I. Met. Angela. Davis.

Honestly, I’m still shook.  I actually met Angela Y. Davis.  She actually hugged me and signed my book.

On Monday, March 27th, 2017, Angela Y. Davis was invited by Students for Justice in Palestine to speak at The George Washington University.  I was only made aware of this the day before that, so I was not able to get a ticket in time.  I was very disappointed, but I always remind myself that everything happens for a reason.  Around 12:30 pm on Monday, one of my very close friends texted me saying she got us last minute tickets to hear her speak.  I had to re-read the message because I could not comprehend the luck I was having.

Fast forward to around 7:00 pm, and she walked into the room greeted by a standing ovation and cheering.  All I could do was smile and stare.  I looked at my friend and said, “That’s REALLY Angela Davis.”  When she started speaking it was cool because her voice sounded the same as it did in all the videos I heard of her speaking.  It’s not that I expected her to sound different, but the fact that it was her voice being magnified in my presence made it fascinating.

She was invited by the GWU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine because she has been involved with many activist projects concerning the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  One may think, “How did she go from fighting for civil rights for black people in the United States to Palestinians?”  Her purpose in speaking was to elaborate on why there is a need for solidarity among the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Free Palestine Movement.  If the audience had to take away one thing from her discourse, it would be that all the issues concerning inequality and inequity are interconnected.  Below is what I have mapped out to show the step-by-step thinking process of how each social movement against any type of inequality — Black Lives Matter, Israeli occupation of Palestine, Feminism, No Dakota Access Pipeline, Prison Reformation — is undeniably linked to every other one.

  • Israel is the only settler-colony that is still trying to expand
  • Election of trump = reaction to radical activism and progressivism
    • Must put occupation of Palestine onto our agendas
  • Our work begins in resisting the efforts to turn the clock back on history
    • We don’t have to assume things will come to a standstill
    • Has ignited right-wing movements all over
      • New law/ban in Israel
      • Obama administration did argue against settlements in Israel
      • Omar Barghouti
    • Recent UN report
      • Apartheid convention
        • Says apartheid is discrete inhumane acts but such acts acquire crimes against humanity only if they serve the purpose of racial domination
          • Has to be a presence of an institutionalized regime
        • Israeli practices towards Palestinian people in occupational apartheid
      • Immediately after the release of the report, SG called for the removal of the report
      • Indicates the accuracy of using the term apartheid in relation to the state of Israel
        • Richard Gear said Hebron reminded him of what he imagined the Old South to look like
        • Purely legal context – were not interested in hurling accusations at state of Israel – in relation to international law
      • Strategic fragmentation of Palestinian people à how Israel denies institutionalized apartheid regime
        • Operates the method of Israeli racial domination
        • De juri vs de facto law
      • Why is it important to engage in public critique of apartheid in Israel?
        • Democracy
        • Black Liberation Movement has relied on capacity to criticize movement
          • Frederick Douglas went to Northern Ireland and built solidarity
          • People all over the world started standing up after Black Liberation Movement got more attention
        • Important movement in the social justice sphere was questioning state of apartheid in South Africa
          • Why is it wrong to question the state of Israel?
        • Do not impute automatically to the individual
          • People all over the world had to distinguish between the imperialist practices of the US
            • The “Other America”: people of color, progressives, lower class
          • As we criticize the Israeli occupation, do not impute this to every Jewish person
            • Fear anti-Semitism backlash…but by saying no to the apartheid in Israel, we are effectively saying NO to anti-Semitism
          • 1975: UN Resolution declared Zionism is a form of racism
            • Pivotal moment in BLM in US because it meant all three struggles were intertwined
              • Apartheid in South Africa
              • The New Jim Crow in the US
              • Israeli occupation of Palestine
            • 2018 marks the 70th year of the Nakba (catastrophe)
            • 2014 Black Lives Matter was crafted into a network with Palestinian solidarity
            • More complicated than an act of an individual
              • Combined tactical systems
              • Tear gas used in Ferguson à Israeli gets their tear gas from the US
              • Racism gets submerged by the “anti-terrorist” rhetoric
            • More intersectional approaches
              • How does Palestinian solidarity help further and nourish the feminist movement?
              • Palestinian women
                • Judith Butler, one of the most outspoken advocates for the free Palestine movement
                • Means that you’re already at the very top anyway…metaphors matter!
                • The women whom under the floor is collapsing: that’s where our loyalty should lie
              • Challenge transphobia and homophobia within the struggle
                • Not just about bathrooms
                  • Don’t forget about the violence against these communities à trans women à trans women of color
                • Considers herself a prison abolitionist
                  • Prison is a gendered institution
                  • Binary gender is perpetuated here in gender policing
                  • History of prison institution is a history of reformation –> has gotten more repressive after reformation
                    • reformation of the prison system is a history of oppression
                    • Society has to be radically restructured because reformation keeps the system alive
                  • Israeli occupation of palestine = carceral society
                    • Largest open-air prison in the world
                  • Water is a feminist issue
                    • Palestinian water tanks had been punctured by Israel state
                    • Flint, MI
                    • DAPL

There was a Q&A session after she spoke, but unfortunately I was prevented from asking my question.  (I had just worked up the courage to stand in line to prepare my question when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Sorry, but we will not have time for you to ask your question.”  I was frustrated because after the last student asked her question, Angela Davis said she could answer more questions, but the committee rushed her offstage.  I did not complain too much since I was allowed to meet her.)  The question I was going to ask was, “The word of mouth is undeniably a powerful tool in the activism sphere.  However, at some points in discussing with the opposition, one’s rhetoric might become ineffective.  How do you know when it becomes futile to argue anymore?  If you do stop arguing, when do you stop?”  This has been a pressing concern for me because half of my family supports Trump, and every time I try to have a discussion, I feel like I make no progress.  I am not one to give up until I feel I have made progress, but the opposition stands just as firmly in its beliefs as I do, so how can I tell if I actually am making any progress?  I had half a mind to ask her when she signed my book, but to be completely honest, she looked tired and fed up with these university students, and I did not want to be a nuisance.

I have only recently become more exposed and aware of the idea of interdependence among various social movements, so being able to hear Angela Davis elaborate on that was something I will never forget.  I am also reading her book titled, “Women, Race, & Class”, which I would recommend everyone to read.  It goes into detail about how the modern Feminist movement came to be constructed off of the Black Liberation Movement and how many Black women do not get the credit they deserve for the work they have put in to nourish the movement.  “This strategy calls into question the validity of monopolistic capitalism and must ultimately point in the direction of socialism.”  This is her call to action for the Upset of the Set Up.  We must challenge the system that is in place or else we will always be pawns of The Establishment.