Angela Davis 3-pack
The 1960s have been largely romanticized and commodified. The Beatles, Woodstock, sit-ins, protests, and marches. Those years saw huge social change. Bottom-up grassroots movements rocked the establishment. A major symbol of those years was Angela Davis. She has this to say today: “The lesson is that even though we don't have the same structures that we had at that time, the challenge is to create a kind of vibrant internationalism. Today, of course, we have the technologies of communication that would enable connections in ways that did not exist at all back then. How to actually begin to create the kind of movements that will bring people in Palestine, and people in Brazil, and people who are struggling against police violence in France, and people who are struggling against police violence in South Africa together. I think that that is the major challenge of this moment.”
The term democracy is frequently invoked perhaps never more so than after the January 6th assault on the Capitol which was almost unanimously described as an attack on democracy. The Ancient Greeks coined the term, demos is people and kratia is power or rule. So ideally, rule of the people. The U.S. is the champion of democracy. But who benefits from a system created by a handful of privileged property and slave-owning white men more than two centuries ago? Concentrated power and wealth undermine and corrode democracy. Never before has there been such inequality as we see today. Even before the pandemic concentrations of income and wealth were astronomical, now it’s much, much worse. We are veering away from democracy toward oligarchy, rule of the few. What are the alternatives?
In times of crisis one can simultaneously see danger and opportunity. Today there is nostalgia for an imagined past and a desire to recreate it. It’s a seductive tale. Things were better then. The country was unchallenged in the world. Jobs were plentiful. Minorities, women, gays, and immigrants knew their place. There was order in the land. But over many decades, as a result of struggle and movements, society evolved and changed. We are at a perilous moment. Do we want to go back or continue to move forward building on hard-fought gains? During another perilous time, Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “We’ve got to massively confront the power structure.” We are at a crossroads: the beginning of a brighter or darker future. The choice is ours. This event was presented by the Lannan Foundation.
Angela Davis is one of the iconic figures of this era. Acquitted on conspiracy charges in 1970, after one of the most famous trials in U.S. history, she went on to become an internationally renowned writer, scholar, and lecturer. She is professor emerita at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has been in the forefront of the movement focusing on the prison industrial complex and its intersection with race, class and gender. She is the author of many books including Women, Race and Class, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Abolition Democracy, and Freedom is a Constant Struggle.