The University of Nevada, Reno, College of Liberal Arts invited Angela Davis to discuss diversity in the United States on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
The sold-out event took place in the Joe Crowley Student Union. The event was sponsored by the Core Humanities program, Gender, Race, Identity program, Diversity Initiatives, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada Action Fund, Washoe County School District’s Equity and Diversity Department and the American Association of University Women Reno.
‘The Power of Diversity: A Liberal Arts Speaker Series’ aimed to promote and encourage conversations regarding diversity across the university’s campus. Speakers present on various topics, including gender, race, identity, religion, age, veterans, disability, sexuality and social justice. The series wants students to encounter different viewpoints and challenge their personal beliefs.
The College of Liberal Arts invited Davis to the university to talk about her experiences with race, gender and differences throughout her life. Her presentation stressed the importance of the use of socialism to end the exploitation of minorities across the world.
“I suppose I would say that anti-capitalist critique is more important than ever before,” Angela Davis said at the event. “There are those who assume that because the socialist community and nations no longer exist that makes capitalism a triumph in the foreseeable future. Who wants to imagine a world in which wealth is continually concentrated in the hands of few? If we took half of their 5 billion dollars we could do with that in terms of addressing issues of starvation, hunger and homelessness.”
Davis emphasized the power and influence young adults have for social change in the United States.
“I understand that surveys indicated that most young people today are not afraid to think about socialism,” Davis said during her presentation. “They might actually prefer a socialist reordering of our society to the existing capitalism.”
Alabama native, Davis studied at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and majored in philosophy for her undergraduate degree and went to the University of California, San Diego for her graduate degree. In the 1960s, Davis joined the Black Panthers and worked at Che-Lumumba Club, an African-American branch of the Communist Party USA. She was hired to teach at the University of California, Los Angeles but was fired for her affiliation with communism. She fought her termination in court and won, but left her contract in 1970.
Davis taught ethics at San Francisco State University, history and feminist studies at Rutgers University and the University of California, Santa Cruz and was a distinguished visiting professor at Syracuse University. She also taught at Mills College, University of California, Berkeley, Claremont College and Stanford University. Currently, she lectures about race, women’s rights and the criminal justice system across the United States.
Davis has also written several books including “Angela Davis: An Autobiography”, “Women, Race, and Class”, “Women, Culture and Politics”, “Are Prisons Obsolete?”, “Abolition Democracy and The Meaning of Freedom” and “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement.”
Davis co-founded Critical Resistance, a grassroots organization aimed to dismantle the prison-industrial complex, with Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Rose Braz in 1997.
Davis became a strong supporter of three Soledad Prison inmates — John W. Clutchette, Fleeta Drumgo and George Lester Jackson. In August of 1970, during the trial, Jackson attempted to escape. A judge and the three inmates were killed. Davis was brought up on murder charges for the event and was put on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. She was eventually found and jailed for 18 months for her alleged part in this event. Davis was set free in June 1972.
Internationally, Davis is also involved in Sisters Inside, an Australian organization which advocates for human rights for women and girls in prison.
Prior to Angela Davis, the College of Liberal Arts invited Gabby Rivera to participate in the Diversity Speaker Series to discuss LGBT rights and Latinx people in Sept 2018. Davis plans on returning to the university to continue the discussion of diversity Fall 2019.
Taylor Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.