President Barack Obama makes welcomes guests at the White House Black History Month Celebration with Michelle Obama at his side.

photo: YouTube

Aislinn Pulley is the cofounder of the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter: “one of *many* iterations of #BlackLivesMatter: a movement, a rebellion, an affirmation, an intervention… and so much more [sic],” according to the group’s website, with priorities “to amplify our collective knowledge and applied practices toward abolishing anti-Blackness.”

She also just turned down an invitation from the President.

Well, kinda: Pulley was one of about 20 people invited to the White House for what was billed by a White House official as an intergenerational meeting of black leaders to discuss criminal justice reform throughout the U.S., reports the Chicago Tribune. But in a somewhat odd move, Pulley declined.

In an op-ed published by Truth Out on Thursday, Pulley thoughtfully explains the rationale behind why she “respectfully declined the invitation” to attend the reception hosted by Barack and Michelle Obama:

“[A]s 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.”

Not everybody agreed with Pulley's decision.

But Pulley further defended her choice.

“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.

“If the administration is serious about addressing the issues of Black Lives Matter Chicago - and its sister organizations that go by different names across this nation - they can start by meeting the simple demands of families who want transparency, and who want police that kill Black people unjustly to be fired, indicted and held accountable. A meeting arranged to carry this out is one that would be worthy of consideration. Until this begins to happen on a mass scale, any celebrations of Black history that go on inside the walls of the White House are hollow and ceremonial at best.”

(You can ready Pulley’s full op-ed here.)

However, according to activist and political hopeful DeRay Mckesson, who did attend the event, it was more than just a photo-op:

McKesson also explained why he attended the event:

Both sides may disagree about the right to approach change, but one thing is for sure: the conversation is far from over.