ANGELA DAVIS IN CONVERSATION AT SOUTHBANK CENTRE LONDON

angel

“You have to act as if it were pos­sible to rad­ic­ally trans­form the world” - Angela Dav­is

What bet­ter way to spend Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day than in con­ver­sa­tion with Angela Dav­is at the Roy­al Fest­ival Hall, Lon­don. Influ­en­tial polit­ic­al act­iv­ist, aca­dem­ic and author, Angela has been an inspir­a­tion to mil­lions, includ­ing myself by per par­ti­cip­a­tion in move­ments and remind­ers of the import­ance of inter­sec­tion­al­ity through our struggles. This sold out event is a test­a­ment to her leg­acy.

This talk was part of Women of the World (WOW) with which Angela will also speak at the Apol­lo theatre in Har­lem, New York. We began the event by learn­ing how to sign ‘women around the world’. Angela was intro­duced to the stage by WOW fest­ival founder Jude Kelly who was facil­it­at­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, greeted by a stand­ing ova­tion not a single per­son stayed sat in their seat.

As Angela received praise from the audi­ence she took this oppor­tun­ity to reit­er­ate the import­ance of recog­nising change is brought about by move­ments not only indi­vidu­als and that we are who we are only in rela­tion to oth­ers. That we are also pro­duct of his­tory.

When asked how to address demo­tiv­a­tion around the pop­ular­ity of move­ments fluc­tu­at­ing she said it is ok to accept move­ments are not always at their peak. She gave the example of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment which gained short lived media atten­tion. To real­ise that these peaks spark con­ver­sa­tions which mat­ter. They have impact. They help us begin to ques­tion insti­tu­tions, no longer only indi­vidu­als.

Con­ser­vat­ive views which may provide res­ist­ance often causes amne­sia. Mean­ing If only indi­vidu­als are held respons­ible for their actions the insti­tu­tion­al­ised sys­tem­ic prob­lem is often for­got­ten. We may send an indi­vidu­al to pris­on, but we would not be look­ing at the root cause to why they have com­mit­ted crimes they have. We should keep a pris­on abol­i­tion mind­set.

Car­ry­ing on with these move­ments we are shar­ing down inform­a­tion to young­er gen­er­a­tions to they can keep going to influ­ence change. Angela gave a great example of how women’s move­ment now include trans women which they pre­vi­ously didn’t. On this point she reminded us of the import­ance of inter­sec­tion­al­ity across move­ments.

There was a men­tion that young­er gen­er­a­tions today are cri­ti­cized for their lack of know­ledge, but it is these young­er gen­er­a­tions which will be the ones to bring about change. They are the ones to take risks. Change always comes from the youth, they are our future. Angela always makes a point to listen to the voices of the young­er gen­er­a­tion. Things are chan­ging and lead­er­ship can be col­lect­ive it does not have to be by indi­vidu­als. It is import­ant to remem­ber change can take hun­dreds of years, but it is still an asset to keep that sense of impa­tience as it brings about a sense of much needed urgency.

Crit­ic­al engage­ment is import­ant in move­ments and we should not be afraid of cri­ti­cism, people are stuck in their way of think­ing we need to be ques­tioned in order to change con­cep­tion­al way of think­ing. Racism in the struggles will always exist those deep in the struggles under­stand that and are less defens­ive.

Diversity and inclu­sion mean noth­ing unless we are mov­ing towards justice. Indus­tries in the mil­it­ary indus­tri­al com­plex are becom­ing more female dom­in­ated but we are not mov­ing towards justice.

Angela dis­cussed her recent exper­i­ence where she was due to be awar­ded the Fred L. Shuttles­worth Human Rights Award from the Birm­ing­ham Civil Rights insti­tute in Alabama where she had a per­son­al con­nec­tion. In a turn of events the board of dir­ect­ors soon retrac­ted the offer due to pres­sure from out­side indi­vidu­als who high­lighted her crit­ic of Israel and sup­port for the boy­cott move­ment. Angela per­petu­ated the root of his was her long-term sup­port for Palestine which she has always been open about. The reac­tion which fol­lowed these events was unex­pec­ted. She attrac­ted mass sup­port from the Jew­ish com­munity in par­tic­u­lar a group of Recon­struct­ive Jews who even held shab­bats in her name. Angela still went to Alabama on the day she was sup­posed to receive her award, but to a com­munity event instead where an impress­ive 35,000 people showed up. There were many indi­vidu­als and organ­isa­tions pres­ence not­ably a large num­ber form the Jew­ish and black com­munity. She rein­forced cri­ti­cism of Israel is not anti-Semit­ism and that those who have who have suffered great dev­ast­a­tion are not immune from com­mit­ting crimes.

Angela also reminded us that justice does not always come in the form of the law or author­ity fig­ures. Through­out her talk she did not refer to Don­ald trump by name but referred to him as the ‘occu­pi­er’ as she believed him to be. Another inter­est­ing point was to remind us that move­ments should not be linked to eth­ni­city but to those with sim­il­ar polit­ic­al goals.

When asked if she believed there would be repar­a­tions paid to those who have suffered, she said yes but they should not come not in the form of money but as change such as free health­care and edu­ca­tion with access­ible hous­ing. We need great­er focus on civil rights for migrants and refugees in this cur­rent time.

Angela ended her talk with stat­ing that women are on the rise and we need to derive inspir­a­tion from women across the world, men­tion­ing brave women from the struggles in Brazil, Rohingya and Kur­distan.

The final sen­ti­ment of the night was to remind us — Freedom is a con­stant struggle.

 

 

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