Codeblack Films, a division of Lionsgate Entertainment, is releasing a new movie about the revolutionary, Angela Davis, on April 5th! Black Bloggers Connect touts Free Angela as “a must see documentary! A candid and powerful account of the tumultuous times and a woman who challenges a society that is afraid of all that she represents. Filled with elements of intrigue, suspense and conspiracies, the film delivers by empowering and inspiring diverse international audiences with its message of hope and redemption.” I believe this documentary by writer/director Shola Lynch is itself revolutionary. It dares to sail us back into a clamorous time in our history when it was frequently ill-fated to “rock the boat” and whose visible struggle was merely the tip of the iceberg. This young afro-wearing “Black” woman studied French in Paris, earned her doctorate in Germany and was teaching at UCLA. Yet, she became viewed as a threat to many who protected the status quo, simply because she exercised her human right to explore her political freedom. Angela Davis not only was a leader in the feminist and civil rights movement, but she held an unpopular support for Communism. I am mindful of the great spirit of the French writer, Voltaire, who said, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.“ Her uninhibited expression of her beliefs led many to fear her strength and influence. Several years after four little girls whom she knew, were bombed in 1963 in one of her hometown churches of Birmingham; she was accused in 1970 of some illegal activity and linked to the murder of four people. She was cleared of the charges in 1972 but still had undergone major smearing that cost Angela her job and many freedoms as she went underground for fear of not getting a fair trial. Remember, this was shortly after the 1969 Black Panther raid believed to be a pretext to murdering the Illinois Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton where it was reported that the Panther possibly only fired one shot, but the police fired close to 82-99 shots!
This film is an important impetus for us to practice the African principle of Sankofa, which means to remember our past. Our history involving Angela Davis is still significant for a number of reasons:
1. Some of her struggle involved the strategy of labeling to produce fear. This strategy is being used today of linking people to Marxism and is still playing a role in our society and political arena. President Obama was wrongly labeled as Marxist by some opponents. In fact, Pat Boone recently accused our president of being Marxist. It’s sort of ironic in a way since according to Wikipedia, “the term capitalism, in its modern sense, comes from the writings of Karl Marx.”
2. Dr. Davis is a founder of the grassroots organization, Critical Resistance, which works to dismantle the “prison-industrial complex” (PIC). This group attributes the growth of PICs to the privatizing of goods provided to prisons. This is extremely relevant as we see the expansion of prisons and especially see many young adults ending up in prison as part of what many education advocates as myself refer to as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.
3. The Critical Resistance’s concern of the prison expansion revolves around the belief that it masks the real problems of homelessness, mental illness, unemployment, drug addiction and illiteracy. Some of this concern was loudly amplified in the Sandy Hook massacre, when the shooter was identified as one struggling with mental health and yet was able to access many guns – guns that quickly released so many rounds that many of the victims had multiple holes in their bodies.
I am greatly inspired by dynamic women like Angela Davis, who like Sojourner Truth and others, boldly fought with the double-edged sword of rights for women and freedom for African-Americans! Because of such extensive bravery, I can advocate for education and children without having to risk our lives to do so! Davis promoted “Power to All People” while speaking Truth to Power! Learning more about Dr. Angela Davis’s struggle and legacy is still relevant to understanding our own, past, present and potential future! This allows true advocacy to intersect with bold activism. I believe she said it best, “I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement.” Learn more about the Free Angela Davis Blog Contest.
- New documentary details how Angela Davis became Angela Davis (tv.msnbc.com)
- NYc, Fri.4/5: Angela Davis, Soffiyah Elijah et at Beyond the Bars Conference (moorbey.wordpress.com)
- WMC Feature: Activist Angela Davis Reaches a New Generation (womensphilanthropy.typepad.com)
- The School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Jada Pinkett Smith Talks Angela Davis Movie (blackamericaweb.com)
- EXCLUSIVE: Angela Davis Remembers The Year That Changed Her Life in New Documentary (essence.com)