entirely by white men. An African American had never served in the organization’s senior staff until 2015, when a senior director of community relations position was created, and there have only been four African-American Rose Queens. It took decades of lobbying and protesting for the Tournament to change its diversity and inclusion policies.

Although Freeny’s presidency was announced last week, the Tournament has a seven-year succession path for its presidents and he was actually elected on Jan. 6, 2011 by the 14-member Executive Committee, the Tournament’s decision-making body consisting of seven future presidents, the current president, the immediate past president, and five rotational “at-large” members. These five seats must be held by racial and gender minorities who get a vote but are not in line to become president like the others and only serve for two years.

The at-large members were added to the Executive Committee as a compromise following protests in 1992-93 led by local developer Jim Morris and newspaper publishers Joe Hopkins and Danny Bakewell, who is also a developer. They blocked traffic with vehicles on South Orange Grove Boulevard in front of Tournament House in fall 1993 to protest the organization’s lack of diversity.

Freeny, 57, was one of the first people chosen to be an at-large member when it was created in 1993. He served from 1993-95, having started as a volunteer with the organization in 1988.

“Being one of the early at-large members gave Gerald the opportunity to be seen on the Executive Committee,” said Ronald Okum, who served as president in 2002 and mentored Freeny.

A cancer survivor, Freeny attended Cal State LA and graduated in 1983 with a degree in business administration and a minor in finance. In addition to his lung cancer, Freeny also had two liver transplants and a kidney transplant. He lives in Altadena with his wife Trina and their daughter Erica. Freeny is a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi and Gamma Zeta Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi fraternities and the First Historic Lutheran Church.

Lessons of Little Rock

In the late 1990s, the Tournament hired consultant Dr. Terrence Roberts — one of the Little Rock Nine who was among the first black students to attend an all-white high school in Arkansas in 1957 through the protection of federal troops — to work with its members and staff in helping them “address complaints from various public and private individuals, organizations, corporations, and municipalities that they were essentially a ‘Whites Only’ organization,” according to Roberts’ consulting  business website.

“I told them, ‘Consider this: You’ve got a bunch of old white guys driving around in white suits, now what message does that send? Literally,’” said Roberts, who has lived in Pasadena since 1985, referring to the 935 volunteers who dress in all-white suits on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. “They were a little aghast, as you might expect. I said, ‘What we need to do is help you develop a greater sense of awareness about what’s going on here. You need to have a historical dimension so you understand why people are even considering making noise about you. You’re not just an occasional thorn in the flesh here. You are representative of what this country has stood for, for too long.’”

Volunteers serve on one of 31 operating committees to help organize and pull off the parade and game, such as the Equestrian Committee, the Parade Operations Committee, the Float Construction Committee, and so on. To move up, exemplary volunteers get promoted to vice chair and then chair of a committee. Among the 31 committee chairs, 16 are considered “director-chairs.” Among those 16, about five have seniority, and candidates to become members of the Executive Committee — and thus a future president — are typically chosen from this pool. It usually takes about 20 to 25 years of volunteer service to the organization to reach this level. This is Freeny’s 30th year with the organization.

Once a person is voted onto the Executive Committee, they are considered a vice president. After serving four consecutive years, they ascend to the office of secretary in the fifth year, treasurer in the sixth year, executive vice president in the seventh year, and then president in the eighth year. That person serves one more year on the Executive Committee after their presidency, and then they are rotated off and become known as a “life director.” The organization’s largely ceremonial Board of Directors is made up of all living past presidents/life directors.

A historic moment

Craig Washington, father of 2012 Rose Queen Drew Washington, former chair of the city of Pasadena’s Northwest Commission and director-chair of the Tournament’s Equestrian Committee, served on the Tournament’s Executive Committee as an at-large member from 2009-11, helping to lay the groundwork for Freeny’s election.

“My task was in whatever way possible to influence in a positive way Gerald’s ascension as a candidate to be elected,” said Washington. “I made a strong lobbying push by spending time with Executive Committee members, talking with them, listening to them, and getting straight to the point, asking, ‘Why hasn’t Gerald been selected? What are the concerns?’”

Freeny’s name had been brought up as a possible new presidential candidate a few times in the years prior to his actual election, but he had thus far been passed up.

The 14 members of the Executive Committee vote using an electronic tool. Everyone presses a button and the results pop up on a screen as a bar graph. With Freeny and other candidates nominated, the first round of balloting began in early January 2011. Washington expected a split result, and thus subsequent rounds of voting that he feared could last a long time.

The members cast their secret electronic votes and the results popped up on the screen. It was a clear majority for Freeny.

“I looked up at the screen and damn near cried,” said Washington. “It was his time.”

Shutting down Millionaire’s Row

Long before the Tournament did the right thing and elected an African American as a future president for the first time, racial tensions were heating up in early 1990s Los Angeles. The Tournament still did not have diverse leadership at that time, even though the African-American community had been demanding they diversify as early as the 1960s.

“African Americans were in no way positioned to be in leadership because of the structure of the organization,” said Washington. “In order for you to become a member at the time you had to be recommended by existing Tournament members. Well, geez, there were no African-American Tournament members, so the little circle just kept going. You’d never get recommended to come into this association.”

In December 1992, racial tensions were so high that Tournament officials agreed to create a new Ethnic Diversity Committee to recruit minority volunteers, expand cultural diversity and reach out to community and political leaders. The president that year, Gary Hayward, issued a statement saying the committee’s task would be in keeping with “our longstanding tradition of conducting our all-volunteer efforts on the highest order of fairness and equality.”

However, that same week, Hayward said in an interview with the Pasadena Star-News that promoting minorities who did not have seniority would “destroy morale” among the membership. Adding insult to injury, then-Tournament Executive Director John H. B. “Jack” French added, “It will never happen.”

Critics called the comments racist, a characterization that Hayward takes issue with.

“I don’t like getting called a bigot,” he said. “I’m not a bigot. It’s amazing that somebody would call somebody they don’t even know a bigot, and call an organization racial and bigoted. They didn’t even know the organization; they were just making a lot of noise to get their name in the paper. The Tournament wasn’t a good old boys club. That’s what was so funny. The only restrictions Tournament had at the time were to live or work within a 15-mile radius of Tournament House. That was it. There was no restriction on race, color, creed, female, or whatever. Tradition is what it was.”

Members of Pasadena’s African-American community, however, argued that progress was moving too slowly and that they were not receiving the same opportunities that white men were within the organization.

As the Tournament began ramping up activities for the upcoming parade on Jan. 1, 1994, Morris and Bakewell decided it was time to shake things up at the Tournament in a big and visible way.

Shortly before 11 a.m. on Oct. 21, 1993, Morris drove a rented Ryder truck and Bakewell drove a Lincoln Town Car to Wrigley Mansion, home of the Tournament of Roses Association on South Orange Grove Boulevard. They positioned their vehicles across the four lanes so that traffic coming from both directions was blocked, just as Tournament members were attempting to arrive for the coronation ceremonies of Rose Queen Erica Beth Brynes of Arcadia. Chaos ensued.

“It was absolutely fabulous, because at that time we knew that we could really move this forward for change,” said Morris. “If you look at the demonstrations that took place in the South, the only reason why they were able to make progress is because of demonstrations. We felt that if we backed down there would never be a Gerald Freeny.”

Dozens of demonstrators gathered on the sidewalk in front of Tournament House holding signs and demanding the organization diversify its leadership and membership. Tournament members verbally clashed with protesters, with one elderly woman reportedly shouting at protesters, “I could kill you,” according to a Los Angeles Times report at the time. Another member told a pregnant protester, “Shut up, you tramp.”

“We want to transform the Tournament of Roses into something truly representative of the community,” Bakewell told a Times reporter at the scene.

Police eventually called in the S. N. Ward & Son towing company, which was owned by then-Tournament President Michael Ward and contracted with the city, to tow the vehicles away.

Eventually, Tournament officials agreed to add five “at-large” seats to the Executive Committee consisting of minority members of the local community. Critics called it tokenism, because although those five people would have the same voting rights and privileges as the original nine members of the committee, they were not in line to be president of the organization like the others.

“You were there to voice your opinions with regards to the community, with regards to speaking for the common member,” Freeny said. “At-large members had every right as an individual who was in line to be president, so that means we had a vote on all issues, and we were invited to all events, but we weren’t in line to be president.”

Still, Washington pointed out, “That was a significant change in the organizational structure, in growing this Executive Committee, which created all the policies.”

Progress made

Freeny and Okum recently agreed that the Tournament has progressed in the years since Bakewell, Morris and others shut down Millionaire’s Row. Women and nonblack minorities have served as president in recent years.

“It is a very diversified organization, and I think when that happens you don’t have the sameness we had from years ago where everybody was white, everybody had the same socioeconomic background,” said Okum, adding that several African Americans are moving up through the ranks and that another African American is expected to be voted onto the Executive Committee in the next few years.

“The diversity is not even an issue anymore,” Okum said. “It’s a different organization from the diversity standpoint than it was 20 years ago.”

Saving American democracy

Patrisse Khan-Cullors explains why Black Lives Matter in a powerful memoir with asha bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 1/18/2018

As the city of Pasadena deals with the fallout over the use-of-force incident in which Pasadena police officers beat a young African-American man named Chris Ballew on Nov. 9, Patrisse Khan-Cullors has released her timely and powerful memoir about co-founding Black Lives Matter and, in part, denouncing police brutality and calling for independent, community-led police auditors.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir is a deeply personal exploration of Khan-Cullors’ life, from her hardscrabble upbringing in Van Nuys and the trauma of watching her pre-teen brothers being arrested for doing nothing to her exploration of her sexuality (she identifies as queer but had a couple of meaningful heterosexual relationships throughout her life). She describes bonding with her father and the pain of losing him too early, first to drugs and jail and then ultimately to death.

The book weaves her often painful personal and family history into the larger class and racial struggles taking place in Los Angeles in the 1980s and ’90s. From an early age, she learned that the police were not looking out for her or her family’s best interests.

“For my brothers, learning that they did not matter, that they were expendable, began in the streets, began while they were hanging out with friends, began while they were literally breathing while Black,” she wrote. “For us, law enforcement had nothing to do with protecting and serving, but controlling and containing the movement of children who had been labeled super-predators simply by virtue of who they were born to and where they were born, not because they were actually doing anything predatory.”

An Unheard Story

The memoir, co-authored by writer and activist asha bandele, with an introduction by activist and scholar Angela Davis, is written poetically, at once calling out the injustices of America while also inspiring hope into a new generation and instilling the fight in those to come. On Friday, Khan-Cullors and bandele launched a 14-city book tour at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, which was attended by hundreds of people.

“Part of the reason why I wrote this book is because I wanted to have a larger conversation about what it means to grow up black and queer as a woman in Los Angeles, which has been deeply impacted by militant policing and a jail system that is the largest jailor in the world,” said Khan-Cullors. “How does that actually impact black women and young black girls? We haven’t heard a story in that way, because mass incarceration and state violence is so often talked about through the lens of black men. It’s also a coming of age story. It’s about how I became an organizer and eventually how I helped start Black Lives Matter.”

Her work inspired Jasmine Abdullah and Black Lives Matter Pasadena, who have been vocal in opposition to the killings and brutality carried out by the Pasadena Police Department. Khan-Cullors called their work “powerful.”

“Pasadena often reminds me of a small suburb outside of a big city that gets very little attention,” she said. “I remember the very small story about Kendrec McDade’s killing and Reginald Thomas’ killing. Black Lives Matter Pasadena is a lot of young people, 11 year olds and 12 year olds, who are trying to carve out a space for black people in a historically white town.”

The book also lays out the tragedy of Khan-Cullors’ brother Monte, who suffered from schizoaffective disorder but was treated like a criminal and a gang member by the police, who arrested him, charged him with terrorism for yelling after a fender bender, withheld medication from him, beat him and humiliated him in jail, and repeated the process shortly after he was released. His life, like many other young black men before and after him, was never the same, and neither were the lives of his family members, who were forced to be the support network that society denied him.

After reading the 2011 ACLU report detailing the abuse deputies inflicted upon inmates in LA County jails, Khan-Cullors realized that although she and other activists are often called terrorists, it is the police who terrorize black people.

“I am still a teenager when [Monte] is tortured by the LA County Sheriff’s Department,” she wrote. “Torture is planned out and its purpose is to deliberately and systematically dismantle a person’s identity and humanity. It is designed to destroy a sense of community and eliminate leaders and create a climate of fear. Torture is terrorism.”

First and foremost, Khan-Cullors wants people who read the book to realize how resilient black people and other people at the margins of society actually are.

“I want people to see more than just the really tragic stories that I talk about in the book, but also that organizing and activism can actually save American democracy,” she said. “And I want people to see the love that I have and that so many of us have for black people.”

Birth of a Movement

Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 following the tragic acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In the wake of the verdict, Khan-Cullors responded to a Facebook post by her friend Alicia with a hashtag that would soon go viral. In response to her friend writing, “Stop saying that we are not surprised. That’s a damn shame in itself. I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter. Stop giving up on black life,” Khan-Cullors wrote, “#BlackLivesMatter.” And thus, a movement was born. And Khan-Cullors began organizing.

The movement picked up steam in 2014 following the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white officer. With each new killing of an unarmed black person by a white officer across the country, the message that black lives do not matter became further ingrained, Khan-Cullors writes in her memoir, and therefore all the more necessary is the message of Black Lives Matter.

Looking ahead, Khan-Cullors said Black Lives Matter is developing a strategic vision and plan for the next five years.

“Black Lives Matter, the organization, and the larger movement for black lives is in a really powerful moment,” she said. “We are taking stock of the last four and a half years and taking the time to really codify the work that we’ve done. We are in a place where much of our work is about what it takes to build strong institutions that can take on administrations like we have right now under 45.”

She added that President Donald Trump’s recent comments referring to Haiti and African countries as “shitholes” is “absolutely disturbing.”

“The fact that he’s the president is disturbing,” she said. “The reality that he is the president for such a marginal part of our population, and that he really represents the underbelly of American society.”