Angela Davis targets link between racism, prison
DURHAM Angela Davis did not need to convince the audience in UNH's
Johnson Theatre Thursday night that President Barack Obama's election
was a historic occasion and significant move forward in America.
But she reminded them of the reality still facing the country in the
wake of his inauguration: "Racism has not ended because one black
family is in the White House."
A spokesperson for civil rights, Davis has dedicated her life to
activism as a past member of the Communist Party USA and the Black
Panther Party and, more recently, examining the state of the
country's prison system.
And Thursday night, a full house was captivated by her views on the
prison system and its correlation to socioeconomic status, education
and income, which framed her presentation as the keynote speaker in
UNH's 2009 Commemorative Address in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Frequent applause and sounds of praise and agreement from the crowd
dotted her speech as she laid out the realities she sees in the
"vicious cycle" created by the way the country's prison system is run.
"The link between education and incarceration is important to grasp,"
Davis said, explaining that as more funds are channeled into prisons,
less funds are available for education.
She referred to prisons as a "gendering apparatus" and stressed the
need to reform the U.S. prison system she calls it the
prison-industrial complex to truly address the race, gender and
socioeconomic factors that she believes lead to a greater number of
black people incarcerated than white people.
While first jokingly pointing out the lack of diversity in New
Hampshire, Davis seemed to stagger the audience a bit when she noted
that 289 out of every 100,000 white men is arrested in contrast to
more than 2,000 out of every 100,000 black men.
Davis has studied and been published on the topic of incarceration
and criminalization of communities that are most affected by poverty
and racial discrimination. She referenced Dr. Martin Luther King many
times in her speech, indicating that King motivated people to "strive
for a better future" and that in this time of change "we are given
the opportunity to look at a whole range of issues" and "now is the
time to think about different forms of justice."
In the speech that student Rob Wilson later described as
"refreshing," her words of motivation and action moved the large
crowd of students and faculty. But she told them it was important to
remember where the drive for change came from.
Naming activists like Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and Dr. King "that
shaped America," Davis said, "The America that descended from those
people is the America that may finally be able to provide the
leadership we need during these challenging times. Movements allow us
to realize what we couldn't possibly have realized before."
Illustrating Davis' point about the faults within the prison system
was a photo montage of individuals who served many years in prison
but were wrongly accused. It ended with photos of those "still
waiting" to be released from what is believed to be a wrongful incarceration.
"It's a new day," she said, using the catch phrase Obama's election
into office brought to the lips of many Americans. "It's a new day
but everything hasn't changed. It has to be about a newly imagined
future. Let us think about how to weave these issues into our agenda
Angela Davis: Prisons perpetuate oppression of minorities
By CLYNTON NAMUO
New Hampshire Union Leader Correspondent
Friday, Jan. 30, 2009
DURHAM – After the inauguration of the first black president, America
is now on the precipice of changes that were never before possible,
1960s radical turned academic Angela Davis told a crowd of hundreds
at the University of New Hampshire last night.
The vestiges of slavery, colonization and exploitation remain rife
throughout America, as is evidenced by the over-representation of
minorities in prison, Davis said. The prison population, now
estimated to be one in 100 adult Americans, only contributes to the
oppression of minorities, she said.
It is a pattern seen across the country, even in New Hampshire, Davis said.
In the Granite State, white men are arrested at a rate of 289 per
100,000, but for black men it is more than 2,000 per 100,000, Davis said.
"That means a black man in this state is 10 times more likely to be
discovered behind bars," she said.
Minorities are often over-represented in prison because police
surveillance in their communities is higher, Davis said.
Around the world, the same thing is happening as people who were once
unashamedly beat down continue to live below others both socially and
economically. While blacks and other minorities are over-represented
in American prisons, in Australia, it is aborigines, she said.
Davis spoke before a crowd of more than 500 last night as she
keynoted UNH's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations at the Johnson
Theatre. Her topic: Education or Incarceration: The Future of Democracy.
Davis said prisons in America help to perpetuate a cycle that keeps
minorities down and contributes to a lack of education for them.
"Of course, more funds are channeled into prisons so that education
suffers and because education suffers, more people end up along
trajectories that lead them into prison, which means more funds have
to be channeled into the prisons; it's this vicious circle," she said.
But now, with a black President in office, America may finally have
the momentum to disassemble what she called the "prison industrial
complex," one where incarceration is privatized and profited from.
"This is the moment to think about the different modes of justice,"
she sai. "Justice that is compassionate, justice that is community
building, not community destroying."
Davis was once a radical and member of the Black Panthers, the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Communist party.
She gained notoriety for a headline-making 1972 trial in California,
where she was acquitted of murder and kidnapping charges.
Since then, she has become a respected university professor and does
extensive research on prisons and minorities.
Op-ed: Why I helped bring Angela Davis to UNH
Issue date: 1/30/09
I'm a student member on the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
committee that invited the "controversial" Angela Davis. Before
college, I didn't know who she was. New Hampshire has a profound
privilege to erase black history from its education except to offer a
civil war was waged and won by the supposedly free north, Emmitt Till
was brutally murdered by the racist south, and that King had a dream.
I didn't learn most slaves came to America on New England ships. I
didn't learn about Jim Crow and vagrancy laws. I didn't listen to X's
protests or King's dream. I never read about any of our national
labor or feminist movements. We were taught useless dichotomies and
senseless rhetoric that regardless of being liberal or conservative,
presented a path of white ignorance.
Growing up poor in New Hampshire made me an activist at UNH. I became
the only white member in the Black Student Union. I first read Angela
Davis as a freshman in a Women's Studies class, but then kept up with
her current research. I first proposed bringing Davis as an exec in
the B.S.U. It was shot down, but I was determined to bring her to
campus. Through the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs-an office
created in the '90s because of radical activists within the B.S.U. -
I networked until I was on the committee. I don't want to make it
sound like I was the reason she was invited; it was the exhaustive
effort of many students, faculty and staff to produce the research,
pitch the themes, and plan the events. I was just one of a hundred.
I knew that she would be controversial, not because of her politics
but due to the backlash of Obama's election. It was disturbing how an
article labeled her a criminal whose fame derived from rocking an
"afro that wouldn't quit" (Editor's Note: The article appeared in the
Jan. 13 edition of The New Hampshire Union Leader). The article and
the posts that ensued were troubling. Academia values King's belief:
"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and
to think critically." Critical thinking is in trouble when New
Hampshire conservatives are proclaiming fear that the youth is being
"indoctrinated" with a destructive liberalism determined to transform
America into communist-terrorists. Although we might be inclined to,
we shouldn't laugh.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant once warned: "revolution can overthrow
autocratic despotism and profiteering or power-grabbing oppression,
but it can never truly reform a manner of thinking; instead, new
prejudices, just like the old one's they replace, will serve as a
leash for the great unthinking mass". The Civil Rights movements
produced some positive results but they never overcame oppression.
Students must be presented with a diversity of ideas that can only
exist with the fundamental right of free speech. No scholar should be
denied the right to present research on any topic. UNH demonstrates a
commitment to diversity with various programs, departments, and
organizations bringing scholars, intellectuals and entertainers that
fall along a broad spectrum of identities and politics. Davis'
protesters need to understand that education is important for
providing opportunity for families in New Hampshire, and we need to
keep current in order to be able to compete in a global market. We
can no longer appoint the television the position of educator because
it's been co-opted and corrupted to present fear-evoking violence and
half-truths. Only when the masses are presented with all sides of an
issue can we then hold opinions and make educated decisions. We must
not be afraid as white Americans to own our history, or as president
of a university to stand behind free speech.
Areas like New Hampshire affected by high drop out rates and
significant layoffs are victimized by unjust laws placing youth into
prisons. Radical prison reform will save the state money and provide
resources that many struggling families need. I understand the
reality of being poor and needing immediate results. My father is
from a generation that would rather blame minorities than learn about
the issues and find solutions. I understand that accountability on an
individual and an institutional level is a reality that's not easy
for him and others like him, to face, especially for us New England
patriots. But to truly love our history, our country and our state we
must face our fears and have the guts to listen to the truth,
especially if we want to improve the conditions in New Hampshire.
As our motto suggests: Live Free or Die.
1960s civil rights icon speaks at UNH
January 31, 2009
DURHAM (AP) The 1960s radical turned academic Angela Davis told
students at the University of New Hampshire the racial imbalance in
American prisons is oppressive to minorities.
Davis spoke to a crowd of more than 500 Thursday night as the keynote
speaker of the school's continued celebration of the Martin Luther
King, Jr., holiday.
Davis said minorities are often over-represented in prison because
police surveillance in their communities is higher, even in New
Hampshire. She said black men are 10 times more likely to serve jail
time in the state than white men.
Davis was once a member of the Black Panthers, the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee and the Communist party. She was acquitted of
murder and kidnapping charges in California in 1972. Since then,
Davis has become a university professor and does extensive research
on prisons and minorities.
UNH honors MLK with scrutiny of U.S. prison system
Written by Matt Kanner
Thursday, 29 January 2009
The University of New Hampshire's 19th annual Martin Luther King Jr.
celebration will examine the nation's growing prison system with a
number of panel discussions and other events. Titled "One in 100:
Dismantling a Prison Nation," the celebration from Jan. 22 to Feb. 5
will feature a keynote address from civil rights activist and author
This year's topic addresses a United States prison system that has
put more than one in every 100 adults behind bars. It comes on the
heels of two death penalty cases in New Hampshire in 2008, one of
which resulted in the state's first death sentence in almost 50
years. Michael Addison was sentenced to death in December for
shooting and killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.
Davis is an internationally known icon who spearheaded radical
political activism in the late 1960s and early '70s. Her keynote
address, titled "Education or Incarceration: The Future of
Democracy," will take place on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. in UNH's
Johnson Theatre at the Paul Creative Arts Center in Durham.
Davis will discuss the proliferation of prisons in the United States
and the disproportionate incarceration of minorities. She will
express her concerns about the government's tendency to devote more
resources and attention to the prison system than to educational
institutions. During a reception after the address, she will sign
copies of her books, the most recent of which include "Abolition
Democracy" and "Are Prisons Obsolete?" She is close to completing a
book on "Prisons and American History."
At 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 29, Laura Knoy of New Hampshire Public Radio's
"The Exchange" will hold a conversation with Davis in the Strafford
Room in UNH's Memorial Union Building. The keynote address that night
will feature a musical performance produced by Sandi Clark featuring
UNH professors Dennis Britton and Reginald A. Wilburn, as well as
vocalists Olga Tynes, Khristie Dyson and Denise Richardson.
Other events honoring Martin Luther King Jr. include a photo art
exhibit titled "A Prison Nation: Unlocking the Stories" on Thursday,
Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. in the Strafford Room; a spiritual celebration
titled "Breaking the Ties that Bind" on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. at
the Durham Community Church; a Celebrity Series concert from
all-female a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock on Monday, Jan.
26 at 7 p.m. in Johnson Theatre; and an educational panel titled "Are
Prisons Obsolete? Exploring the growing prison nation in N.H." on
Thursday, Feb. 5 at 12:40 p.m. in DeMerritt Hall, Room 112.
For more information, visit
www.unh.edu/diversity/mlk_celebration2009.html or call 603-862-0693.
Angela Davis speaks at Northwestern
Date: Monday, February 2, 2009
Phone: 847-491-4892 Pat Vaughan Tremmel
Location: Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago Ave. - Search in Maps
Angela Davis, a longtime political activist and professor of history
at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will give a keynote
speech at Northwestern University about the historic election of
President Barack Obama and what it means for the African American community.
In honor of Black History Month, the Davis event, will kick off a
series of activities sponsored by Northwestern University School of
Law's Black Law School Student Association (BLSA).
Incl: Muntu Dance performance at 6:30 pm, preceded by a 6 pm reception.
For more information, contact Yondi Morris, president of Northwestern
University School of Law's Black Law School Student Association at
Media contacts: Pat Vaughan Tremmel (847) 491-4892 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Jane Twohey (847) 491-4889 email@example.com