New Internationalist

Angela Davis: making waves since 1961

March 2013

Once on the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ list, the civil rights activist has no intention of slowing down. She talks to Frank Barat about her inspiration.

What’s your earliest memory?

I grew up in the Jim Crow south [of the US] at a time when spectacular manifestations of racist violence were the major interruptions of our daily routines. When I was still quite young, my parents moved to a neighbourhood that was repeatedly attacked by the Ku Klux Klan. The earliest event I can remember was a bombing across the street from our new home. Black people were allowed to move in on the side of the street where we lived, but they were not allowed to purchase property or live on the other side of the street that divided the white zone from the black zone. On several occasions, committed white allies purchased homes in the forbidden zone as surrogates for black people who were determined to resist the racist zoning laws. One Saturday night when I was close to three years old, I was washing out my white shoelaces that I would need for Sunday School the next day. Suddenly the entire house shook violently. It would have felt like the end of the world, but there was no such conception in my young consciousness. I remember being more frightened than I had ever been, and ran screaming to my mother. To this day, whenever I hear loud, explosive noises, I am brought back to that moment.

Berthold Stadler / AP / Press Association Images
As an older person, I find that a great proportion of the new knowledge I encounter comes from young people Berthold Stadler / AP / Press Association Images

What does ageing mean to you?

As I grow older, I try my best to hold on to the courage, enthusiasm and willingness to venture into new territory that is most often characteristic of young people. But at the same time I try to draw appropriate lessons from the experiences I have accumulated. For example, I really do understand now the importance of physical, mental and spiritual self-care. As an older person, I find that a great proportion of the new knowledge I encounter comes from young people. Intergenerational contact is good for us all.

What are you politically passionate about?

I could name a number of political issues that are close to my heart – violence against women, the global prison-industrial complex, immigration rights, Palestine solidarity. I am passionate about all of these issues and many others. However, what concerns me most today are the connections between these issues. Especially in relation to Palestine. I am especially happy that increasing numbers of African Americans are speaking out against Israeli apartheid.

Who or what inspires you?

I have been active around Palestine for most of my life and thought I knew what I needed to know about the subject until my visit to the West Bank last year. I did not expect to be both shocked by the brazen character of Israeli state repression and immensely inspired by the people who refuse to give up, even after many decades of occupation. I was inspired by women activists, former prisoners, educators, and especially by the children, who have learned how to combine a sense of struggling for a better life with an ability to find joy in every day.

What’s your biggest fear?

My fear right now, as Barack Obama’s second term in office begins, is that we will forget that the real victory was not the election of an individual but rather an indication that people in this country really want a change. During Obama’s second term, we will have to accelerate our mass mobilizations and our movement-building so that what we considered by itself to be a historic victory will indeed have made a difference in the lives of people who continue to suffer as a result of policies that have led to poverty, mass imprisonment and war.

Where do you feel most at home?

I feel at home wherever there are people who have dedicated their lives to struggling for a world beyond capitalism, racism and heteropatriarchy.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 460 This column was published in the March 2013 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #2 Timmy 24 Mar 13

    Racism is not a natural condition. It is learnt Ever watch a group of mixed race kids play? They don't care about race.
    Every boy loves his mother the world over.
    How an innocent little boy can grow into such a monster to throw acid on his female relatives in Pakistan is beyond me. It must be learned.
    How Israel can scream bloody murder about their past, (As if they were the only ones.) but turn and commit their atrocities of denial to the Palestinians. It must have been learned.
    The common denominator is fear. Fear breeds corruption, and corruption warps perception.
    Religion has a long history of power through fear.
    Money has replaced religion in some jurisdictions. Money has corrupted politics, corporations and privates alike.
    Keep fighting the good fight.

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This article was originally published in issue 460

New Internationalist Magazine issue 460
Issue 460

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