Angela Davis used to scare me, or maybe it was that she intimidated me. But that is probably not saying as much as it looks like, because there was a time (a long time) in my life when most people intimidated me. Why is a whole other story, more self-confessional than I want to get into here. But I think I’ve mostly grown beyond that now.
But Angela Davis. She really is something. Maybe she still intimidates me some.
She was born January 26, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated from Brandeis University, University of Frankfurt and earned her PhD from Humbolt University in Berlin. She is a woman of intellect. Some have called her a radical. She says, “Radical simply means “grasping things at the root.”
Angela Davis was a leader in the second wave of feminism, a member of the Black Panther Party and a communist. She ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Community Party. She actively campaigned against the Viet Nam war.
Angela Davis taught at various Universities across the United States. She teaches that “We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” And, “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”
She was a supporter of the Soledad Brothers, three inmates who where accused and charged with killing a guard at Soledad prison. While the three inmates were on trial, one of their brothers secreted guns into the courtroom to help the defendants escape. Melee ensued. The judge and the defendants were shot and killed. A juror and the prosecutor were injured.
Angela Davis had corresponded with one of the inmates and purchased some of the guns. Even though she was not present during the court room melee, she was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder of the judge. At one point she was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. She was apprehended, and spent a year in jail before she was found NOT GUILTY on all charges.
Angela Davis has worked persistently for the abolition of prisons and the prison-industrial complex as well as the abolition of the death penalty. In Are Prisons Obsolete? Asserts “[Prison] relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.”
Angela Davis is a woman of principle and action. In Freedom Is a Constant Struggle she said, “Everyone is familiar with the slogan “The personal is political” — not only that what we experience on a personal level has profound political implications, but that our interior lives, our emotional lives are very much informed by ideology. We oftentimes do the work of the state in and through our interior lives. What we often assume belongs most intimately to ourselves and to our emotional life has been produced elsewhere and has been recruited to do the work of racism and repression.”
Angela Davis is a woman of action and compassion who challenges us to remember, “Whenever you conceptualize social justice struggles, you will always defeat your own purposes if you cannot imagine the people around whom you are struggling as equal partners.”