By Ashley Hopkinson
November 29, 2008
More than four decades ago Angela Davis, a former Communist Party
candidate for vice president of the United States, took to the
streets in fiery protest for racial equality and women's rights.
By age 26 she not only was a major face of the black power movement
but a fugitive on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted List."
Davis, a native of Birmingham and now a lecturer emeritus at the
University of California, Santa Cruz, may not hit the streets in
protests any longer, but she still fights injustice and inequality --
only from behind a podium or a desk.
Monday at 7 p.m. at Alabama State University, Davis will speak about
her recent work as part of the Ralph D. Abernathy lecture series.
Her first goal, she said in an exclusive interview with the
Montgomery Advertiser, is to connect the present historic moment --
the election of Barack Obama, the nation's first black chief
executive -- with the struggles of the past.
"Many people have said, and I will probably count myself among them,
that we never really imagined that an African American person would
be elected president in our lifetime, she said. "And while this does
not transform the conditions of the life of poor people, black
people, Latinos or people of color, it does serve as a very positive
symbol of what is possible."
Obama's campaign was significant in not only bringing people
together, Davis said, but in upholding ideals that people could relate to.
"Masses of ordinary people have associated their own dreams and their
own aspirations with his campaign and felt the need to make their
That makes it important, she said.
Davis said that above all the campaign brought to light that
everyone's voice, no matter the age or background of that person,
deserves to be heard.
"The electoral success of Obama's campaign is largely due to the
outpouring of support from young people," Davis said.
And that is a group she plans to acknowledge when she speaks at ASU Monday.
"I want to emphasize how important it is to rely on those visions,
energy and enthusiasm of young people," she said.
But Davis said that while the election symbolized a victory for many,
it should not be misunderstood as the ultimate solution.
"I don't think it is helpful to assume that because one person gets
ahead that the rest of the community automatically follows," she said.
"There is an opening and I think we have to use that opening -- (but)
there is so much work to be done in African-American communities" she
said. "That work, however, should not exclude other minority groups
fighting the same battle for better jobs, education and health care.
"I think in this 21st century we can't simply talk about African
Americans, but all people who are deprived of resources," she said.
Also among her concerns -- gay rights and people both serving time in
prison and those who have been released who are stigmatized because
they are convicts or ex-convicts.
"I would argue that civil rights should be extended to everyone," she
said. Davis said it is unjust to decide that some people deserve
freedom while others can be excluded.
"For gays and lesbians who choose to exercise their civil rights of
getting married and are not able to, I think we have to continue to
fight for them," she said.
Davis said California's defeat of Proposition 8 California, which
undid a court ruling making gay marriage legal, was a major defeat
particularly at the time when people were celebrating Obama's win.
One thing people of this time can take from the '70s, an era Davis
knows well, is global consciousness, she said.
"During that period of the Black Panther party and other
organizations, the perspective was also an internationalist
perspective and people had a sense of connectedness to communities
that were affected, sometimes in the same ways and sometimes in
different ways, by racism."