April 26, 2008
By Mike McLaughlin
The Brooklyn Paper
Former Black Panther and Communist party vice-presidential candidate
Angela Davis captivated a capacity crowd at the Pratt Institute this
week with a message that racism is still as ingrained as ever in the
Five hundred students and faculty members filled Pratt's Memorial
Hall on Tuesday night to hear Davis who gained notoriety as a
fugitive Black Panther in the 1970s accused and acquitted of
smuggling guns to a prisoner deliver the art and design school's
annual Scholar in Residence lecture.
The visiting professor from the University of California–Santa Cruz
focused her remarks on racism, arguing that the most-egregious
examples of past racism segregation, slavery prevent people from
recognizing the bigotry that is prevalent in today's world, as when
students hung a noose in a schoolyard tree in Jena, Louisiana last
year, or when celebrities like Michael Richards and Don Imus utter
"[People want to believe that] these are personal, private
irregularities," Davis said, but they are actually the result of
deeply embedded discrimination an omnipresent facet of American
life that also reveals itself in the disproportionate numbers of
minorities who are in jail, uneducated or without health care
"Why is so difficult to name these practices as racist?" Davis wondered.
A trickle of people left the hall during the lecture, but most people
sat in rapt attention for two hours and were buzzing with excitement
after the event.
"It was amazing," said Devin Rochford, who attended the lecture
because a friend recommended it.
Others were digesting their first serving of Davis on an even keel.
"She's a well-known figure that I've always known a little bit
about," said Julia Cocuzza, who agreed with much of what Davis said.
"I was pretty open-minded."
In her own words
Former Communist Party leader and Black Panther Angela Davis came to
Pratt Institute on Tuesday night. Here's what she said:
"Why are the presidential candidates reluctant to talk about why we
are where we are? Obama would get slightly higher marks than Hillary,
but there are some major problems here. … When [President Bush]
actually speaks about democracy and freedom, he's really talking
about capitalism. … Dr. [Martin Luther] King is represented as
someone who just appeared and waved his wand and the civil rights
movement appeared. … [In the 1960s] we were certain the revolution
was right around the corner. … Capitalism is very seductive. …
Everything is going to be commercialized. Why are we surprised about that?"