AN ENDURING ACTIVIST: ANGELA DAVIS
A protégé of Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse, she earned her PhD in East Berlin, spent time on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, was fired at the behest of Ronald Reagan from her position as a UCLA professor of philosophy, and served as a two-time vice-presidential nominee of the Communist Party. No one has lived a life like Angela Davis.
The longtime scholar and activist first came to national attention in 1970, when California prosecutors charged her with the kidnapping and murder of a judge, despite Davis not being involved in the plot or even anywhere near the scene of the crime. On the witness stand, the elegance and elocution of the then-twenty-eight-year-old Davis captivated the country. After being found innocent of all charges, Davis began a remarkable career that continues to this day, mixing public lectures, scholarship, and activism focused on the prison-industrial complex, Marxism, and African American feminism.
Now retired from her longtime post as a professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz, she continues to write, speak, and provoke. Earlier this year she published Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (Haymarket Books). The book further cements her role as the doyenne of intersectionality — a civil rights concept that looks at how race, class, and gender affect one’s privilege, oppression, and identity. But like a well-trained Marxist, she is deeply concerned with collective action, too. Her book asks readers to think beyond Martin Luther King Jr. to the nation of brave protesters and organizers who made the civil rights movement possible. Connecting the dots to our own era, she posits that if the police and civilian killers of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice had been indicted or found guilty, little would have changed. Instead, she argues that systemic change will only come from collective organizing — not from the actions of individuals, however heroic they may seem at the time.
At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2, she will appear in Santa Fe as part of the Lannan Foundation’s In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom series. On stage, Davis will be interviewed by Barbara Ransby, an activist and professor of history and African American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The talk takes place at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Tickets are sold out (call 505-988-1234 for availability), but the event will be live-streamed at www.podcast.lannan.org.