Alyssa Milano refuses to speak at Women's March events unless co-chairs step down

Women's March co-organizers Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory have been scrutinised for their association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan

Sarah Harvard
New York
Wednesday 07 November 2018 22:45 GMT
Alyssa Milano was upset after her breast milk was confiscated
Alyssa Milano was upset after her breast milk was confiscated (Rex Features)

Actress Alyssa Milano said she will not speak at any Women’s March events unless Women’s March co-chairs Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory either denounce Nation of Islam (NOI) Founder Louis Farrakhan’s antisemitism or step down from leadership.

“I would say no at this point,” Ms Milano told the Advocate in an interview, when asked if she would speak at any future Women’s March rallies. “Unfortunate that none of them have come forward against him at this point. Or even given a really good reason why to support them.”

Ms Milano, who gained national attention for her participation in the #MeToo movement, said she is disappointed in how Women’s March leadership have been silent in Mr Farrakhan’s long history of espousing antisemitic remarks.

“Any time that there is any bigotry or anti-Semitism in that respect, it needs to be called out and addressed,” she added. “I’m disappointed in the leadership of the Women’s March that they haven’t done it adequately.”

Ms Milano is referring to Ms Sarsour, a Palestinian-American Muslim activist, and Ms Mallory, an advocate for gun control and #BlackLivesMatter, who were scrutinised earlier this year for their ties to the NOI Leader.

Ms Mallory attended Mr Farrakhan’s speaking event in March where he reportedly labeled the “powerful Jews” and his “enemy.” She posted about the event and the NOI leader also praised Mallory for her activism work.

Farrakhan has been the subject of discussion in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 people dead. The alleged shooter, Robert Bowers, posted numerous social media posts railing against Jews and accusing them of controlling the world. In turn, Ms Mallory and Ms Sarsour have been a frequent target of backlash for their ties with Farrakhan and his antisemitism.

Although Ms Sarsour has already denounced Mr Farrakhan as an antisemite in November 2017, she rushed to Ms Mallory’s defence when the black activists was criticised for her association with the NOI leader.

“I don’t think these people have our best interests at heart to make us better people or to disrupt misconceptions or anti-Semitism because trashing a strong black woman and holding her accountable for the words of a man is not the way to bring people together,” Ms Sarsour said on Facebook, in reference to the NOI. “What work are we willing to do and are we willing to be open to the true idea that members of the NOI are not all anti-Semites? Are we cool with broad brushing a whole group?”

Ms Mallory, however, said she does not agree with Mr Farrakhan’s hateful rhetoric about Jews, women, gays and transgender people.

“I don’t agree with everything that Minister Farrakhan said about Jews or women or gay people,” Ms Mallory told the Atlantic in March. “I study in a tradition, the Kingian nonviolent tradition. I go into prisons and group homes and I don’t come out saying, ‘I just left the criminals or the killers.’ That’s not my language. That’s not something I do. I don’t speak in that way. In the tradition that I come out of, we attack the forces of evil but not people.”

As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer pointed out, Ms Mallory’s introduction to the NOI and Farrakhan is different from the likes of Ms Milano. After her son’s father was murdered, Ms Mallory turned to anti-violence activism in neighbourhoods like hers—poor, segregated, and predominantly black. In these neighbourhoods, she found the NOI there mobilising and advocating for families victim to gun violence.

“In that most difficult period of my life, it was the women of the Nation of Islam who supported me and I have always held them close to my heart for that reason,” Ms Mallory wrote in a March statement.

“The Nation of Islam was the place where most of the black men and women that I knew had been there and really had been reformed,” Ms Mallory said, referring to a long history of the NOI curbing gang violence in American cities. ”Men particularly in my family, people who had been arrested, and people who had been through really troubled situations, I saw them cleaning themselves up and were successful.”

“I found that the Nation had been influential in helping them to turn their lives around," Ms Mallory added.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Women’s March activists have rushed to defend Ms Sarsour and Ms Mallory after the liberal actress publicly announced her boycott of the grassroots feminist organisation. On Twitter, Women’s March communications officer Sophie Ellman-Golan attempted to dispel the false accusation made against the organisation’s co-chairs, namely Ms Sarsour.

“Convenient that in the aftermath of the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history and right before an election that depends on our ability to unite as an oppressed majority against white nationalism, there’s a resurgence in the “Linda Sarsour is a terrorist and antisemite” myth,” Ms Ellman-Golman, who identifies as Jewish, wrote in a tweet.

Ms Ellman-Golman continued to say that Ms Sarsour called her—in tears— immediately after news of the Pittsburgh shooting broke and then “leapt into action” to help raise money for funerals. She also noted Ms Sarsour’s organisation, MPower Change, that has frequently worked alongside Jewish groups to combat antisemitism.

“Literally none of this was surprising, because this is who @lsarsour is. This is what she does. And she doesn’t just do it in big moments,” Ms Ellman-Golman added. “[Ms Sarsour] constantly uses her position as a movement leader to encourage other non-Jewish movement leaders to learn about antisemitism.”


Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in