This past year, but especially these few weeks after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, has been a time of intense political division, and the increase in mass movements nationwide is just proof . Dr. Angela Davis, a Civil Rights icon, spoke at SUNY Brockport’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture Series on Monday about the need to continue learning, collaborating, and ultimately resisting in the memory of Dr. King and many other black historical icons.
“As we gather here on indigenous land, it is our obligation to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. Let us commend them for their reservoirs of perseverance and courage and let us remind ourselves—if we are not indigenous, we are immigrants,” Davis said, beginning her lecture by expressing her support for the Standing Rock Sioux “Water Protectors” that are fighting against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
Davis went on to discuss her participation in the Women’s March on Washington and the need for Feminism to become more intersectional and inclusive:“When someone says the word ‘women,’ it’s automatically associated with ‘white women.’ At the march there was a black speaker, a Latina speaker, a Muslim speaker and a white speaker.” She also reminded the audience that, “Women have always been the organizers behind social justice campaigns.” and that, “Black women were the primary movers of the Abolitionist Movement.” It was a reminder of not only women’s importance but that of women of color who are often under-celebrated.
While Davis addressed sexism, transphobia, heteropatriarchy, etc., she also addressed current pressing social/political issues involving racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and Islamophobia. Davis said the nation’s administration is part of the problem: “The vestiges of slavery are still very much with us– Slavery enabled the election of Donald Trump. Clearly there is a concerted effort to try and turn back the clock—back to white male supremacy.”And when asked to address The Black Lives Matter Movement, Davis said it is the 21st century struggle phase to abolish the vestiges of slavery and The Civil Rights Movement was the beginning of abolishing those very same vestiges of slavery. She spoke about how Dr. King did not see himself as the leader of the movement, instead he was a spokesperson for the movement.
She encouraged all who were present to draw on the inspiration of Dr. King and recommended The Trumpet of Conscience, transcripts of a conversation Dr. King had on March 25, 1968, just 10 days before his assassination.
“He explored the election campaign of Nixon. He addressed the concept of militancy,” said Davis. “Be demanding and persistent. It is possible to be militantly non-violent. Racism is not just a black problem. White America has to work diligently to remind white society of their obligation. Progressive white people, have to help remind not-so-progressive white people that they have a chance to stand on the right side of history.”
Davis expressed excitement in seeing so many grassroots movements across the nation combating discrimination and prejudice from our current government administration.
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“The dominant psyche of America is awakening,” she said. While Davis admits that today’s problems do not have easy solutions, she encourages the youth to prepare to struggle like never before and use passion and imagination to evoke change.
Davis reminded us that The Civil Rights Movement was just the beginning. Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy she suggested we continue the fight not just for diversity, but for diversity AND justice.
“Keep ancestral figures alive,” she said. “If we do the work we need to we will stay alive. Contribute to something that will matter, really matter, months, years, decades, centuries from now. Be linked to the past and be very much present in the future.”