In the main event for Xpression Against Oppression Week, professor and social activist Angela Davis presented a lecture at the Bloor Cinema on Thursday night. The Toronto-based cinema filled up to capacity quickly, with line-ups of students and citizens reaching the corner of the block.
UTSU VP campus life Danielle Sandhu and VP equity Daniella Kyei, along with UTMSU VP equity Vickita Bhatt, opened with a brief overview of the weeks success and descriptions of the evenings speakers.
U of T history professor Melanie Newton began with a quote from Angela Davis: The change that we get is not necessarily the change that we wanted.
The black face affair at U of T demonstrated the major generational shift that the black community has undergone and how universities have taken these battles and turned them into marketable items, Newton said, referring to a recent incident that saw several UofT students apologize after they painted their faces black for a Halloween party.
Angela Davis began by addressing Black History Month and the struggle of slaves both in the United States and Canada. By discussing critical junctures such a the Civil War, the Haitian Revolution and the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century, Davis emphasized the way in which the movement for freedom cannot yet be considered a success, because full citizenship does not by itself accomplish everything that a person needs to be free.
As the founder of the Critical Resistance organization, Davis has spent a lot of time working on abolishing what she calls the prison-industrial complex. Davis told the story of Ashley Smith, a young girl from New Brunswick who spent most her teenage life in juvenile prison institutions. Smith strangled herself to death while in an isolated cell in a Kitchener prison.
Davis stated that imprisonment is an inappropriate form of state punishment that actually influences private violence. She addressed the issues surrounding transgendered imprisonment and the unfair placement of prisoners determined by their genitalia.
When asked if she regretted her work as a member of the Black Panther Party and other struggles, Davis responded, Sometimes
it seems like we are fighting
the same battles over and over again; however, whenever we win, those victories are never won for eternity. But in the process of struggling together, we learn to glimpse new possibilities that otherwise never would have become
After the lecture, students had the opportunity to meet with Davis. UTM students stayed late to take pictures, ask questions and discuss issues with the professor.
Davis began her career as a professor at UCLA. She enrolled in the Communist party and visited Cuba and the former East German Republic.
A member of the Black Panthers, she was arrested in the 1970s for the abduction and murder of a Superior Court judge, becoming the third woman to be put on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. She was eventually acquitted and has since remained a social activist. She is also a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.