Born in Birmingham, Alabama (referred to as the Johannesburg of the South) in 1944, Angela Davis experienced life on the front lines of the American Civil Rights Movement. A one-time member of the Communist Party and associated with the Black Panther Party (thought never an official member), she has a deep understanding of the United States’ association with the fear of blackness, as well as Communism; in fact she recalls receiving hate mail suggesting she return to both Africa and Russia. She is most known for her ongoing work against all forms of oppression, and is particularly keen on the critique of institutionalized inequality. Much of her current efforts are directed toward the appalling state of the United States justice system. Though to call her an activist is hardly enough; she spent time teaching at UC Santa Cruz, San Francisco State University, and Syracuse University and has delivered lectures across the globe, and continues to do so.
Rather than something that can be granted by law, Davis calls freedom a “collective striving” and uses her historical insight to bring to light the interconnectedness of issues facing social justice movements as a whole. In her collection of speeches, The Meaning of Freedom And Other Difficult Dialogues, published by City Lights in 2012, Davis discusses sexuality, power, racism, immigration, class, and incarceration—demanding a new way of thinking. Alain Badiou once said of the potential state of philosophy,
“We can imagine two cases. First case: a new dawn of creative experiments in matters of science, politics, art or love is on the verge of a new evening for philosophy. Second case: our civilisation is exhausted, and the future that we are capable of imagining is a sombre one, a future of perpetual obscurity.”
from Philosophy For Militants
Like Badiou, Davis too believes in a new dawn of philosophy, but like too few of our planet’s thinkers, she is dedicated to not only the widespread instigation of these important discussions, but also defining the actual steps we need to take as a society to achieve this desired change. In her foreword to The Meaning of Freedom, Robin D.G. Kelley beautifully honors Davis’s accomplishments, ending with the conclusion that
“She still believes in social movements, in the power of the people to transform society, and in a non-capitalist path.”
In acknowledgement of the thousands who have spent the last few months, years, and decades in the streets supporting those who are unable to have a voice due to incarceration, or because they have lost their lives at the hand of an over-militarized aristocracy, please enjoy this excerpt from Angela Davis’s writing. Continue reading