Angela Davis Visits Detroit

By Crystal A. Proxmire


Forty years ago when Angela Davis visited Detroit, she addressed a crowd at the Michigan State Fair Grounds from behind a pane of bulletproof glass. The outspoken, big-haired, black, female activist for social justice was there to celebrate her release from jail after being acquitted of kidnapping, conspiracy and murder. Though she was free from wrongful prosecution, she was not free from danger. She and others seeking racial justice and equality were targets, a problem that has not yet gone away even 40 years later.

But this time as the 68-year-old lesbian met the people of Detroit, her fears were not physical, but political. She stood before a church house packed with nearly 2,000 people, flanked by U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), Detroit City Councilperson Jo Ann Watson, Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Christos Michalakis, Former Circuit Court Judge Claudia Morcom, and Detroit Branch NAACP President Pastor Wendell Anthony, and spoke about the importance of the upcoming presidential election and of getting involved politically, not just at election time.

For the past 40 years Davis has lived in California, but travelled the world fighting for justice issues. She recalled coming to Michigan in the 80s to protest the closing of an auto factory, and chanting along with the protestors "Save Dodge Main."

"I don't know whether we could have predicted that capitalism would have so thoroughly penetrated the lives of people all over the planet. When we challenged union busting practices then, I don't know if we could have imagined the extent to which the labor movement would sustain such damaging blows over the coming years. I certainly could not have predicted that the prison industrial complex would become such a profit-generating sector of the global economy," Davis lamented. "The U.S. has become what we now call 'the Prison Nation.' And this prison nation, that's fueled by racism, by structural racism."

But she said that not all the changes in the past few decades have been negative.

"At that time none of us could have foreseen the election of a black president... Many people forgot the limits of electoral politics. They forgot that we were electing a President of the Unites States - the imperialist, militarist, racist, anti-union United States of America. But still, what was achieved was earth-shaking and we should not forget that."

She stressed that even after election day; there is work to be done. "We may want to reflect on the issues that we may have to take into our hands even after we have elected the best candidate," Davis said.

Some had expected that President Obama would come into the White House and make sweeping reform, but that is not how politics works. Davis said he was likened to Franklin D. Roosevelt, under whom many social programs got their start.

"Those who were simply waiting for Obama to emerge as the new FDR have a very warped view of history," she said. "Was it really only FDR who gave us on his own individual initiative, on his own accord, unemployment insurance, and social security? Was it? It was not. It was masses of people in the streets, in many cases led by communists, in the 1930s.

"There were marches all over the country. There were hunger marches, there were unemployed councils, and they prevented evictions. If we believe that it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt that was responsible...then we are absolutely wrong.

"And I ask you to imagine what it would be like if we'd taken to the streets the day after the inauguration, both to celebrate Obama's election and to pressure him to move on the issues we all care about?"

Davis went on to talk about issues that she feels passionately about. "Education not deportation" and "education not incarceration," had their home among pleas for LGBT equality, protection of Roe v. Wade, supporting organized labor, the struggle of oppressed people in Palestine, U.N. monitoring of U.S. elections, and women's reproductive rights.

"I think it is time we stand up," Davis said. "It's time we realized that justice is indivisible. 'An injustice anywhere,' as Dr. King said, 'is an injustice everywhere. And so I conclude by saying we need peace, and equality, and justice and socialism."

To watch an edited version of the speech, see Kenny Snod's You Tube page at

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