In, February this year, I have had the opportunity to meet legendary prison abolitionist Angela Davis as a youth ambassador at Afrikana Independent Film Festival.
Angela Davis doesn’t simply talk about how the privatized prison system targets Black women. She has lived the experiences she talks about. Her advocacy for Black feminism, LGBTQ+ rights and prison abolition is inspirational to many. She was the embodiment of all of those identities at one point in her life.
After studying philosophy in Europe and seeing coverage of Black Panthers carrying guns and policing their communities, she moved back to America to join the Black Panther Party. She was also involved with the SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), which fell apart according because “some of the guys just couldn’t deal with the fact that women were insisting on assuming leadership.”
“If you ask who does the fundamental work of building movements, you will discover almost always that it’s women. There we were in SNCC … doing most of the work for the organization. And I should tell you if you look at the Black Panther Party, the majority of the members were women. They were the ones who were doing the work. However, when it came to being leaders and spokespeople and so forth, the men assumed it was their prerogative. Not all of the men. I’m not indicting men as men. I’m indicting the system of gender superiority to which some men did not assent.” — Angela Davis said at VCU
While she taught classes at UCLA many people didn’t appreciate the fact that she was a professor there because of her activism. She received backlash through hate-mail with threats and racial slurs.
Intending to defend herself in case she got attacked, she bought four guns. In an attempt to funnel her out of UCLA, she was illegally fired, then accused of murdering someone, because it was known she was armed. She was incarcerated for two years before being found innocent. This controversy ignited a world wide movement called Free Angela.
After the screening of Free Angela, Professor Davis reflected on Trump’s America and the continuous attacks on marginalized groups.
Reflecting on 5 decades of her activism, Professor Davis calls for a more intersectional, anti-racist, inclusive approach to feminism. Abolitionist Feminism is a metaphor she uses which acknowledges the intersections of incarcerated Black women.
She is currently a professor of University of California, Santa Cruz. She is also the author of many books about intersectionality and prison abolition including, Women, Race and Class,Freedom is a Constant Struggle and The Meaning of Freedom.
Her life’s work shows that she believes in the Black liberation movements. When she advocates for the Civil Rights of Black people, she inspires me to do the same.
About a month later, a group of girls and I innovated Angela Davis’ Black Girl Coalition at Girls For A Change, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring Black girls and other girls of color to be change agents in their communities. It’s based in Central Virginia where the most frequent school-to-prison pipelines occur in America. The mission of this project is to work with Richmond Public Schools to make holistic resources as accessible as possible to Black girls in marginalized communities.