Angela Davis rallies activists at MLK commemoration
in Memphis on weekend of national holiday
Copyright 2017, Citizens Media Resource, All Rights Reserved
MEMPHIS, TN. Jan. 14, 2017 -- “Donald Trump is really trying to make America white again,” former FBI fugitive and Black Panther activist Professor Angela Davis told activists in Memphis just before Martin Luther King Day.
Davis said Americans must resist Republican president-elect Trump with “hundreds” or “thousands” of times the force of any massive political action the country has seen before.
“Our goal is to guarantee that Donald Trump will not be able to govern comfortably,” Davis said. “This means we have to be prepared to stand up. We have to be prepared to show our bodies and let our voices be heard.
“If you think you’ve been to a lot of demonstrations in the past, well, multiply that by a hundred or a thousand over the next period,” said Davis, an author and academician who was targeted by the FBI and imprisoned in the 1970s as a Black Panther Party activist. Davis, distinguished professor emerita at the University of California Santa Cruz, rallied activists at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center’s 35th annual “Living the Legacy of Non-Violence Gala,” which honored Dr. King, who was assassinated while in Memphis to support sanitation workers in 1968.
Davis said Trump’s cabinet nominees are as if “George Wallace came back from the grave.”
Davis said people across the globe must stand in solidarity for all social justice issues and recognize how issues ranging from racism, to immigrant rights, to indigenous people’s rights are connected -- and that justice issues span Palestine, Syria, Columbia and every continent. Davis said "the struggle to save the planet," environmental justice, is "ground zero of struggles for social justice." She emphasized that movements for change have always come from a groundswell of regular people, although historians emphasize individual leaders like King or Abraham Lincoln.
“There is no way to make America great again. Because if there is ever to be any greatness of Americas, it must be in the future,” said Davis, who was acquitted in 1972 of charges related to assisting Black Panther leaders after being imprisoned without bail for 16 months.
“Donald Trump is not only an illegitimate president because of what the Russians may have done, when one considers the fact that his victory was predicated on an institution called the electoral college, which is an institution of slavery,” Davis said. “And it functioned precisely the way it was designed to function during slavery. It was designed to give slave states with small white populations the leverage they needed to acquire power at the national level.
“In many ways the inheritances of slavery are still with us. And I think we are beginning to recognize, if we hope to move forward, we will have to deal with those inheritances, and the electoral college is one.”
Davis said Trump’s cabinet nominees such as Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama for attorney general are like a reincarnation of former Alabama governor George Wallace.
“I could have never imaged that Jeff Sessions would play any major role,” Davis said. “It’s as if George Wallace has come back from the grave. That’s what it feels like to me.
“Trump appointed all of these ultra conservatives. The ambassador to Israel is someone who supports settlements in the West Bank, and the U.S. government does not even support illegal settlements. You can see that Trump is really trying to make America white again,” said Davis, who was born in 1944 in Birmingham.
“It’s just as we struggled against George Wallace. We made it very clear that he would not have the last word. George Wallace said, ‘Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.’
“Did we not prove him wrong? Did we not prove that he was on the wrong side of history? So is Donald Trump and his entire cabal,” said Davis.
The prospect of future American greatness “will consist precisely in the overcoming of the capitalist forces that have impoverished not only so many people in this country, but people all over the world.
“And the person who will be occupying the White House for the next period represents precisely those forces of capitalism that have impoverished many of the people who decided to vote for him, because they feared for their future.
“Donald Trump is going to move into the White House, and there are those who assume that, oh, yes, there has always been a peaceful transfer of power, and this is how we define democracy in the U.S. The peaceful transfer of power.
“But now, Donald Trump hasn’t been so peaceful, has he?” said Davis, whose speech was punctuated by thunderous applause and standing ovations.
“In particular, the way he has called for the building of a wall, and repeatedly referring to Mexican immigrants as murderers and rapists. I like the living the legacy of nonviolence, but I also like Dr. King’s idea of dramatizing forms of oppression that exist and making certain that nobody can look away,” Davis said.
“We have to stop assuming that all we have to do is vote for the candidate who will bring change. Was slavery abolished by a politician or two or three or four? Abraham Lincoln didn’t abolish slavery. The abolition movement, and particularly the black abolitionist movement, and slaves who engaged in what (W.E.B.) Du Bois called a general strike, that is what abolished slavery.
“It is important to recognize the dynamics of change. Because otherwise, we become too depressed. And it’s OK to be sad, but we don’t have time for a lot of that right now. You know?
“I came here today to say that we have to be prepared to struggle over the next period. And we have to stretch our minds and bodies and sprits and recognize that we are not just struggling for ourselves as individuals and our own families and communities. One of the problems we have in the U.S. is that we fail to recognize we are part of a vast network, what Dr. King called an inescapable mutuality of experiences.
“That insight is going to be the insight that allows us to produce the kinds of communities of struggle over the next period that will allow us to get through the next four years.
“When you talk about getting through the next four years, Trump cannot become a two-term president. Let us also not be myopic in our vision and recognize that the struggles we are embracing have a very long history, and that history spans centuries. And we have to look to the future and recognize that this history will involve decades and centuries in the future.
“We need to build community; we need new organizations, new struggles. We need to consolidate our communities. We have to struggle as we have never struggled before. Freedom, after all, is a constant struggle,” Davis said.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did not escape Davis’ critique.
“Hillary Clinton was deeply mistaken in thinking that she could use an obsolete notion of feminism. Many of those black women who voted for Hillary Clinton did not think that she was their candidate,” Davis said.
“I voted for her, but it was a strategic vote. It was a vote to prevent the election of Donald Trump. It was not a vote for Hillary Clinton. She used this outmoded notion of feminism that revolves around middle-class women, bourgeois women.
“This notion of the glass ceiling was predicated on the assumption that she was speaking for all the women who are all the way up close to the ceiling. What about all of us women below?
“Those are the women she should have been talking about. Those are the women she should have appealed to. Also, she didn’t use the word capitalism much, did she, in a political context?
“Bernie Sanders, that was good he did this radical critique of capitalism, but he didn’t understand racial capitalism. He didn’t understand that all capitalism is racial capitalism, and you cannot talk about capitalism without also talking about racism.
“Let’s think about how change happens. Where change comes from. Unfortunately, the most intense politicization in this country happens around the time of elections. And I think elections are absolutely important. But, the best elected officials are those who acknowledge that change comes form below, change comes from movement, from mass struggle.”
Davis also called for “prison abolition” and railed against the prison-industrial complex. Davis noted that for-profit prisons were begun in Tennessee with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.
Davis formerly was active in the U.S. Communist Party, which led to her being fired from her position as an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1969. While governor of California, Ronald Reagan said Davis would never teach in California again, which was proved wrong when a federal judge ruled the state could not fire her based on her party membership alone.
In 1970 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover listed Davis as one of American’s 10 most wanted fugitives prior to her arrest and incarceration.
President Richard Nixon congratulated the FBI on the capture of “the dangerous terrorist, Angela Davis.”