I met my "SHEro": Angela Davis, D.C., & Continued Inspiration
Last Thursday, October 11th, I met one of my heroes: Angela Davis. Yes. THE Angela Yvonne Davis. The radical activist Angela Davis that was wanted by the FBI, associated with the Black Panther Party, a member of the Communist Part of the USA, and continues to fight for prison reform. If a history fangirl exists, I embodied every bit of her when I saw Angela Davis walk into the room. She also signed my copy of her book Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. I studied her in graduate school, learning what it meant to be a freedom fighting intellectual, political activist, and a courageous and radical woman who was unafraid to fight against the system, proudly. Me and my husband planned a trip to Washington, D.C., and it just so happened that she was going to be speaking at Busboys and Poets in D.C., a restaurant and bookstore that is all about urban culture, speaking out against racism, and resisting. The vibe had me wanting to take the whole place home with me! “An Evening with Angela Davis” was inspiring and informative, with the talk being led by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!
Before I go any further, not everyone knows who Angela Davis is and why she is a phenomenal black woman. I could write pages and pages about her, but I’m not going to do that to you (haha!). I’ll put it in a nutshell as much as I can. After Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Angela Davis became a member of the Communist Party, USA. Around this same time, she became involved in radical black politics, joining the Black Panther Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She was part of an all-black Communist group called the Che-Lumumba Club, and through that group began to organize public protests. In 1969, Davis was hired as a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, teaching philosophy. Her identity as a member of the Communist Party was discovered, and she was fired by the then governor of California, Ronald Reagan. Yes, the same Ronald Reagan who becomes president of the US in in 1981.
Have you heard about Angela Davis, the Soledad Brothers, and her charges? On August 7, 1970, there was a shootout at the Marin County Courthouse in San Rafael, California. Seventeen year old Jonathan Jackson kidnapped Superior Court Judge Harold Haley. The kidnapping was meant as a way to negotiate the freedom of the Soledad Brothers, a trio of black inmates (George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Clutchette) who were charged with the murder of a prison guard at Soledad Prison in California. Also, George Jackson was the brothers of Jonathan Jackson. Jackson was heavily armed and took over the courtroom in Marin County, arming the defendants and taking Judge Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors hostage. In a shootout that happened as they tried to escape, Judge Haley, the defendants, and Jonathan Jackson were killed. In the investigation, it was discovered that the shotguns used by Jackson were allegedly registered in Davis’ name. She was quickly put on the FBI’s most wanted list and was found days later in New York City. After declaring her innocence there was widespread organization for her release with 200 committees created in the US and 67 abroad. There was an organization called the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis, and Davis insisted that it be called the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners. She spent 18 months in prison. With lack of evidence to convict her, the all-white jury eventually came to a not guilty verdict and she was released in 1972. After her release, the decades that followed show her deep involvement with the quest for social justice and political freedom. She is AMAZING.
Hearing her speak at Busboys and Poets last week honestly inspired me to continue pursuing my passion and made me feel hopeful about educating and informing people about history and social issues. She spoke about the current state of America, how racism is what got Trump elected, the disgusting approval of Kavanaugh to sit on the highest court in the land, black lives matter, and how she is inspired by our generation of protestors and advocates. She also praised black women and discussed how we have always been the ones making boss moves politically and socially, even though we didn’t and still don’t get the credit we deserve. To hear all of this from someone like her was so moving.
I’m going to include a few of my favorite Angela Davis quotes for you as well:
“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”
“When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible, because what it means is that the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through, what black people have experienced in this country, since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.”
“When "you talk about a revolution, most people think you mean violence, without realizing that the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles and the goals that you’re striving for—not in the way you reach them.”
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
“We live in a society of an imposed forgetfulness, a society that depends on public amnesia.”
“I believe profoundly in the possibilities of democracy, but democracy needs to be emancipated from capitalism. As long as we inhabit a capitalist democracy, a future of racial equality, gender equality, economic equality will elude us.”
“As a black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up with and flow from participation in my people's struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against American imperialism.”
She's amazing, y’all. A courageous woman that everyone should know about. Read more about her. Watch her interviews. Look at her fearlessness. Phenomenal.