Angela Davis Speaks to SLHS Students
By : Amy Sylvestri
Civil right's activist Angela Davis spoke at San Leandro High Tuesday
afternoon, and the speech felt more like a political rally than a
Davis spoke by invitation of the school's Social Justice Academy to
give a first-hand account of her time as a political firebrand in the
late 1960s and early 1970s, and though she spoke openly about her
past, she focused her lecture on motivating the students to take
control of their futures.
"What you need to ask yourself is, 'Who can make change?' Davis asked
the gym full of students.
At first, Davis got a lukewarm response and a lot of blank stares as
she ticked off the names of lesser-known activists. But the students
perked up as she described her time as a Black Panther and a
fugitive, and by the end of her hour-long speech, they were cheering loudly.
Davis discussed how she became interested in activism at the same age
as the SLHS students.
She eventually became part of the Black Panther Party and a political
candidate for the Communist party. She ran for Vice President of the
U.S. on the Communist ticket in 1980 and 1984.
Davis gained worldwide infamy in 1970 when a gun registered in her
name was linked to the murder of Marin County judge Harold Haley.
Davis was put on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list and went on the run
for two months, moving from Florida to Chicago before being arrested
in New York City. She spent 18 months in jail before being freed in 1972.
A student presented Davis with a picture he painted in the style of
the poster that people sympathetic to her plight hung by their doors
to indicate Davis could hide out at their places.
"There would be these posters that had my face and said 'Sister, you
are welcome in my house,'" said Davis, who was paid by the Social
Justice Academy for her appearance. "They were everywhere in shops,
in Chinatown, in D.C., all over the world. I didn't quite make it to
Davis said that her time as a fugitive taught her that people can be
more powerful that political figures "President Nixon, (then governor
of California Ronald) Reagan, and whoever else, wanted to see me in
the gas chamber, but the people said 'no more,'" Davis said.
Davis then quizzed the students about the obstacles to success for
people their age.
The kids shouted out topics ranging from the cost of higher education
to the environment, but the most popular response was money, which
gave Davis some pause.
"It's interesting that you say that," she said. "Money is not the be
all and end all, you know."
These days, Davis calls herself a "communist with a small 'c.'" She
said that lack of money shouldn't be an obstacle. She focused on
telling the packed gym how they can have strength as a group.
"What I want to tell you today is that we can make change," Davis
said. "That was the theme of the last election, change. But
individuals are rarely responsible for comprehensive change. Even
Obama has said that he alone can't fulfill all the promises he's made
Currently, Davis lives in East Oakland and teaches history and
feminism at UC Santa Cruz.
Other speakers that have come to SLHS for the Social Justice Academy
include Antonio Medrano from Amnesty International and workers'
rights activist Dolores Huerta.
Angela Davis speaks to high school students
By Karen Holzmeister
The Daily Review
Article Last Updated: 12/09/2008
SAN LEANDRO Revolutionary-turned-capitalist Angela Davis packed 'em
in Tuesday at San Leandro High School, trading two hours of tales
about her days as a militant radical for a $5,000 speaker's fee.
The 400-person, largely student audience gave East Oakland resident
Davis several cheers and rounds of applause during the first of two
one-hour speech and Q-and-A sessions. They said "wow" and uttered a
few expletives in amazement when she told of being on the FBI's Ten
Most Wanted List, and of being prosecuted for and later found not
guilty of murder and kidnapping in the 1970s.
But the 64-year-old political activist appeared to lose much of her
student audience with a relatively benign recap of her political
activism. Individuals and groups sitting in the gymnasium
text-messaged, chatted, closed their eyes as if sleeping or moved
restlessly as a smiling, nonfiery Davis asked them repeatedly and
unsuccessfully if they knew or recognized famous names of the
social justice and civil rights movements: Fannie Lou Hamer, Yuri
Kochiyama,, Betita Martinez.
Some, however, benefitted from the talks.
"My parents were shocked that she was coming, because of her past,"
junior Breaunna Motley, 16, said. "But I am excited because people
look up to her. She fought for what she believed in."
Davis's appearance was sponsored by the school's Social Justice
Academy, which started in 2007-08 with a state Department of Education grant.