Angela Davis Was Invited By ASILI
By Christian Decker
Last Monday, Fordham had the pleasure of welcoming legendary activist Angela Davis to speak in McGinley 2nd. Ms. Davis was, and is still, a prominent activist within the Black Power Movement, The Communist Party, and the movement to free the Soledad Brothers in California. Ms. Davis is also the author of an extensive collection of books including an autobiography, If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. She is also a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. After the disastrous decision of Fordham to allow Roger Stone to speak here, it is fitting that we had a speaker here who defines the message of “men and women for others”.
The event was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., but due to the ever-annoying New York traffic, it ended up getting started around 6:30. Ms. Davis spoke for about an hour, with some time at the end given for questions, albeit only two because of the limited time. I’ve never seen McGinley so packed before, even during the club fair, as seats were filled with both professors and students. I myself had to stand in the back with a sizable amount of other people.
When Davis began her talk, she spoke with a commanding power over the words she was saying. She discussed the idea of Black history Month, and about how it was important to celebrate it, and not just by black people. She talked about some people complain that there’s not a White History Month, to which she retorted that every month is virtual white history month, including what they teach in schools. She remembered a period of time when it was celebrated as Black History Week.
She stressed the important of thinking of Black History Month as intersectional. She expressed solidarity with the indigenous population in the U.S. as well as in South America and Mexico and that the fate of black people was forever intertwined with that of these people. Black people were brought over as slaves to replace the indigenous slaves who died, both during work, and due to the genocide forced upon them.
She also made some sly begrudging comments about “the man who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue” as she called the president but tended to drift away from the subject. Ms. Davis expressed great pride in the movements of both Black Lives Matter and #MeToo as organizations who were doing the movements of the past proud but were also different. She told the audience that the Black Lives Matter movement, rather than having a group of select leaders, and an organization that was full of leaders, making it quite different from the past Civil Rights and Black Power movements.
In addition to movements, Davis gave special recognition to women over time who have helped lead the struggle for equality in America. She named Rosa Parks, and told the crowd that Ms. Parks was an activist and a leader long before she refused to give up her seat on that bus, and that it was in fact, black women, who started the civil rights movement with the bus boycott, before Dr. King became famous.
She expressed sympathy with movements around the world, namely Palestine, which she mentioned as holding on against the struggles, hinting at the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel, and encouraging us to Free Palestine. At this remark, several students began waving a Palestinian flag, which she recognized and applauded. She explained that she thought it was ridiculous that people think it is anti-Semitic to criticize the state of Israel for its wrongdoings, especially when some of its own citizens were speaking out against those same policies.
Ms. Davis further expanded on how she thought modern feminism should be, intersectional. She balked at what she called “bourgeois feminism”, and at “carceral feminism.” She explained that carceral feminism, involved believing that by locking up and incarcerating perpetrators of violence against women, then all the problems of sexism and misogyny would be solved. Davis criticized this notion saying that incarceration does not fix the root of the problem.
After closing her talk, Ms. Davis was asked about what we should do when we are fighting against injustice and we get tired. She said that once we get tired, we should take a rest! She encouraged people to let someone else take up the fight for a while, and that the belief in not asking for help was a symptom of capitalist individualism.
The event went pretty smoothly with no protests and a very respectful crowd. Although I’m not a communist, it was interesting to see one of the paragons of social justice speak right here at Fordham!