By Maria Calleja
Countless students wanted to catch a glimpse of activist Angela Davis at the Accolade East theatre at York University on Feb. 3rd 2010. After the 500 seat theatre at York was filled to capacity other students were filed into a lecture hall to watch a telecast of the famous ex black panther speaking her mind.
A woman once labeled a radical and jailed for her suspected involvement in the killing of judge Harold Haley in 1970, stood before the crowd speaking as any professor might. This lecture was far from ordinary as Davis, with her signature Afro now with tinges of Grey, electrified the crowd.
There was a feeling while listening to the rhythmic lull in her speech that this would be a thrilling moment to be told to future generations. With the passage of time Davis has been accepted by post secondary institutions and has become a bit of a heroine. While in the 60s and 70s she was persecuted for her communist beliefs and her criticisms of the American prison system. It was hard to believe that to hear her speak at one time would have been an act of radicalism and defiance.
In her speech she outlined that Black History has been a series of struggles for liberation. With imperialism, slavery and colonialism these struggles for liberation have become necessary. She went over a few momentous events that happened in February, the month now labeled as Black History Month. In February 1960 there were sit ins at segregated lunch counters in the states; in February of 1965 Malcolm X was assassinated; the civil rights activist W E. DuBois was born in February of 1868; and in February of 1919 the Pan African Congress met in opposition to imperialism.
She talked about the need to continue the fight for liberation even if there is a black president in office.¨We assume we have reached the pinnacle. But a black man in the white house doesn´t cancel out the black men in the big house.¨ This spoke to her continuing discussion of racism in the US prison system.
She also stressed that we have to honour all of those who have been a part of freedom movements and that we can’t put a messiah on a pedestal like Martin Luther King Jr. She reminded us that the Montgomery Bus Boycotts were organized by women. They were mostly poor black women who chose to walk miles to their domestic worker positions rather than to take the segregated bus in Montgomery. ¨Ordinary people are responsible for changes,¨ she said.
She spoke about her fear that the movement for liberation had receded. That the fight for all oppressed people had been weakened. ¨Justice is indivisible,¨she stated. All communities need freedom including undocumented immigrants, prisoners, and the LGBT community.
She ended her speech by quoting Nelson Mandela. ¨I have walked that long road to freedom..But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.¨ And so we keep fighting.