A revolutionary, a scholar and an activist, Angela Davis is renowned for her works that cover issues of race, sex, and class. And on Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Redlands, students packed the Memorial Chapel awaiting Angela Davis to deliver an eye opening lecture. This event was put on by the Executive Director of Convocations and Lectures, Brenna Phillips.
Davis’ lecture focused on “a call for intersectionality,” the idea that factors like race, gender, class, etc. coexist and depend on each other. She essentially meant that it is time to acknowledge all variables when trying to combat issues that exist in society. Davis also wanted the audience to wrap their heads around the idea that activism should be a collective of leaders, focusing on community, whereas in the past we have focused on one individual as the face of the movement or the driving force. An example of this she said would be Martin Luther King Jr., who Davis thinks most people around the world see as the totality of the civil rights movement. Although he was a great part of it, without the help of the community he would not have seen the results he did. She also was not afraid to share views about current political figures, such as Trump, saying “he adds to patriarchal ideology. ”
Throughout her speech, she wanted to evoke the idea that we should be striving to make change happen and to continuously provide criticism to change the system. A quote she used to embody what she felt the movement should be, was said by Janelle Monae, “We come in peace, but we mean business.” The main idea, intersectionality, is how she wanted to eradicate things such as glass ceiling feminism.
Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Angela Davis witnessed discrimination and terrorism from the Ku Klux Klan against the black community. Davis’s mother was associated with the NAACP, and her father participated in patrolling their neighborhood, along with other black citizens, and much of her education came from a leftist educators. The environment she grew up in was heavily impacted by the discrimination in society and Davis has participated in fighting against discrimination for much of her life.
Participating in the Civil Rights movement in California, Angela Davis has been present in a pivotal moment in American history, and her experiences and insight has been monumental for many progressive movements. She had been involved with the Black Panthers during the time of the Nixon presidency and when Ronald Reagan was governor of California. She was also involved with the American Communist Party, which later led to her being dismissed from her position as an assistant professor at the University of Los Angeles. Davis was charged with aiding in a attempted escape of George Jackson, along with other inmates, despite not being present. During an interview in a California prison in 1970, Davis gave her point of view of society, and she defends her arguments in activism and her association with the Communist Party.
Davis describes herself as a communist and her views on sexism, incarceration, and the issues within the capitalist system comes both from experience as well as her political views. Her view on hierarchical sex discrimination that we see in American society, and the racism that plagues different institutions, comes from the history of capitalism in America being used to exploit women, minorities, and lower income people in America. The fact that there is a division of labor between a man and a woman within a “traditional” household and the dominance of the patriarchy in government and society already shows that there is inequality in society. The fact that law enforcement targets groups of minorities and label them as extremist groups rather than act against actual terrorist groups, such as the KKK, which Davis has witnessed in Alabama.
The prison system is another topic that Davis analyzes and focuses on its propensity to target minority groups. In her book, “Are Prisons Obsolete?,” she brings up the topics of race discrimination and the Prison Industrial Complex. This even goes further into connecting the subjugation of minorities to the days of American slavery, and the exploitation of labor and involuntary servitude. From 1980 to today, the amount of people incarcerated in America has more than quadrupled, showing that Davis’s analysis of the prison system still holds weight today.
Davis has continued to work as an educator as a professor of history consciousness until retiring from University of California, Santa Cruz in 2008. She has appeared in numerous interviews and provides invaluable insight on the politics today.
She is a revolutionary that accounts for how intersectional identities such as class, sex, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation shape lived realities. And as Davis said, “It is important to make sure everyone’s truth is being represented.”
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer, Catie Nohra.