Thursday, November 06, 2008
By Barry O'Brien
Õ7O'BrienÕ Angela Davis is an author, educator (university
professor), activist and lifelong student. She is well-known not only
for her writings, but her human- and civil-rights work. Recently,
Davis came to visit Ed Smith Elementary School, in Syracuse.
As she entered the cafetorium, a wave of applause followed her to the
stage. Principal Darryl Hall introduced the smiling Davis. She
described herself as originally being a shy person who wanted to be a
doctor when she grew up.
Right away, Davis told the seated fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and
eighth-graders that she was interested in creating "a dialogue" with
them, and started answering their prepared questions.
The first student asked her if she liked to read. Angela said yes,
and explained how her parents (one an elementary teacher, and the
other a high school teacher), began teaching her to read at the age
of 2. She has a strong memory of reading a picture/word book at the
age of 3. Davis recalled that one summer, she and her siblings had a
family reading competition. Angela read 50 books and won the special
prize from her parents.
Angela, who was born in 1944, mentioned her home town of Birmingham,
Ala., and talked about segregation and growing up at the time of
Martin Luther King. Davis recounted how she had questioned her mom as
to why the white children were able to go to an amusement park, and
the black children were not permitted. Her mother explained to her
how it was wrong and went on to say, "that it will change one day,
and things will get better."
Angela said she began hearing and participating in racial discussions
at her local church when she was 11. At 15, she attended college and,
by age 19, she had already earned a degree. Moving from Birmingham
for more schooling in New York City, she said she had hoped she was
not going to face racism, but discovered it also existed up North.
Davis said she enjoyed studying in France and Germany, but found some
similar prejudice. She asked the crowd if anybody had done some
traveling and encouraged students to do it.
Angela also humbly explained that it was not singularly her work that
helped her reach her goals. It was the work that others have done.
She stressed the importance of community. Davis spoke about how
people from around the world petitioned to get her out of prison.
When asked by a student, "Which of your books is your favorite?"
Davis mentioned her current book ("Abolition Democracy: Beyond
Prisons, Torture, and Empire"). It is about how the incarceration
process has become much more industrialized.
Davis summed up her experiences by explaining, proudly, that
education has given her the ability to dream, and follow her dreams.