Here is the first installment of a series of powerful political readings from revolutionary voices, put together by the The African Climate alliance team.
Angela Davis Interview
In this interview, American activist Angela Davis discusses and recounts her experiences of racist violence against her and her community, and responds to the question of whether violence is justified in a revolution.
Angela Yvonne Davis is a 76-year-old political activist, philosopher, academic, and author. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the United States of America. Davis was a part of the Communist Party USA from 1969-1991, after which she joined the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. She’s written many books on class, feminism and the US prison system. Even in her old age, she continues to remain active in movements such as Occupy and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Davis has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She’s an inspiration to us all.
“That’s why, when someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. What it means is that the person who is asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through. What black people have experienced in this country since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.” – (4:53)
Interview Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2BIZy0HScM
Interview with Angela Davis (1972)
Transcribed by Nick Ford for the African Climate Alliance
TRIGGER WARNING: this text contains language that some people may find offensive.
Interviewer: A year ago, the Black Panthers were much more active, and you heard much more about that type of struggle. Is the time of the Black Panthers passed?
Davis: The Black Panthers still exist and the Black Panthers are still extremely active in the Oakland community and in communities all over the country. I’m not sure if you are aware of what is now happening in the Black Panther Party, and the kinds of things that members of that party are doing right now.
Interviewer: Well then tell me.
Davis: First of all, if you’re gonna talk about a revolutionary situation you have to have people who are physically able to wage revolution. Who are physically able to organise and physically able to do all that is done.
Interviewer: But the question is more, how do you get there? Do you get there by confrontation or violence?
Davis: Oh was that the question you were asking? You see, that’s another thing. When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence, without realising that the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles and the goals that you’re striving for. Not in the way you reach them. On the other hand, because of the way this society is organised, because of the violence that exists on the surface everywhere, you have to expect that there are going to be such explosions. You have to expect things like that as reactions. If you are a black person living in the black community all your life, and you walk out on the street every day seeing white policemen surrounding you…
When I was living in Los Angeles, for instance. Long before the situation in L.A. ever occurred, I was constantly stopped. No, the police didn’t know who I was. But I was a black woman and I had a natural, and I suppose that they thought I might be a quote ‘militant’. When you live under a situation like that constantly, and then you ask me whether I approve of violence, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Whether I approve of guns, I grew up in Birmingham Alabama. Some very good friends of mine were killed by bombs. Bombs that were planted by racists. I remember from the time I was very small, I remember the sound of bombs exploding across the street, our house shaking. I remember my father having to have guns at his disposal at all times because of the fact that at any moment, we might expect to be attacked.
The man who was at that time in complete control of the city government, his name was Bull Connor, would often get on the radio and make statements like: ‘N****** have moved into white neighbourhoods, we better expect some bloodshed tonight’, and sure enough there would be bloodshed.
The four young girls who lived next door to me, I was very good friends with the sister of another one, my sister was very good friends with all three of them, my mother taught one of them in her class. In fact, when the bombing occurred, one of the mothers of one of the young girls called my mother and said: ‘Can you take me down to the church to pick up Carol? We heard about the bombing and I don’t have my car’. We went down and they found limbs and heads thrown all over the place. And then after that, all of the men organised themselves into an armed patrol. They had to take their guns and patrol our community every night because they did not want that to happen.
That’s why, when someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. What it means is that the person who is asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through. What black people have experienced in this country since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.
Photo taken from https://info.umkc.edu/womenc/2018/02/20/the-life-of-angela-davis/
Accessed on June 1st