In 1969, Angela Davis gave her first lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles. The topic of discussion was the life and works of Frederick Douglas, and the hall was filled with nearly 2,000 students. But Davis is not most remembered for her teaching skills, but rather for her activism as a black woman, her public membership with the Black Panther Party, her Marxist views and being included in the top-10 of the FBI’s most wanted list in the early 1970s.
On Jan. 26, a group of Ithaca College students known as the Collective held a screening of Shola Lynch’s “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” a 2012 documentary exploring the life of Angela Davis. The film was shown as the first work in the Collective’s Assata Shakur Series, named after Assata Shakur, another member of the Black Panther Party. Shakur is currently living off of political asylum in Cuba after escaping from prison in 1979, where she was being held on several charges stemming from her Black Panther work.
The Black Panther Party, originally known as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was an African-American revolutionary group that arose during the Civil Rights Movement. The Black Panthers operated on a 10-point platform that called for things like full employment for black people, better representative education and protection against police brutality.
The Collective is the formal name for the group of students who last semester were responsible for organizing several protests, demonstrations and panels on campus to discuss issues and instances of systemic oppression. According to the Facebook page for the screening, “the Collective is an informal group of students invested in critical thought and action against all systemic forms of violence and hoping to rally and work among the student body.”
After the screening, the group talked about the film and examined its parallels to today. Senior Kayla Young brought up how the language used to describe and criminalize black women during the ’70s can be seen mirrored in current media, and senior Dubian Ade discussed this idea further with the notion of construction. Ade said in order for Davis to be given the death penalty — which she had been sentenced to three times at once for separate charges — her public image would have to be that of a criminal.
“This character was constructed, that was sold to the public to sort of legitimize this case and legitimize this persecution,” Ade said. “This image of Angela had to be true in order for the case to go through, in order for her to get the death penalty.”
The Assata Shakur Series will continue throughout the week, with more discussions taking place at 7 p.m. tentatively in Textor 102. On Jan. 27, the discussion will be about indigenous studies, with Ade saying it will focus on the need for a tenure-track faculty member being in charge of the minor. Bud Gankhuyag ’14 said the discussion Jan. 29 will be on International Students for Resistance. Next week, Feb. 4 will be a discussion about media representation, with senior Maya Cueva saying it will specifically cover the reference to people of color.
“It’ll be what the public needs to know, but also we’re going to talk about what is a journalist’s job,” Cueva said. “So we’re going to make it a lesson workshop that will probably turn into a dialogue in the end.”