[sixties-l] Angela Davis Speaks on Civic Engagement (fwd)

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Date: Mon Nov 18 2002 - 18:28:37 EST

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    Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 15:12:31 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Angela Davis Speaks on Civic Engagement

    Davis Speaks on Civic Engagement


    NOVEMBER 11, 2002

    "An Evening of Civic Engagement" with Angela Davis last
    Friday marked the first event of a three-part Student Civic
    Engagement Conference.
    The series was sponsored by the Public Service Center and
    several other campus organizations. It was designed to
    foster leadership and hosted students from all across the
    The evening opened with an introduction from Dr. Kenneth
    Clark, director of Cornell United Religious Work, who
    described the affect Prof. Angela Davis, history of
    consciousness, University of California at Santa Cruz has
    had on the national psyche.
    Davis took the podium to a standing ovation and began her
    speech with a series of questions to the audience: "How
    many of you are a part of the Cornell community? How
    many of you are a part of communities beyond this
    Of civic engagement, Davis said it "involves posing hard
    questions." She commented on the recent election results
    and said how now is the time to generate encouragement
    and critical thinking in social circles.
    Davis, a member of the Communist Party and of the Black
    Panthers in the late 1960's, became only the third woman
    to appear on the FBI's Most Wanted List in 1970 after
    being accused of murder. Later acquitted, Davis went on to
    publish several books and teach.
    "Social activism involves an understanding of the
    complexity of the world we live in," Davis said.
    Davis allotted most of her time to a discussion on prisons.
    In response to this, Yaneris Rosa '04 said, "She seemed to
    be very passionate about prisons. One of her most
    important points was how the prison institution came into
    being through history and how it can leave through
    In her speech, Davis questioned how the United States
    could have over two million prisoners when there are nine
    million in the world. Americans comprise 5 percent of the
    world population and 20 percent of the world's prison
    population, she said.
    Davis posed philosophical questions to the audience such
    as: "Why do Americans take the prison system for
    granted?" and "Why does it not occur to us that this is an
    institution that needs to be abolished?"
    She compared the typical public reaction to abolishing
    prisons with the public reaction that had been generated
    by the anti-slavery movement: "Many people said they just
    couldn't imagine anything else."
    Davis also discussed the role of gender in crime and
    punishment. She said, "One of the most consistent
    practices is the strip search and the cavity search. If we
    are going to find fault in rape, then we must also find the
    state responsible."
    Furthermore, she stated, "Historically, female prisons were
    often used to house those who were considered 'bad
    women.' They were designed to domesticate women. The
    women prisoners were taught how to cook and sew, and
    because most of these women were poor, these prisons
    created good domestic servants."
    Davis concluded her speech with two international
    examples of resistance to advanced imprisoning techniques,
    which have been overlooked by traditional media.
    In the first example, Davis described an ongoing hunger
    strike in Turkey prisons, which its participants call a 'Death
    Fast.' The strikers are protesting the U.S. proposed
    imposition of F-type prisons, which place one or two people
    per cell and may involve solitary confinement.
    According to Davis, so far about 50 prisoners have died in
    the strike; the last two were women who survived for over
    400 days on just water, salt, and vitamins.
    She referred in her second example to South Africa, whose
    citizens, Davis said, "should have space to explore
    democracy. But instead the prison system has expanded
    Plans to build the country's first super-maximum security
    prison with sensory deprivation has sparked protest from a
    local South African town that would be vying for the same
    scarce water resources.
    Davis discussed the role racism plays in the trial and
    conviction of inmates and used the cases of Leonard Peltier
    and Mumia Abu Jamalwidely consider political prisoners
    -- as examples.
    This subject led her into a discussion of America's stance
    on terrorism and immigration. "It seems as if we only know
    one person's name in Iraq. We forget that any war is going
    to produce devastation for thousands of innocent families."
    Specifically, Davis discussed the Bush administration. "The
    xenophobic community that George W. Bush is bent on
    creating is an enormous threat." Davis said this attitude is
    particularly dangerous to the African American community
    because, "African Americans are seduced by thinking they
    belong to the inner circle."
    Davis concluded her speech by stating, "In order to
    critically evaluate the prison system, we need to think
    about anti-globalization and anti-capitalist critiques."

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