Civil rights activist and Women’s March on Washington co-founder has stirred up Twitter controversy after she was kicked off an American Airlines flight on Sunday, she claims due to racial discrimination.
“I was just removed from an .@americanairlines flight because of white make aggression. I will fight this until I die!” Mallory tweeted after she deboarded the plane. “Doesn’t matter how much we do and how hard we fight, white men are allowed to treat black women like shit .
AmericanAir,” she added. @
Her remarks have proved divisive on Twitter, with some tweeting their support and condemning American Airlines’ employees for their treatment of black passengers, while others wondered whether the incident had been prompted by something other than race—at least one other passenger on the flight has told Heavy that Mallory behaved rudely toward airline staff while on board.
Here’s what you need to know about Tamika Mallory and the incident on board the flight:
1. A New York City Native & Daughter of 2 Activists, Mallory Was the Youngest Ever Executive Director of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network
The Rev. Al Sharpton of National Action Network, Martin Luther King III, and Rabbi Jonah Pesner of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism lead the Ministers March for Justice August 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. About 1,000 faith leaders gathered and participated in the march from Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to the Justice Department.Mallory’s parents, Stanley and Voncile, were both founding members of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, which “works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda that includes the fight for one standard of justice, decency and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, nationality or gender.”
At the age of 15, she joined the organization’s staff when a violent police shooting rocked New York City in 1999. She would later become the NAN’s youngest executive director.
After leaving NAN in 2013, she founded Mallory Consulting, a NYC-based “strategic planning and event management firm [that works] with Fortune 500 corporations and organizations, on flagship projects related to mass incarceration, gun violence and police brutality.”
Now 36 years old, Mallory is a single parent to a teenage son, Tarique, whose father was beaten and shot to death in 2001. “When it happened, I was angry and confused, but NAN taught me to organize and be involved in the activity of the issue,” she told New York Amsterdam News in 2013. Mallory has since served as a member of Joe Biden’s gun-control task force during the Obama administration, and on the transition team for NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.
“I was the one who once needed a helping hand. Sometimes we get caught up in politics and policies. But after the sound bites, the family goes home to pain,” she told New York Daily News of her activism with the families of police shooting victims.
2. Mallory helped co-found the Women’s March & was featured in the Time’s 100 most influential people in 2017 for her work
Together with fellow activists Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland, Mallory founded the Women’s March on Washington, which flooded the streets of D.C. for the first time on January 21, 2017.
“We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments,” says the website for the march on its mission page.
“It doesn’t take throwing a brick; being a symbol as taxpayers, as citizens, is super important. And the number of people that we hope will come together in Washington D.C. is going to be a real eye-opener. . . . I don’t expect Donald Trump to be moved. But I do know that there are Congress members and senators and local governors and local elected officials who will see all those people in Washington D.C. and understand that their positions are going to be threatened unless they uphold our rights,” Mallory told COMPLEX in an interview just prior to the march.
The New York Times estimated that the event drew a crowd three times the size of the one outside of Trump’s inauguration, which had taken place the previous day. Crowd scientists Marcel Altenburg and Keith Still told the Times that about 470,000 had attended the march, compared to 160,000 at the inauguration. A D.C. Metro official confirmed to the Times that more rail tickets had been sold the day of the march than on any other day apart from Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Mallory and her fellow Women’s March co-founders were featured in Time’s 2017 list of The 100 Most Influential People for their work on the event. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wrote the commendation:
The Women’s March was the most inspiring and transformational moment I’ve ever witnessed in politics. It was a joyful day of clarity and a lightning bolt of awakening for so many women and men who demanded to be heard.
And it happened because four extraordinary women—Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour—had the courage to take on something big, important and urgent, and never gave up. Because of their hard work, millions of people got off the sidelines, raised their voices and marched. The images of Jan. 21, 2017, show a diverse, dynamic America—striving for equality for all. The moment and movement mattered so profoundly because it was intersectional and deeply personal.
This is the rebirth of the women’s movement. These women are the suffragists of our time. And our movement isn’t going away—it’s just the beginning.
3. Mallory Was Kicked off an American Airlines Flight by the Pilot on Sunday Over a Seat Dispute
Tamika Mallory attends Pink Chose Me Foundation Presents BRA Day USA 2012 Sponsored By MARTINI>> on October 17, 2012 in New York City.After leaving the REVOLT Music Conference on Sunday, Mallory stopped at a ticket kiosk at the Miami Airport to switch her seat from a middle seat to an aisle. Upon arrival at the gate, Mallory was issued a new ticket with her original seat on it.
According to an account from the New York Daily News, Mallory asked a gate agent why her seat had been switched back and said the agent’s response was “nasty” and “disrespectful”. A pilot overheard the tail end of the conversation and stopped Mallory, telling her she had been “disrespectful” toward the gate agent.
“Then he said to me, ‘Can you get on this flight? Are you going to be a problem on this flight?’ I said ‘No, I’m not. Actually, I’m fine. But I will write my complaint down. He looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to get yourself a one-way ticket off this plane,” Mallory told the Daily News.
The activist was allowed to board, but after settling in her (middle) seat, an announcement was made over the loudspeaker asking her to come up to the front of the plane. Upon arrival, she told the Daily News, the pilot simply pointed at her and said, “Her, off.”
“Then I asked why I was being removed. I asked why was this happening to me. I told him I felt completely disrespected. I began to weep,” said Mallory, but she did not receive a response. Mallory and her traveling companion were ultimately escorted off the plane by the local police.
4. Mallory Claims That She Was Targeted by the Pilot’s “White Male Aggression”
After being removed from the plane, Mallory posted a series of messages to her Twitter account claiming that she had been mistreated by airline employees due to being a black passenger in first class, and that the only reason the pilot had gotten involved was due to his “white male aggression.”
“Only reason this pilot got involved was to assert his white male power over who he thought was just some uppity black girl. That’s it,” she wrote later that afternoon.
Mallory’s tweets drew criticism from some of her followers, with one person responding, “Is there a video of this yet? I’m dying to see what happened in reality vs. in Tamika’s head.” Another twitterer asked for more backstory, saying, “Pretty sure there is more to this story than ‘white male aggression.’”
“I get kicked off a flight for #FlyingWhileBlack, then am told I probably deserved it, or I must be lying. Because not one trusts black women,” Mallory responded to the criticisms.
A spokesperson for American Airlines responded to the incident by saying, “Our team does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. … We take these allegations seriously, and we are in the process of reaching out to our colleagues in Miami, as well as Ms. Mallory, to obtain additional information on what transpired during the boarding process.”
5. Another Passenger Has Spoken About the Incident, Calling Mallory out For “Screaming F-Bombs … In Front of Kids”
Another passenger has come forward about their experience on the American Airlines flight that Mallory was kicked off of, telling the activist, “I was on this flight with you, you were screaming f-bombs at the staff in front of kids. Everyone cheered when you left.”
Heavy reached out to the passenger, who recorded a video of the incident but wishes to remain anonymous and has not yet released the footage. It’s “true i do have video, and its shameful that she acted this way, berating and cursing infront [sic] of toddlers and worried parents. … [The] passengers on the first row to the left had a toddler that they were trying to shield from the language and threats Ms.Mallory was shouting at the crew,” the account holder told Heavy in a private message.