Political activist to speak at ASU
November 17, 2008
Angela Davis, an American political activist and college professor
who helped found the National Alliance Against Racist and Political
Repression, will be the guest speaker for this year's Ralph D.
Abernathy Civil Rights Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the ASU Acadome.
The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and
African-American Culture at ASU will host the lecture series. This
year's theme is "The Legacy of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the
Black Activist Movement."
Davis is an American political activist and university professor who
is often associated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee, the Black Panthers Party for Self Defense, and with the
black power politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was an
activist during the civil rights movement and joined the Communist
Party USA when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in
1968. She ran for U.S. vice president on the Communist Party ticket in 1980.
The event is free and open to the public.
Civil Rights Activist Angela Davis Delivers McIntyre Lecture at Cooper Union
by Johanna Smith
New York, NY Just five days before the most highly anticipated
election of our time, Barnard students flocked to the Great Hall of
Cooper Union to hear this year's Helen Pond McIntyre '48 lecturer,
Angela Davis, speak on "Abolition Democracy and Global Politics."
Davis, a well known civil rights and prison abolition activist, is a
Professor of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the
University of California-Santa Cruz and the author of eight books,
including, most recently, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons
and Torture and Are Prisons Obsolete?
Before an enthusiastic audience of over 1,000 people, Davis addressed
the issues on almost everyone's minds that day: the upcoming election
and general climate of the country. "It seems as though we are
witnessing something like the implosion of global capitalism as it
has taken shape over the past several decades," she said. Davis
expressed concern that "there has been a great deal of discussion
about class this election, but mostly about the middle class and this
Joe the Plumber. We need to inject the labor class, the working
class, back into this election!"
Davis observed that prison reform has been strikingly absent from the
political landscape this election year, even though it was a
significant topic of debate during the past two election cycles. This
is surprising given that the statistics that spurred prior debate
have only grown worse: currently, 1 in 100 Americans is behind bars,
a national average up to eight times higher than other developed
countries, like Germany. When race is taken into account, the numbers
only grow worse: 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men, and 1 in 9 black men
aged 20 to 34, are currently incarcerated.
Davis developed the term "abolition democracy" from W.E.B. DuBois's
influential text Black Reconstruction in America. Davis uses the term
as a means of connecting the abolition of slavery, the death penalty
and prisons themselves with the possibility of substantive democracy.
As an illustration of the ties between democracy and imprisonment,
Davis noted that the United States is one of only a few countries in
the world to revoke voting rights for prisoners and is unique in
disenfranchising ex-felons. "I think every prisoner in this country
should have the right to vote," she asserted. "The concept of
imprisonment is predicated on the assumption that people have
liberties that can be taken away from them... the institution of
prison carries with it the memory of slavery."
Angela Davis described this election as representing the final step
of the civil rights movement. "The work that race does historically
and the very central place it occupies in the collective psyche of
this country is complex and multidimensional," she said. "The victory
of Obama's candidacy is the victory of women and men of all creeds
who have fought for equality and social justice." She warned,
however, of the risk of "conflating the individual and the group so
that one black person's advance is viewed as a victory for the
community. We have to be very careful not to project our own agency
onto those who are our leaders. It's time to rid ourselves of this
Throughout the event, the audience listened with rapt attention,
frequently cheering loudly and breaking into applause. Gisela Fosado,
Associate Director of Barnard's Center for Research on Women, was
thrilled with the outcome. She cited the enthusiasm and diversity of
the crowd and the fact that the hall was filled beyond capacity
as sure signs of its success. "Obviously this moment, with an
historic election that might bring us our first African-American
president, is an excellent opportunity to talk about the great
promise of American democracy and the problem of massive
incarceration in our country," she said.
"The lecture gave us the chance to collaborate with our colleagues
who focus on this work locally, especially the College and Community
Fellowship program at CUNY, and to make greater connections to the
community, which is why we held it at Cooper Union," said Fosado. For
her, Davis is "one of those rare academics who also has extensive
engagement with the community, and who is recognized as an important
intellectual by a wide range of people."
The event was co-sponsored by Cooper Union, The Center for the
Humanities at CUNY, The College and Community Fellowship Program at
CUNY, and The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at NYU.
"She also was a producer of the 1972 documentary film "Angela Davis:
Portrait of a Revolutionary.""
Mae Mercer dies at 76; blues singer also had a Hollywood career
Blues singer and actress Mae Mercer was found dead in her Northridge
home Oct. 29. She was 76 and had been in ill health.
By Dennis McLellan
November 13, 2008
Mae Mercer, a deep-voiced blues singer who spent much of the 1960s
performing at a blues bar in Paris and touring Europe before
launching an acting career back home in films and television, has
died. She was 76.
Mercer was found dead Oct. 29 at her home in Northridge, said
Reginald D. Brown, a friend. He said the cause of death had not been
determined, but Mercer had suffered two mini-strokes last year and
had been in ill health.
The tall, North Carolina-born Mercer sang what bluesman Willie Dixon
once described as "the real low-down blues."
"I would classify her as a classic blues singer," said Brown, who is
making a documentary about Mercer. "She had a deep, powerful voice.
Her idol was Bessie Smith, so she sang in that idiom."
Mercer was already singing in Paris in 1960 when she met Maurice
Girodias, the French publisher of banned books such as "Lolita" and
"The Ginger Man," who hired her to sing at -- and later to run -- the
Blues Bar, one of four clubs he owned in a building next door to his
Mercer performed at the club for eight years, Brown said, with
Memphis Slim on piano and Sonny Criss on alto saxophone. She also
toured Europe during the summers with the Keith Smith Climax Jazz Band.
In the 1970s, after returning to the United States, Mercer had roles
in the Don Siegel-directed Clint Eastwood movies "The Beguiled" and
She also appeared in the movie "Pretty Baby," the TV-movie "A Woman
Called Moses" and made guest appearances on TV shows such as "Kung
Fu," "Mannix," "ER" and "The Shield."
She also was a producer of the 1972 documentary film "Angela Davis:
Portrait of a Revolutionary."
The daughter of tobacco sharecroppers and one of nine children, she
was born Mary Ruth Mercer in Battleboro, N.C., on June 12, 1932. She
began singing in church as a teenager and ran away from home in 1947
to pursue a singing career in New York City.
The twice-married Mercer is survived by her children, Jessie Mae
Frazier and Fernando Harper; her brothers, Leonard and Sam; her
sisters, Anne M. Moore and Arlene Ellis; three grandchildren; one
great-grandchild; and a niece and nephew whom she raised, Wilbur
Mercer and Janice Sheehan.
McLellan is a Times staff writer.
"As a teenager during the 1960s, her inspiration was American radical
leader Angela Davis."
The Modern Face of Renamo
By Paola Rolletta
MAPUTO, Nov 11 (IPS) - If Maria Moreno is elected president of the
Municipal Council in Cuamba, in Niassa Province, Mozambique's
parliament will lose one of its most interesting personalities.
Moreno, 49, is the parliamentary bench chief for the opposition
coalition Mozambican National Resistance Movement-Electoral Union
(Renamo-UE, in Portuguese).
A thin woman with short-cropped hair, Moreno, represents the modern
face of Renamo, once considered "the absolute opposite of virtue and
democracy," according to Mozambican sociologist Carlos Serra, "and
which today seeks to steer the ship of democracy."
After independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique was sucked into
the regional struggle against apartheid. White-ruled Rhodesia and
South Africa financed a rebel group -- Renamo. Civil war followed, in
which one million people died, 1.7 million became refugees, and three
million were internally displaced.
Sixteen years have passed since the war ended in 1992 and Mozambique
has enjoyed successive fairly clean and peaceful elections.
Moreno is part of a new generation of Mozambican politicians. Three
times married, with two sons from her first husband, Moreno speaks
fluent English and French, and graduated from a secretarial course in
Switzerland in 1981.
She is the new image of a Renamo that is more educated, and more
Colleagues like Moreno because she works hard and has a sense of
humour. Journalists seek her out because she answers their questions
without mincing her words. And it doesn't hurt that, in these times
of political showbiz, she is telegenic. Unusually among women
politicians, Moreno does not wear traditional dress in rallies or TV.
As a teenager during the 1960s, her inspiration was American radical
leader Angela Davis.
"Her hair, her struggle for human rights, being jailed for it. She is
the individual that has made the greatest impression on me," says Moreno.
Terezinha da Silva, a sociologist and feminist activist, finds Moreno
to be "very open-minded, very sharp, and very knowledgeable on issues."
Women's issues are one of Moreno's passions. "Even though the
literacy rate has greatly increased in rural areas, it is
predominantly men who can read. Wives continue to be assigned to a
subordinate position", she says.
Subordination is a reality in politics as well: "Women still don't
have real decision-making power. Too often they remain hostage to
their parties and forget their own agenda."
Cuamba is where her heart is
This is Moreno's second bid to head the council in Cuamba, the town
where she lived as a teenager. In 2003, she campaigned across the
municipality by car, bicycle and on foot.
"It was a beautiful campaign. People were surprised to see me, they
were not used to seeing a candidate up-close," she recalled.
The memories of connecting with people are sweet, but bitter defeat
was the result.
"I think I lost due to excessive confidence in the visible support I
received. We didn't foresee the dirty games our political adversary
was playing... We sinned by being naïve and in politics, that is a
mortal sin," she told IPS.
Moreno is confident of victory this time, building on political
experience and visibility acquired in Parliament since 2004.
Two draft laws carry Moreno's stamp, one against the abuse of
political power and another on airtime regulation on public
television and radio. And she pushed for the newly approved law
against domestic violence. "It's not a party issue, it affects all
Mozambican women," she said.
After four years of long parliamentary debates, Cuamba means practical work.
"In parliament we rubberstamp the laws made by government. The
political dialogue is too focused on the bigger issues and too
theoretical," she told IPS.
Cuamba is where Moreno wants to make a difference. The town (pop. 95,
000) is Niassa's economic capital, hub for the railway that channels
produce to the Indian Ocean port of Nacala. Yet in spite of its
agricultural and tourism potential, Niassa, tucked between the Rovuma
River and Lake Malawi, remains one of the poorest of Mozambique's ten
With an area of 129,000 square kilometres, Niassa has only 170 km of
paved roads, poor sanitation and drinking water, and few schools.
Half of its roughly one million people live in poverty.
"There is a municipal library but it's empty, with no books: only
walls, chairs and tables. There is no cinema. With little exposure to
culture and to news and having so much disposable energy, the youth
drink a lot," says Moreno.
Cuamba is the extreme periphery in all aspects, but the transition
from bustling capital to provincial backwater appeals to her: "The
world is made up of villages, that's why I think that local power is
very important to change the world."
Moreno's father, a businessman, embraced Renamo from its first hour.
"Myself, I resisted affiliating to Renamo. At the time I didn't agree
with the armed option. I thought that dialogue was possible. But I
was also aware that different ways of thinking were suppressed," she recalls.
Niassa was known as "Tropical Siberia", after the re-education camps
set up by the Marxist one-party state, led by the Front for the
Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo).
"The image of men and women piled up in trucks coming from Maputo
going to the Niassa re-education camps has stayed with me. Was that
the country that we Mozambicans fought for?" says Moreno.
In Moreno's view, her party has put its violent past behind and
become a democratic player: "Renamo liberated the country from its
single-party regime, from dictatorship, so that one day it can be
democratic in the full meaning of the word."