In a special event hosted by the Campus Activities Board, UNC Charlotte welcomed Dr. Angela Davis to campus on Feb. 12 to speak about her experience with facing oppression. Most people would know Davis from her time speaking in various venues across the world speaking about radical resilience, but she more commonly known for being on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list in 1970.
Angela Yvonne Davis became an activist at 11-years old when she participated in interracial study groups in her church’s basement. Davis carried the activist role throughout her life, joining the Black Panthers group and an all-black part of the communist party called the Che-Lumumba Club. Davis was also a professor at The University of California in Los Angeles. Shortly after her teaching career, she led the movement to acquit the Soledad Brothers -- three men in prison who were wrongly accused of murder. During one of the men’s trials, there was an escape attempt and several people were killed with the weapons Davis purchased. Davis was charged with several crimes, including murder, and spent over a year in jail. She was later found not guilty of all charges and returned to teaching at The University of California in Santa Cruz. She has since authored 13 books.
During the event, Davis spoke about the importance of putting others first and challenging societal norms, how to be a healthy and hopeful activist, and taking an equally radical stance against oppression. She also touched on global issues, including the struggles in Palestine, Brazil and Israel. Davis included lengthy discussion of the criminal justice system, including her anti-prison work, her personal testimony of being in prison and her efforts to abolish violent police. She also mentioned topical issues like privatization of healthcare and environmental activism. She answered questions regarding colorism, academia, mental health, threats, surveillance, justice, how she got into activism, how to become an activist and her hair.
This event cultivated a lot of emotions among the over 500 audience members, including attendee Lauren Brown. “The event made me feel empowered. Having the opportunity to experience someone who has been a powerful leader and has done so much for the black community was inspiring,” said Brown.
“Dr. Davis speaking on courage really stuck out to me. Everyone sees her as a pretty courageous figure...while she saw herself as having courage she still experienced fear while participating in the movement. This inspired me to continue to do things that I may be afraid of. Dr. Davis speaking on intersectionality stuck out to me as a female. As a black female student at a predominantly white institution, I experience intersectional conflicts on a daily basis,” said Brown.
Another attendee, Imani Williams, appreciated Davis’ discussion of feminism. “She showed me, and probably every other female in here, that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up or speak about anything because she hit on many points like feminism, antisemitism, what’s happening in Palestine, climate change,” said Williams. “So it really makes me feel empowered like I have a lot of power to do whatever I want in the world.”
At the end of the event, Davis opened the floor for questions. A 12-year-old girl who wanted to be an activist like Davis asked her for advice on how to get there.
“I always wanted things to be better. Better for others. I think that the movement has to bring pleasure to us; it has to bring joy; it has to make us happy. People need to choose that which reflects their own passions, so if you’re interested in art, do it as an artist. If it’s music, do it as a musician,” said Davis.