By Lea Michelle Cash –
As Black History Month moved to a close, the flags of solidarity, freedom, feminism, activism and diversity in higher education hung dancing in a breeze over Santos Manuel Student Union Center on February 25, 2010. The Women’s Resource Center hosted the legendary feminist Angela R. Davis, who provided a lecture to over 700 students and guests from the community.
Upon introduction, Dr. Davis received a standing ovation.
Then a hush fell over the auditorium, with only the sound of camera flashes clicking.
Gone was the iconic afro, the fixed glare, and firm radical resilience of a Black woman’s struggle in America’s racially divided world.
What was present was a head full of loose ringlet curls, eyes that spanned every living soul, beauty, grace, elegance, and a unified ability through her activism, and the swing of her hands, to speak about social injustice to a rainbow colored room of onlookers mesmerized with her stature and awe.
It didn’t matter that not so long ago, past president Ronald Regan swore that Davis would never teach again in the University of California system. It didn’t matter that she had been a communist, and the third woman in US history to appear on the FBI’s wanted list. It did not matter that she spent 18 months in jail.
What mattered was the liberation and awakening of a universal spirit who stood before the students, to educate future leaders how change happens in activism. And that she did it with persistence.
She began with acknowledging the Indian ancestors of the land in which we dwell. Then she moved into the dream. “Does anyone remember what we were celebrating this time last year,” she asked.
“That’s right,” she continues, “Who would have thought that a junior senator from Chicago with a name like Barack Hussein Obama would unite a movement such as the one we witnessed last year. You know I live in Oakland, California. Last year, I never saw the people in Oakland act like that. When President Obama was elected it didn’t matter who you were, people were literally dancing in the streets…everywhere.”
“The whole city went berserk. And isn’t it amazing, to know that on that day and night in Washington, District of Columbia not one single crime was reported.”
As Ms. Davis continued her speech concentrating on what appeared to be posing questions that simulated critical thinking, the audience was delighted and when the Q & A session got on its way, Ms. Davis had to be alerted to the time.
It appeared to this reporter, as if this was the best part of her journey to Cal State, talking directly to the students and answering the questions that they were seeking from her.
She didn’t want to leave the stage.
She became even more animated and lively, comfortable in her space while talking directly to the students about their questions or concerns.
After an hour long Q & A session, there was a book signing session.
The Women’s Resource Center sold completely out of their copies.
Angela Davis’ teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and UC Berkeley. She has taught at UCLA, Vassar, the Claremont College, and Stanford University. She has spent the last fifteen years at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is Professor of History of Consciousness, an interdisciplinary PhD program, and Professor of Feminist Studies. She is the author of eight books, and has spoken all over the world.
These days her mission is prison reform and women’s rights. She works with Justice Now, which provides legal assistance to women in prison and engages in advocacy for the abolition of imprisonment as the dominant strategy for addressing social problems.
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