23 Sep 1969, Los Angeles, California, USA. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
23 Sep 1969, Los Angeles, California, USA. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Angela Davis: Political activist, scholar, social justice extraordinaire – and still going strong. Here’s a little background info about her life and rally for social and political change:

Born 1944, currently 70 years of age. Angela lived in Birmingham, Alabama USA, an area well known for segregation and nicknamed “Dynamite Hill” for the bombings it went through. She grew up in a tight knit black community, surrounded by her mother and community leaders, all of whom were influenced by the Communist Party. She was also influenced by her professor Herbert Marcuse in university, where she was 1 out of 3 black students in her class. Her first encounter with the FBI was an interview after attending a communist-sponsored international event for a youth and students festival. She became an assistant professor of philosophy at UCLA but was fired for her political associations with communism. When it was ruled that she couldn’t be fired for her politics, the regents of the university fired her for “use of inflammatory language” in her lectures. She was later arrested and charged for kidnapping, conspiracy  and murder when a guns used in a kidnapping attempt were traced to be registered under her name.

Being a woman, Angela Davis got a lot of notoriety as one of the “Top Ten Most Wanted Women” on the FBI’s list.

However, she did not take part in the kidnapping and was cleared after supporters of her cause rose up in protest of her imprisonment. That was the defining moment of her career. After being in a US prison, her passion about the social justice system solidified, and she has committed herself to this work for nearly her entire life.

 

I’m hoping this project will lead me into learning more about justice, and the different ideas people have about it. As I learn more about Angela Davis’s work, I intend to be doing some work of my own researching who decides how the justice system works, how we are currently fulfilling “justice” with our justice system, and what challenges it faces and points that can be improved on. Because of my eminent person’s area of expertise, I will probably focus on prisons specifically. For the same reason I’ll look at racial discrimination and inter-racial tensions in the justice system.

The Ferguson shooting is an example of how, even now, unter-racial tensions are still very much present within the justice system.
The Ferguson shooting is an example of how, even now, inter-racial tensions are still very much present within the justice system.

If I have time, I may dig deeper into my own wonders about culture: how can we preserve it without singling out or stereotyping individuals based on it? Last year, Lyle’s word sonder tied into this topic really well – but more on that later.

 In some ways, Angela Davis and I are worlds apart, despite both living on the same continent. She’s black, I’m white. Nowadays we may not consider this to be that different, but as the Ferguson shooting proved, there are still many inter-racial tensions between black and white peoples. Also, in Angela Davis’s lifetime, she experienced the segregated schools and black/white zoning that was commonplace in the 50s and 60s. Black people were:

  • more likely to get arrested for the same crimes as white people
  • rarely ever got paid as much as whites
  • and were denied economic loans made available to white people

Our age gap also separates us, and I have both the privilege of being white and the era of equality. However, this supposed era highlights the similarities between us: we’re both female. Though more acceptable today, feminism is still a widely spread issue, and takes place throughout all genders (not just women). angela-davisquotecompositebymeOn top of this, we were both born into middle-class families, and while schooling was definitely more difficult for her due to segregated schools, we both have the financial stability to go to post-secondary schools. This obviously opens up a lot more options for a career, and intellectual discussion for society’s advancement.

We both want to make a positive change in the world; however, in different areas. Angela was very politically involved from a young age, being in communist youth groups and growing up with politics embedded in her family life. I’m not – I’m more into sustainability and the environment. It’s only recently that I’ve started to take interest in politics since I’m getting closer to the voting age, and of course Mr. J has helped me realize that we need more people to care about where the country is headed.

As Dr. Seuss said in The Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

 

My personal learning goals for the year are to broaden my horizons and take meaningful risks. I’m curious about the prison-industrial complex, and why it is easier to go to jail than get a public education. Seriously, does that sound right to you?

The prison-industrial complex is a termed coined by Angela Davis to describe the state of prisons in the US.
The prison-industrial complex is a termed coined by Angela Davis to describe the state of prisons in the US.

Eminent will help especially with developing my interpersonal and technology skills when preparing for interviews, and gathering resources and synthesizing information. I’m going to try and connect to more people this year, have more informal discussions with classmates, and reach a mutual understanding between my person and myself about how we relate to each other. Hopefully this project will lead to the discovery of new interests, and go in-depth on the passions I share with Angela Davis: equality and acceptance. I want to develop my understanding of  who I am, what I really believe in, and find or make a place for myself in the world – though I suppose that’ s more of a life goal than one for just this year!