Strangers help a Black martial artist get her dojo back after looting in Long Beach

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Zahalea Anderson is a longtime martial arts professor in Long Beach. Her business, the Urban School of Self-Defense, sat near the corner of 7th St. and Pine Ave., a block filled with predominantly minority-owned businesses.

But after what had been a largely peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd in May, looters ransacked several blocks of businesses, including her dojo, which was set aflame.

“That night I was home with my family, flipping channels, saw the news, saw the corner, saw my building, didn’t want to believe it. But there it was, up in flames,” says Anderson. “Every single emotion was running through my veins. I was screaming, and crying, and upset, in disbelief.”

The next day, Michigan resident Marie Hosep started a GoFundMe page to help Anderson’s business. Hosep didn’t know Anderson, but she saw someone tweet about what had happened and wanted to help. Two months later, the page has raised $164,000.

Anderson hopes to use that money to lease or buy a new building. She wants to continue the legacy her parents started when they opened the dojo in 1995.

“I get a second chance,” she says. “This is showing me that I have paid my dues to the community, because now the community is giving back, which I can now give back out again. That’s the circle of life.”