Angela Davis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
A Call for International Solidarity
By Hedi Rudd
Black newspaper and shared with the crowd, highlights of Davis’ place in history, civil rights, academia and her extensive work to dismantle the prison-industrial
complex as well as her numerous literary contributions.
In an interview with Thulani Davis and Anna Deavere Smith in 1992, Angela Davis was quoted as saying: “I feel very anchored in my various communities, but I think
that the rope attached to that anchor should be long enough to allow us to move into other communities to understand and to learn. I’ve been thinking a lot about the
need to make more intimate these connections and associations and to really take on the responsibility of learning.”
She went on to say, “I think that we need to find ways of working with and understanding the vastness of our many cultural heritages and ways of coming together
without rendering invisible all of that heterogeneity. What I am interested in is communities that are not scattered, that can change, that can respond to new historical
needs. So, I think it’s a very exciting time.”
Fast forward to today and the very exciting times we are experiencing politically and globally.
The crowd welcomed her, cheering and standing to acknowledge their thanks for her contributions. Davis graciously acknowledged them and offered to help find
inspiration in the current state of affairs facing the nation and the world.
She began by noting who was in the room. Many organizations were in the room including Black Women’s Wellness, socialist organizations, Black Student Unions,
sororities and fraternities and Freedom, Inc. who Davis called out specifically as she has become familiar with their work. She also noted the 50th anniversary of the
Black Student Strike, which birthed the Afro-American Studies Department at the university.
Her lecture took the crowd through the recent election of President Donald Trump and she offered this thought. “Those of us who often succumb to political depression
tend to be older. And much of our lives have already unfolded. Our futures are not nearly as considerable as those who are at the beginning of their lives. It is in the
interest of young people to generate hope for the future. For our collective future.”
“Young people want to be able to imagine a world where prisons do not consume so many of our people and so much of our resources. Where education is more
important than incarceration. Where schools do not effectively prepare young Black, Latinx and Native people for juvenile facilities and the prison.”
She spoke of the work of Parkland students, the intersectionality of struggles, and the need for alliances with Black and Latinx youth experiencing gun violence in
their own communities and toxic masculinity.
Davis also spoke about Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier and their place in history and their current confinements for their role in the revolutions
they lead or took part in. She pointed out the need to be conscious of law, but not always accepting it as the final word.
“Sometimes we tend to act as if all we have to do is point out what is true and accurate in accordance with the law and that our job is done. We act as if the law itself
has agency. We act as if we have to do nothing else but point out what the law declares and our job is done. People are talking about what the current occupant of the
White House is doing that is opposed to the law, but he’s still in office, isn’t’ he?
Davis went on to talk about the need for us to demand protection for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and others, including immigrants who are often the target of
President Trump, effectively putting them in the crosshairs of those who may act on impulses that could result in harm.
“If we stand up against racism, anti-Semitism, against misogynist violence. We should also stand up against Islamophobia. Islamophobia is global, our oppositional
stance requires us to engage in global solidarity including solidarity with our comrades and sisters and brothers in Palestine.”
Davis wrapped up her formal lecture by bringing the audience to her initial charge. ““Where can we find hope? Where can we find inspiration? I suppose we need to
recognize that no one except ourselves. In our relations of solidarity with people and movements all over the world. No one except ourselves can do the work that
will move us forward. I will leave you with a quote from June Jordan: We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
During the Q&A she acknowledged the role of young people in leading and provided the following pieces of advice:
“Be critical of everything including your own thoughts and feelings. There was a time when I really believed the revolution was happening tomorrow and I am glad I
believed it was happening tomorrow. There are reasons for holding up that belief as there were revolutions happening all over the world.”
|Angela Davis spoke to a sold-out audience in the Memorial Union’s
Shannon Hall on April 16th.
— Photo by Amadou Kromah
he decision to bring Professor Angela Davis to Madison, was one that the Wisconsin Union
Directorate (WUD) probably made easily as part of it’s Distinguished Lecture Series. What they
may not have expected was the response from UW-Madison students and staff and the
community being so overwhelming.
Tickets sold out quickly and WUD chose to keep the event on campus, at its largest theater,
Shannon Hall. In the days leading up to the lecture, some ticket holders chose to let go of
their tickets to in hopes that African American community members would be able to attend
the rare opportunity to hear from Professor Davis.
The event, held on April 16th, filled up quickly and anticipation was high. First Wave students
kicked off the evening with performances that were a tribute to their communities and to
Angela Davis was then introduced by Thulani Davis, an assistant professor in Afro-American
Studies and a Nellie Y. McKay Fellow.
Thulani Davis told the story of how she covered the trial of Angela Davis while a reporter at a
"My sense is that our political connections, our shared visions of the future, our
political visions create a much stronger community than our biological
“While it is important to acknowledge anti-blackness and the suffering that racism
has caused, it cannot provide the foundation for the work that we need to do. What
is so significant about Black people is not that we suffered unspeakable pain over
centuries, but the fact that we were not dehumanized by it and we learned to
produce beauty and joy despite all of that.”
Youth from Freedom, Inc. took the opportunity to ask for advice from Davis, with
respect to their work to remove police officers from schools. Davis encouraged
them to continue to do the work, noting the school to prison pipeline and how
having officers plays a part.
To that end, we leave you with the words of Assata Shakur.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and
support one another. It is our duty to fight for our freedom.”