Philadelphia, PA – “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” So said Angela Davis, 78, America’s most famous living revolutionary. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most incendiary of the racist Jim Crow southern cities, in a neighborhood called “Dynamite Hill,” due to attacks on Black people by their white neighbors. Davis would rise to become an international beacon of anti-racist and feminist radicalism over decades, expanding her vision to include LGBTQ civil rights, Palestinian rights and her life’s work against America’s carceral system. She came out formally as a lesbian in 1997 in an interview with Out magazine. Her life partner is fellow professor and scholar Gina Dent, with whom she has collaborated on several projects.
A radical political activist and theorist, Davis gained fame in the 1960s and 1970s as a leader in the Black Civil Rights, Black Power and Black and feminist liberation movements. Pivoting off the Serenity prayer, Davis’s most famous quote is the one that threads through all her activism: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” At 78, Davis continues to do that work, she studied with Frankfurt school philosopher Herbert Marcuse in Berlin and said, he “taught me that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar and a revolutionary.” Davis was and is all those things.
In 1969, while a professor in the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and already a world-renowned activist, Davis was fired for being a Communist and for her “inflammatory language.” Davis was also a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panthers at that time and identified as a radical feminist. The following year, Davis was listed among the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted, the first Black woman to be on the FBI’s fugitives list, after guns Davis had purchased were used in an August 1970 shooting at the Marin County courthouse in California related to the Soledad Brothers, whom she supported as political prisoners. The manhunt for Davis was massive. But Davis was no terrorist. After her incarceration for 16 months, much of it in solitary confinement, an all-white jury deliberated for only 13 hours before finding her not guilty on June 4, 1972. A lifelong Communist, in 1980 and 1984 Davis was the Communist Party’s candidate for vice president. She subsequently split from the Communist Party and in recent years supported Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden for president, noting that it was essential to vote against the Republican Party leadership and oust them from the White House. On prisons, Davis’s writing is succinct. In her 2003 book “Are Prisons Obsolete?” Davis argues for “decarceration” and “for the transformation of the society as a whole.” In that book Davis writes, “The most difficult and urgent challenge today is that of creatively exploring new terrains of justice, where the prison no longer serves as our major anchor.” It is a revolutionary concept. When asked if she preferred to be labeled as queer or lesbian, she said, “I don’t mind it. I’d prefer anti-racist, anti-capitalist.” (Philadelphia Gay News – Victoria A. Brownworth at https://epgn.com/2021/10/27/angela-davis-revolutionary/)
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