Strangers raise more than $130k after looters burn down Long Beach business

After Zahalea Anderson's Urban School of Self-Defense was set on fire Sunday night in Long Beach, strangers from around the globe stepped in to help.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- It's a moment that small-business owner Zahalea Anderson will not soon forget: watching her business burn down on live TV.

"I'm at home and turn to the news and I see my building on fire," said Anderson. "Every single emotion that you can think of just ran through my veins."

Zahalea has been teaching Sanuces Ryu Ju-Jitsu for 25 years in downtown Long Beach. The Ju-Jitsu professor was looking forward to eventually reopening the dojo after months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"When you have such a sacred place that brings you into yourself and teaches you more about yourself and how to become a better human being; that's what our martial art is about," she said.

After a peaceful protest in honor of George Floyd ended Sunday, looters came and wreaked havoc on the city. The Urban School of Self-Defense was part of a business complex on Seventh Street and Pine Avenue that was set on fire.

"I'm for the cause," Zahalea said. "Look at me; I represent. I understand what has been going on. So, to have this happen, I am upset but then I am not upset because I understand."

When Zahalea returned to the dojo on Monday morning, she was surprised to find a group of community members already cleaning up the ash and debris.

"It was packed with people with brooms and shovels and bags with their masks on," Zahalea said. "It was so beautiful to see people really come together through this hard time to really help somebody."

Zahalea posted a photo of herself to Facebook, standing in front of what was left of her family business.


This post caught the eye of Bobbi Towns, an artist from Columbus, OH.

"I just felt like it was my opportunity to put my money where my mouth was," Towns said.

Towns tweeted out a call for action which went viral.


That tweet got the attention of Michigan college student, Marie Hosep, who created a GoFundMe page to benefit Zahalea and the Urban School of Self-Defense.

"I just hope it helps her with the business and that she's going to come back better than ever with the money," Hosep said.

So far, the GoFundMe page has raised more than $130K for Zahalea.

"I can rise like a phoenix, and not just me all of us here on this block," she said. "It's just such a beautiful feeling to know that there is going to be a change. "

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