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They’re coming for me. They’re looking for me. But I don’t fit the image they’re looking for.
And they’re coming for me. Well, let them come! I am not afraid of them. It’s my duty to do this for the rest of America. For every brother I saw in those cells and the sisters I walked past without a second thought. They sent me to a New York high school when I turned 15. They sent you to jail. I don’t know which one of us felt more alienated.
My best friend went to a protest rally and came back with cracked ribs. She was 17. That’s the justice we get, that’s the land of the free and the brave, and we’re sure as hell not free so I guess I’m just brave! Braver than the bourgeois, at least, and the wealthy whites, who’d rather pretty up their prisons into a palace than break free.
And I played it safe. Work with the system, not against it, fix the problem, don’t make it worse, because if you slip up, if you talk to loud or say the wrong word, they can silence you forever. The young minds needed to see that it didn’t have to be this way. A new idea doesn’t mean a wrong idea.
The first time they fired me was because of my politics. I was 25, confronting Ronald Reagan, Governor of State. I was barely older than my students, but I knew I had a right to keep my position as assistant professor and be part of the US Communist party.
The FBI couldn’t handle the idea that an American citizen could visit places like Cuba and Russia. They couldn’t bear the idea of a peaceful visit. No, I was obviously a communist spy sent to terrorize the public! I’m sure the interrogation they put me through showed as much.
And I suppose they still think that: the FBI has “Wanted” posters up everywhere, filled with my face. It’s not even always me! The poster read “Angela Davis”, but sometimes it’s another black woman. And what does this tell me? I’m just a stock photo that can be swapped out for the hundreds of others like me. They don’t see me as a person. They see me as a problem.
Just as America celebrated the abolishment of slavery, they began throwing people into the slammer. I’m not talking about blacks. I’m talking about anyone who wasn’t white, lawful, straight and well-off.
I was one of three black students in my high school. Where was the rest of my race, you wonder? Either working a blue-collar job for less than fair pay, or (as I remember vividly from my childhood) running out into the street every other night when your house was bombed. My mum always checked for little green boxes in the garden bushes before stepping outside. A few years ago, four little girls were killed in my hometown after being bombed in church. They were friends of my younger sister.
I’ve seen it, the neighbours being beaten with brass knuckles, the wife stabbed because she sent her kids to a white public school. I’ve seen the ones so poor that they fail school because they can’t hear the teacher over the rumbling in their stomach. These are the dropouts, the hoodlums, the alleycats, the ones you stay away from, the ones that are the reason you don’t go out too late at night. But these are not criminals!
I am not a criminal. What we need is a voice. We’re asking for help, we want food for the hungry, we want shelters for the homeless, we want counselling and education for the alcohol and the drugs, we want to end the cycle of violence, we want to give girls a chance to get jobs that pay better than prostitution, we want the police to stop shooting us, stop beating us, we want a voice. We want a voice so we can be heard everywhere, from the old days in chain and cotton fields and the residential schools to the dynamiters of the railways and when women couldn’t vote or have rights to their body to legalizing gay marriage and the shooting in Ferguson and we want a voice. But we also want you to listen.
For the unemployed, the illiterate, the homeless, those with drug abuse problems: prison isn’t helping. We are locking up the problem somewhere we can’t see it, and it is still growing. If we could just find a way to rehabilitate these people, to give them a chance to regain their families, their lives and their rights, we could free up so many resources that go into building prisons, securing them, feeding and clothing the inmates. These citizens have a right to live their life to the fullest, a right which prison denies them.
I’ve been accused of kidnapping and murder. Neither of these charges is true. What I’m really being charged for is my battle to improve my country, my struggle to end oppression.
And soon I will join the people I fight for in prison. Until now, I’ve only dared to move at night, going to whichever house will hide me. But I have been thinking. Now is the time to stop hiding. I have nothing to hide. Yes, I am black! I am a woman! I am a radical thinker! And I, Angela Davis, am completely innocent of all charges!
TLDR: I (as Angela Davis) am running from the FBI, have a brief rage about the state of prisons and minority discrimination, and decide to stop running from the FBI.
Until now, I’ve only dared to move at night, going to whichever house will hide me. But I have been thinking – now is the time to stop hiding. I have nothing to hide. Yes, I am black! I am a woman! I am a radical thinker! I am completely innocent of all charges! And I, Angela Davis, am not afraid!