For years, Davis has been involved in movements for social justice around the world and is a leading advocate for prison reform and gender and racial equality. She is also featured in the 2016 Netflix documentary “13th” about mass incarceration in the United States. Davis has authored 10 books, the most recent of which was published in February 2016.
Her talk, titled “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement,” brought out thousands of people from UofL and the Louisville community, far more attendees than expected. In fact, hundreds of people had to be turned away after the venue reached capacity.
“We hoped for and believed we would get a full house,” said Cate Fosl, director of the Anne Braden Institute. “But when as many people have to be turned away from such an event as those who get in, it bespeaks an incredible outpouring of enthusiasm, a desire for supportive community whereby people are not marginalized.”
The program included various poems by spoken word artist, Hannah Drake, and an introduction from Antron Mahoney, a graduate student in UofL’s department of Pan African studies.
Davis touched on a variety of controversial topics in her lecture including the recent presidential election and how we can continue to move toward equity in the United States. Among her thoughts:
2016 Presidential Election
Davis said Hillary Clinton’s historic campaign was about more than just shattering the glass ceiling, “it’s about reaching down to the very bottom and lifting to the top.”
“I am sad to say that if Hillary Clinton had been elected President we may not recognize that we are in a state of emergency.”
Davis believes the electoral college is obsolete and that it was designed to “give slave states with smaller populations the power to emerge as the governing forces at a national level.”
“The electoral college is a reminder that we have not extricated ourselves from slavery,” she said.
Black Lives Matter
Davis had several thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement including:
- “Black Lives Matter is the most inclusive statement.”
- “If we ever reach a point in time when black lives actually matter, it would mean that all lives matter.”
- “We need a new political party. An independent party inspired by the black radical movement.”
Davis’ history with Louisville
Davis is very familiar with Louisville. She was a visiting professor at UofL in 2002, teaching women’s and gender studies.
Because of her work, and its controversial nature, she has also been given three keys to the city, the first of which was confiscated before being handed back. In the 1970s, Davis was denied to speak at Central High School, but was invited to speak at Reverend Gilbert Schroerlucke’s church (West Broadway UM)) instead.
Davis’ relationship with Braden
Davis also discussed her friendship with Anne Braden, the Louisvillian activist after which the social justice institution is named:
“I often ask myself what would Anne Braden do? I reflect on her theories,” Davis said. “Anne Braden was always aware of the way history pulls us back into the past.”
A Q&A followed the lecture, and younger members of the audience were encouraged to participate.