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Why Angela Davis Coming to FSU Was Important

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus FSU.

Author, activist and revolutionary Angela Davis blessed the Florida State community on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2018, when she spoke as part of the thirtieth Martin Luther King Jr. Week Celebration. This year’s theme was “Transforming the Norm Unapologetically” and what better person to speak on it than Professor Davis, a woman whose life is characterized by her unapologetic transformative work in social justice.

Courtesy: Princess Gafaru

As she began, she reminded us that although we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we can’t forget about all the other known and unknown people that have worked to help us get to where we are today. Later in the night, a student asked if in our current political climate she acknowledges the progress that we have made so far if any. Dr. Davis challenged us to realize that progress is progress whether it is 5 percent or 90 percent. We looked around the room and saw the different identities and realized without the people who came before us this would not even be possible, but that does not mean our work is done. Another student brought forward the topic of indigenous people and indigenous land, reminding us that we have the privilege to attend school, walk on, and simply be present on land that is not ours. Sometimes acknowledging your own privilege can be hard, but it is important. Dr. Davis challenged us to do so.

One of her main points of the night was the rise of women. From the beginning Dr. Davis emphasized the broad term of women, being clear that not only people born with a certain set of reproductive organs were classified as women. She embraced the intersectionality of class, race, gender and sex and placed this loose definition of what it means to be a woman. She touched on power dynamics and sexual assault on college campuses. If you were in the crowd as she explained this, you saw and heard the applause as people felt included in the conversation. Dr. Davis embraced us without ever leaving the stage.

Considering I am from one of the “shithole” countries President Trump has spoken about, I was extremely proud when she touched on African and Haitian immigrants. Haiti holds the title for the first successful anti-slave rebellion and in turn was an integral stepping stone in de-establishing America’s slave institutions. She told us about the importance of Haiti’s revolution and reminded us why their economy was the way it is. (Spoiler Alert: France still owes them a lot of money) Throughout this crowd, I saw Haitians, who are often forgotten about in topics about revolutions and civil rights, gleam with pride as Dr. Davis used her platform to educate us. Dr. Davis even brought receipts when she let us know that Mar-A-Lago (what seems to be President Trump’s favorite golf course) has actually filed for 70 H-2B visas which allow for temporary work visas for people to do work in America. Mar-A-Lago also employs more Haitians than any other nationality. Dr. Davis brought receipts.

If, like me, you didn’t know that the Florida prisons recently went on strike, I encourage you to do some research, as this important topic affects us all. Angela Davis is a known critic of the prison industrial complex and definitely taught us more about that. Students from different organizations including the campaign to fight toxic prisons and NAACP even spoke about a demonstration that took place earlier in the day to rally for the three demands of the prisoners. One of the demands is to simply end the outrageous canteen price where a tampon can cost $18. This topic was clearly something Angela Davis was passionate about. She is even in the documentary 13th talking about it (it’s on Netflix and a great way to learn more!). Dr. Davis not only taught us but she pushed us to educate ourselves more.

Overall my evening with Angela Davis was one I will truly never forget. From her energy to her grace and eloquence, I was enchanted the whole evening. Growing up learning about women who have changed the world I never thought I would have the privilege to ever learn from someone who has actually revolutionized the world. I felt honored that she challenged, educated and embraced us. But the most important thing she did for me was to encourage us to transform rather than assimilate. She asked why we would even want to assimilate into a patriarchal or racist country when we could transform it instead. As I heard the crowd go wild at this statement, I looked around at my peers and sent a silent prayer that her words won’t be cheered on in vain. Angela Davis transformed us, and I hope we can transform Florida State because of it.

Her Campus at Florida State University.