FEBRUARY 23, 2021 — Angela Y. Davis, a renowned author, cultural icon, and the Distinguished Professor Emerita in the departments of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will speak with the Roadrunner community at a virtual event at 6 p.m. today. Sponsored by the Student Union and Student Activities, her talk is titled “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle” and it is part of the university’s Black History Month celebration.
For more than 50 years, Davis has been a recognized leader in the battle for economic, racial and gender justice, fighting oppression nationally and internationally.
Once a member of the Communist Party USA, and a social activist, Davis spent 16 months incarcerated after she famously landed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List in 1970. The charges against her were false and an international “Free Angela Davis” campaign led to her acquittal in 1972. Davis was also removed from her teaching position in the philosophy department at UCLA, and former California Gov. Ronald Reagan once famously vowed that Davis would never again teach in the University of California system. He was wrong.
“Bringing Dr. Angela Davis, with her intimate, experiential knowledge of the depraved social condition of black and brown folks in America, the proliferation of injustice and disenfranchisement of minorities across the globe, and the actions taken when the perceived power of a majority appears to be slipping away from their grasp will only aid in deepening the paradigms of all who hear her truth and grapple with the realizations of HERstory,” said Jarvis Clark, associate director of student activities. “Angela Davis as a keynote speaker for Black History Month is the historical equivalent of touching the Taj Mahal, seeing the triumph of wars won for independence, or hearing the great oratory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s history, it’s culture, and it’s an experience that we should always strive to make a reality for our UTSA community.”
Brandi Scott, director of the Multicultural Student Center for Equity and Justice, said organizers intentionally reached out to UTSA students and black student organizations to ask who was at the top of their wishlists. Davis rose to the top. Scott said that one of the students shared on social media that Davis “is a living historical icon in the Black community.”
“And what better way to celebrate Black History than to hear from her? This is what our students told us, that this would be an excellent person to bring to campus,” Scott said
Scott said when she thinks about Davis, the significance of Black History Month and the impact on UTSA students, she is reminded of the statements UTSA President Taylor Eighmy made in the wake of summer protests.
“As a multicultural university committed to inclusive excellence, we can help our nation move forward,” Eighmy said. “I know that our students who are graduated each year have the vision, passion and courage to change the world.”
Eighmy’s remarks after the high-profile deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor also inspired many in the campus community. “The recent incidents of racism, violence and killing of Black citizens in our country are a stark reminder of how we must rid deeply rooted bigotry and injustices from our society,” Eighmy said at the time. “We cannot let the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor go unnoticed or unaddressed. Nor can we ignore the countless other Black people and other people of color who have lost their lives to senseless acts of violence. We must call out and condemn these racist acts, stand together in the fight for justice, speak out and enact change.”
“President Eighmy encouraged us in his emails to strive for equity, and to fight racism,” Scott said. “That’s what Angela Davis, her study and scholarship, is all about.”
“History is typically considered a series of past events that give us glimpses about the world we live in, the people who live within it, and how those events and people continue to shape the thoughts, ideas, and conditions in which we currently inhabit,” Clark added. “At times, depending on the viewpoints, the interpretation of the history can cause great debate, great struggle, but also offer an opportunity to engage in the type of dialogue that can lead to tremendous understanding, overwhelming empathy, life-altering perspective, and most importantly an opportunity to realize a unifying pathway forward.”
Davis is the author of 10 books, including recent works such as Are Prisons Obsolete?, and has taught at numerous American colleges and universities, including San Francisco State University, Mills College and the University of California, Berkeley. She received the distinguished honor of being appointed to the University of California Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies in 1994. Nearly two years ago she was also inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame as part of its celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
“At UTSA, or really any institution of higher learning, part of our work should be to offer our students, faculty and staff with opportunities to grapple with history and potentially be challenged to walk the proverbial mile in someone else’s proverbial shoes,” Clark said.