Angela Davis

Angela Davis, renowned human rights activist and controversial figurehead, spoke at EJ Thomas Hall on Monday night.

Angela Davis, renowned human rights activist and controversial figurehead, spoke at EJ Thomas Hall on Monday night.

What I want us to do is think about how we might address issues of violence within our communities within the 21st century, said Dr. Davis as she urged her audience to think in complicated ways and develop new habits of thought, habits of struggle.

Davis, professor emeritus at UC Santa Cruz, discussed the violence, from that which is so normal that it has become routine to child sexual molestation, that exists in an interconnected fashion within every level of society, both in public and in private, and of the feminist perspective that can help us understand it.

These issues are issues that connect us all over the world, she said. I want us to think about connections because this is the work feminism does.

Davis described the feminist framework as a global activism approach that considers various levels of inequality and is socially conscious, transnational and interdisciplinary.

Feminism does not belong only to women, so the men have to be just as excited about this, said Davis, to a cheering audience. Feminism is about much more than women, about much more than gender.

Sharing personal stories, including her experiences being fired from UCLA for being a member of the Communist Party and being charged and imprisoned for alleged kidnapping, murder and conspiracy, she enlivened the audience and made it clear that things have changed.

It’s amazing that we’ve reached this point in our histories where we can think broadly, she said, emphasizing that she is no longer required to decide whether she is black or a woman, when her identity is linked to both.

When examining violence against women, police violence or the violent foundation of the prison system, Davis implored the audience to acknowledge the race of gender and the gender of race.

Prisons are gendering apparatuses and they violently inflict gender, said Davis when describing how far the understanding of the social construction of gender has come, and encouraging all to challenge binary assumptions of gender.

Making evident that violence leads to violence, regardless of which individual or institution is inflicting it, and that the various histories of violence must be considered, Davis encouraged all to question that which we are not supposed to question.

Explaining the importance of the struggle for democracy and the questioning of capitalism, Davis encouraged all to reflect upon those who produce our commodities.

The equation of democracy and capitalism have done so much damage, she said. We don’t recognize we are connected to the people who produce what we wear, what we use.

Davis encouraged the audience to engage in activism, but never to do it alone. So many people went with me because I was compelled to confront the powers that be.

Angela Davis’ address of the intersectionality of race, class, gender and capitalism brought forth contemporary struggles that continue to exist, said Kate Flach, MA student in the History Department. Her lecture helps bring such issues to a public sphere and hopefully encourages those who attended to think more critically and challenge traditional discourse regarding capitalized control over education, sexual violence and prisons in particular.

Julie Drew, associate professor of English, said, I found it exciting to hear from such an important figure in late 20th century American history.

She’s a very inspiring woman obviously, and her historical perspective on the struggle for human rights and equality speaks strongly to the current events and current struggles for human rights and equality and gives us hope in that we the people have the power to bring about such changes, said Cristina Gonzalez Alcala, doctoral research assistant for UA’s Institute for Health and Social Policy. 

Tracey Jean Boisseau, associate professor in UA’s History Department, introduced Davis, saying that her work as an activist and academic contributed to a collective understanding of race, class and gender while also making evident how levels of inequality are built and how they must be unbuilt.

UA’s Office of Inclusion and Equity and Women’s Studies Department and EJ Thomas Hall cosponsored the event.