Among the first people in line to see activist and scholar Angela Davis at Town Hall on Thursday were Seattle Central College faculty member Valerie Hunt and her students from her Professional Ethics class. They’re a diverse group of women — some of whom have only recently heard of her and others who long have admired Davis for her decades of activism.
“I believe that if you believe in it, you have to live it, and Angela lives it.” Hunt said.
“Angela Davis has taught me so much about loving myself, my own blackness, and fighting for what I believe in,” said Chasity Jones, another attendee waiting in line. “Ever since the [election] results, a lot of people are waking up, and understanding we need to do something.”
Davis, a national figure in the Black Power and anti-prison movement, was in town as part of the city of Seattle’s MLK Unity Day, where she backed the movement against the proposed King County juvenile detention center and reflected on the shape of activism after last November’s presidential election.
Davis became a prominent figure in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and faced repercussions for her activism. Davis was removed from her professor position at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1969 for joining the American Communist Party.
In 1972, the political activist rose to national prominence when she was found not guilty of all charges in a high-profile trial that alleged she was involved in a fatal shootout at a courthouse in Northern California. Davis garnered worldwide support for her innocence and release during the trial.
Davis has remained an activist for civil rights and for dismantling the prison system in the U.S., and is a Feminist Studies professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Thursday’s event included live music, poetry and prayers lead by Duwamish and Lakota tribal leaders. Front-and-center was a reserved section that included Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and nearly 15 No Youth Jail activists.
Davis spoke with grace while tackling the key issues of our recent election cycle. She reminded the crowd that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump were ready to address issues of capitalism and that even Bernie Sanders wasn’t able to address capitalism’s inherent racism.
Davis ended on a powerful message, telling audience members that the best way to rise up as a struggling society is to uplift its most vulnerable members first. Davis also finished her talk on a clear and unambiguous point: “Our prisons need to be abolished.”
Davis stated her support for the No Youth Jail movement while standing side-by-side with Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell, who along with the rest of the city council members in attendance received most of the many of the night’s pointed audience questions from those opposing the proposed juvenile detention center.
The direct dialog between the two groups had the audience on the edge of our seats. For a moment Seattle’s own local politics overshadowed the honored guest, but Davis seemed more than happy to be witnessing direct action at work.
The Seattle Channel posted video of Davis’ appearance online.