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Angela Davis Reflects on Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Social Activist calls for renewed commitment to equality, justice, and peace

By Russell Guerrero ’83

Professor Angela Davis meets with Trinity students during her visit to campus as the featured speaker of the University's MLK Commemorative Lecture..

January 2010 – Saying that it is a “particularly pertinent moment” to recall the contributions of Martin Luther King and the Freedom Movement, Angela Davis, social activist and a retired professor from the University of California, Santa Cruz, issued a call for people “to come together and generate more hope, more strategies, and more desires to bring about change.”

Professor Davis spoke at Trinity on Wednesday, Jan. 20, as the featured guest of the University’s annual MLK Jr. Commemorative Lecture series. 

Speaking in Laurie Auditorium, which was filled with an audience from around the campus and from across San Antonio, Professor Davis began her presentation by observing two events: the first anniversary of Barack Obama’s presidency and the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

 Professor Davis said America suffers from a “collective amnesia” and has forgotten the excitement felt when Obama entered the White House.  She also said that people demobilized from pushing for positive change and instead projected all hopes for the future on a single man.

“The legacy of Dr. King’s life is that if you want to make a difference you have to come together in collective movements,” she said, as she called for “a commitment to preserve the legacy of bold activism for the cause of equality, justice, and peace.”

Professor Davis said that it is especially important to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy as the earthquake in Haiti has become one of the worst disasters in the history of the Americas. “How do we identify with and advocate for those who are poor and oppressed; those populations Dr. King consistently sought to represent?” asked Professor Davis. She also expressed fear that once Haiti is no longer in the news, people will forget the country will still need help.

During her presentation, Professor Davis engaged the audience by asking questions and receiving spirited replies.

She ended her talk by saying that the movement associated with Dr. King did not achieve its final goals and that there are many more issues that fall under the banner of civil rights.  “It is our job to think new thoughts.  To render more open the very idea of freedom,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Professor Davis met with Trinity students for an informal dialogue.  She talked about her early years saying she has always thought of herself as an activist.  She also explained the reasons she became a communist in the 1960s, although now she considers herself a democratic socialist.  And Professor Davis discussed the prison abolition movement, explaining that society should spend more time looking at the reasons so many end up incarcerated.

Professor Davis spent the last 15 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  She has also been a faculty member at University of California, Berkeley; Vassar; and Stanford University.  In the late ’60s, she was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, until she was fired for being a communist. She is the author of eight books and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America.

 


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