‘Resistance can be fun’

Angela Davis speaks on activism, recent events surrounding her human rights award

angela davis

Angela Davis answers questions at a press conference on February 16 at Tuggle Elementary.

Myles Womack
CityLifestyle Editor

Controversy has followed Angela Davis, civil rights activist and academic, for nearly her entire adult life.  Over the past month, activists in the Birmingham community organized a sold out event giving Davis the opportunity to respond to the decisions made by the board of directors of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI). 

On Saturday, Feb 16, the Birmingham Committee of Truth and Reconciliation hosted, “A Conversation with Dr. Angela Davis” at the Boutwell Auditorium.

The event was announced back in early January as an alternative honor ceremony after the BCRI originally rescinded the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. The BCRI re-invited Davis back again in late January.   Earlier in the day, for the first time since the events of the past several weeks have unfolded, Davis spoke publicly on the issue in a press conference held at Tuggle Elementary, the school at which she attended as a youth.  

“It’s important that we recognize that no communities are homogeneous,” Davis said. “There are political differences in black communities and I think that what was damaging to the history of the involvement of Jewish people in progressive struggles was what happened with true award.”  

Davis said the BCRI has still yet to give an explanation behind why the award was first rescinded or later why that decision has been repealed.  

“If I accept the award it would be a good move to engage in conversations about the issues [regarding the decision to rescind the award],” Davis said. 

Imani Perry, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University discussed several topics with Davis. 

“I will never love Birmingham as much as I love Birmingham this moment,” Davis said.  

During the conversation, Davis further elaborated on her reaction to the BCRI’s decision.  

“Reverend Shuttlesworth has always been one of my heroes,” Davis said. “I have always admired those especially Odessa Woolfolk who lead to the creation of the institute.”  

Davis said that she was first “overcome with joy” upon hearing the news of the Civil Rights Institute’s award and then was “surprised” after the rescission.  

“It became clear to me that this might be a teachable moment,” Davis said. “As much as the whole controversy might have at least for the moment damaged the reputation of those who made that decision that we might seize this moment to reflect on what it means to live in this climate of the 21st century.”  

Davis also touched on her scholastic career, her role in Palestinian rights, prison reformation and her upbringing in Birmingham.  

“Those of you who know the history of Birmingham know that Center Street divided the black neighborhood from the area that was zoned for white people,” said Davis. “You know about the bombs that happened on the other side of Center Street.” 

angela davis line

Attendee line stretches from Boutwell Auditorium around the corner to 19th St N.

Davis said as kids her friends would play a game were they would dare each other to run across the street and run on the porch then ring the door of a white family in the East Thomas neighborhood she was raised in. 

“It was fun,” Davis said. “One of things that I learned growing up in Birmingham is that resistance can be fun. It can bring us pleasure and joy.”  

Davis has yet to respond to the BCRI or accepting the offer a second time.  

“I don’t want to do anything to damage the reputation of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute,” Davis said.

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