By Hailey Hensley
Over 250 students attended the Business of Media lecture with Professor Angela Davis, a prominent activist and civil rights movement icon. The event was put on in collaboration with Tapestry, a co-curricular initiative that seeks to amplify minority student voices.
Davis has authored more than 10 books and was named one of Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2020.
According to Davis, she was raised by activists in what was then known as the most segregated city, Birmingham, Alabama.
Davis cited her education in segregated schools as a “gift,” stating that it allowed her to receive an education that encouraged her to stand up against the racism that was so normalized at the time, especially in the Jim Crow south.
“I point out that was actually a gift to have been taught by teachers in segregated schools because my teachers encouraged us all to resist the way things were organized according to racism at that time. I can remember that while we did know about the Ku Klux Klan and witnessed bombings and so forth, we also had examples of our teachers who stood up and taught us about Black people who had fought against racism in the past,” Davis said.
Davis emphasized that for as long as she could remember, she was taught to fight the way things were. That was then manifested in her activism throughout her life.
“Fortunately I grew up in a family of activists. So as I learned about the meaning of racism and racial segregation, I also learned that we had to challenge it and that we had to stand up and fight back. So that’s kind of been in my blood, in my DNA you might say,” she said. “My activism today is very much connected to the way I grew up and the lessons I learned from my parents: that we had to stand up for our own dignity, for our rights, for our freedom.”
Davis has persevered as an activist on a wide variety of issues, such as criminal justice system reform and the detriments of capitalism.
“I think that that the work that we have to do is to help people to become aware of the fact that what they think they want, our desires that are very much conditioned by ideologies and even the deepest aspirations are often framed by capitalism, and I’m not saying that we have to beat ourselves up over that, but we do have to recognize and realize how important it is to build collectives and communities,” Davis said.
Davis also touched on the issue of women’s rights in her talk, as she has been a longstanding advocate for women since the early days of her activism.
“It’s so important to point out that you know women and people who don’t identify with the gender binary have not only been the targets of racist repression, but have been involved in the organizing of movements is a matter of fact the majority of the members of the Black Panther Party were women and hardly anybody knows that,” Davis said.
Davis clarified that women in the history of the civil rights movement are often glossed over, with men being credited with the vast majority of the movement, despite the massive role that women played.
“Those of us who argue for a for an anti-racist anti-capitalist feminist perspective find ourselves constantly having to do a kind of correction that you cannot do this work effectively if you discount the part that progressive radical anti-racist anti-capitalist feminism plays,” she said. “We wouldn’t have a civil rights movement if it weren’t for the women and I’m not just talking about Rosa Parks. I’m talking about the vast numbers of black women, black women domestic workers who joined that movement and created this Collective imagination of what the future could be.”
Davis then discussed the role social media plays in today’s social movements and specifically in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think the work that social media and mainstream media has done has been so important. And I think that having people who do media work who are aware and conscious and encouraging people to ask questions is important. It’s not just about presenting the facts because we know that when Rodney King was assaulted in the way he was and the trial of his police assailants took place, they transformed those images of him being beaten by the police into the exact opposite,” Davis said.
Junior film and television major Danielle Jackson served as the host for the event as a member of Tapestry.
Jackson spoke about the planning of the event stating that it was “a combination of stressful and exciting.”
Jackson cited feeling “breathless” at the beginning of the event, but nonetheless was able to effectively introduce Davis at the beginning of the event.
“The first few minutes I was definitely breathless, but I think I managed to get it under control once the discussion got underway. But her wise, thoughtful answers still gave me chills,” Jackson said.
Davis highlighted the importance of the collective good towards the end of her talk, referencing the fact that her hardships have only made her stronger and a better activist.
“As I grow older I have realized that what might have appeared to be sacrifices have often been moments of intense learning and growth and development…I have to say that I have no idea what my life would be like had I not experienced those hardships and so I don’t even think of it as a sacrifice… I do think that it is important that we encourage people to get involved but not as a sacrifice because oftentimes that means that there’s something more fulfilling that they might be doing…I think we have to make it central so that people can recognize that there is joy that emanates from being involved in this movement,” Davis said. “We don’t have to always think about it as sacrificing our own individual life and happiness for the greater good.”
Caption: Davis emphasized her personal growth that was spurred by hardships she endured, making it very clear that she did not view her hardships as sacrifices for the movement.
Editor’s Note: News editor Tatyanna Carman, Opinion editor Qu’ran Hansford, and Advertising manager Danielle Jackson are all Tapestry members who also serve on The Rider News editorial board in varying capacities. None of them played a role in the writing or editing of this story.