Angela Davis Talks Black Liberation, History and the Contemporary Vision[INTERVIEW] The iconic freedom struggle leader speaks with EBONY.com about Black human rights activism stretching back decades and her recently released book observing global movementsBY SHERYL HUGGINS SALOMON, FEBRUARY 17, 2016COMMENTSAngela Davis speaking at Myer Horowitz Theatre of the University of Alberta. Nick Wiebe/Wikimedia CommonsFifty years after the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the agenda and style of the legendary Black revolutionary organization remains relevant in today’s public discourse. An end to “police brutality and the murder of Black people,” central to the Black Lives Matter movement, was laid out in the Black Panthers’ 10-Point Platform five decades ago. Both acclaim and condemnation erupted when their iconic black berets made an appearance recently in Beyoncé’s half-time show performance during the Super Bowl.It’s telling that America is still grappling with many of the same racial inequities and injustices that it did 50 years ago – and that Black pride remains a controversial topic. Not so to renowned scholar, activist and feminist icon and close associate of the Black Panthers Angela Y. Davis.“If one looks at the 10-point program of the Black Panther Party, one sees that the very same issues that were raised in the aftermath of slavery are at the center of a program that was formulated in 1966,” said Davis, now a professor emeritus at University of California, Santa Cruz. “In 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, those issues had not been sufficiently addressed, certainly not yet solved, so therefore the election of one person to political office was not going to automatically reverse a history of a racist inspired economic oppression, which isn’t to say that it wasn’t important that we elected Barack Obama, but those struggles continue.”While in Spain last week advocating for the release of imprisoned Basque separatist politician Arnaldo Otegi, Davis took a few moments with EBONY.com to discuss contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and details from her latest book, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (Haymarket Books, 2016), edited by human rights activist Frank Barat.“I’ve been involved in the Palestine Solidarity movement for a very long time,” explained Davis. “When the Ferguson uprising happened a year and a half ago activists on the ground in occupied Palestine were the first to tweet support and advice to protesters in Ferguson. Out of that has come a very interesting, a very rich development of connections across the ocean. A delegation from Palestine visited Ferguson. Black Lives Matter and Ferguson activists, [as well as members of] Dream Defenders, Black Youth Project 100 made a trip to Palestine over about a year ago to express their solidarity.” Related Articles CONNECTING PALESTINE AND POLICE VIOLENCE SIDRA SMITH ON ANGELA DAVIS DOC DIRECTOR TALKS ANGELA DAVIS DOCUMENTARYMore highlights of what Davis said are in the Q&A below.EBONY.COM: What’s the message of your new book?Angela Davis: I am particularly interested in [having] activists associated with the Black freedom movement to realize that our struggles never would have achieved this universality that they have achieved without solidarity that has come from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia. Our struggles are global, therefore, it is important for us to incorporate this global vision into our on the ground battles against police crimes and the prison industrial complex. Since I was very young I have been involved in organizations— the Communist Party, the Black Panther Party— that have had this global perspective.EBONY.COM: As you note in your book, events in Ferguson after the police shooting of Michael Brown exposed the militarization of police forces. Where is this push toward militarization headed and how can it be stopped?Davis: If one looks at the history of policing, especially over the last 15 years in the aftermath of 9/11, one can see the emphasis on the shifting of resources from the military to the police. This actually has a much longer history if one looks at the way in which the Vietnam War resulted in an impact on local police. The S.W.A.T. squads emerged as a result of using techniques and technology that were used by the Green Berets in the Vietnam War. The Los Angeles Police Department was the first to use such tactics against the Black Panther Party. We have also seen the emergence of privatized policing corporations. In the book, I refer to G4S (Group 4 Security), which is a private security corporation that has spread policing and prisons all over the world. It’s important not only to look at the ways in which these moments of inflicting terror have been taken up by police departments, but it’s also essential to look at the economic dimension by such processes. G4S, of course, is the thir
In a Women’s History Month special, we speak with author, activist and scholar Angela Davis. For more than four decades, Davis has been one of most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States. An icon of the 1970s black liberation movement, Davis’ work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements across several generations. She is a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a fugitive on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list more than 40 years ago. Davis talks about the “fascist appeal” of Donald Trump and explains why she is not officially endorsing any candidate in this election. “I believe in independent politics,” she says. “I still think that we need a new party, a party that is grounded in labor, a party that can speak to all of the issues around racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, what is happening in the world. We don’t yet have that party.”
The “Bury the Ratchet” campaign specifically targets Black women who live in Atlanta, Ga., because of reality shows such as “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” According to Davis, when people encounter African-American women from Atlanta, “the first image that comes to mind is mean, gold-digging women. It has become completely evident that there has been a brand of women from Atlanta that are adverse to what most of these women are like.
Which is why Davis is starting this campaign, “The goal is to get the spotlight off the ratchetness and on the successful women in Atlanta.”
Consequently, Davis will launch a symposium at Spelman College in March 2013, where she will engage other African-American leaders in analyzing how reality television is harming Black culture. Bury the Ratchet will then pool its resources into creating a public service announcement showing how young Black women feel about their depictions in the media.
But can this really help change what women think of these reality programs without removing them from the air? Davis seems confident it can.
“We want to change the mind of young women who absorb these images,” she said. “The first thing we are doing is giving them a voice.”