by Akiia Robertson
Now that I have seen one of the most influential women of my lifetime, I feel that I have something to share. No, it's not a message and no I have not been inspired to start a revolution. However, I did have the rare opportunity of hearing Ms. Angela Davis speak. I compare the experience to always seeing someone famous on television, or hearing their name, but never having the chance to meet them. Then, one day you meet them and it's not the wonderful, exciting experience you hoped it would be. In fact, it turned out to be just another event in my life and I am now able to say, "I heard Angela Davis speak."
Of course, the inevitable follows from everyone you know. They ask, "How was it? What's she like?" Well, I can not say I know what she is like, we did not chat. I can only say she is a powerful speaker and I guess she is just like people say she is. Davis seems to be doing well for herself. You may be wondering if this is all I have to say about a woman who is a legend in her own lifetime.
No, I have a lot to say. I just wanted to give all of the readers an honest reaction; one that I know was unexpected. I too, like a young Angela Davis, am not happy with the "system," but I do not seem to possess the passion that has engaged her in the struggle. Unlike Davis, I probably will not participate in any marches or demonstrations. Furthermore, I think I represent most of my African-American peers when I say I am not as educated, as Davis is, on politics, nor do I exhibit as strong an interest in them. This is quite unfortunate seeing how about 90% of the audience she addressed were people like myself and another 5% were there because their Professor's made them come. The remaining 5% were avid followers of Angela Davis and her political struggle. I actually sat next to a couple of students who had to write reports on Davis. Not surprisingly, they left as soon as they had enough information to put in their papers.
As Davis spoke, I could not help wondering if she was wasting her time telling such an unmotivated group of people to organize and protest. She said that all of us had the power to organize. For some reason I did not buy this. As I looked around the room, I could not help but think how we are probably the worst candidates for a job that takes dedication, passion, sincerity, and an intense yearning for change.
These are not characteristics that I saw in my peers or myself. Most of us were concerned with what we were going to wear when we went to hear Davis speak, or who we had to talk to when we got there because we had not seen them in a long time. I seriously doubt if concerns about how we could actively address important issues concerning the Black community were on the agenda.
I could not ignore the fact that people were being unusually nice to each other. Any other time, if I were to walk across the yard (campus), some of those same people would not bother to speak. But not tonight, the women donned their African headdresses, while the men opted to wear the traditional urban Hilfiger, Polo, and Nautica. All must have been auditioning for the role of pseudo Black Panther. The costumes were certainly not for the benefit of Angela Davis.
Most ironic was the cause for which she was asking us to protest, the construction of industrial complexes (super maximum-security prisons). According to Davis, these complexes are the places where African-Americans are used as raw material in order to make money.
The justice system is racist and targets African-Americans in an attempt (which is proving successful) to incarcerate most of the African-American population. Although most African-Americans are not in prison, the number imprisoned is disproportionately high with respect to the general US population. Most of the people in the audience, when asked, said they had been to a prison to visit someone they knew. This would mean that we are all aware of the alarming amounts of African-Americans in prison. So, if we know this, why do we need Angela Davis to tell us to do something about it?
Well, maybe we have not made the connection to this fact and the politics involved in building prisons and making money. This situation bears an eerie resemblance to the institution of slavery, the use of raw materials (Black slave) in order to produce goods and revenue. The only difference today is that the goods produced are super maximum-security prisons, which serve a dual purpose. They simultaneously keep us in and shut us out.
A solution may not be easily rendered for these problems. There is the problem of too many African-Americans in the prison system. As stated by Davis, this problem is a result of racism. Then there are the members of Generation X who are not protesting because they fail to see the problem.
Traditionally, this is the part of the editorial where I offer my solution to the problem and say I know we can do it if we work together. Unfortunately, I am unable to do this in good conscience. The truth is, I do not have a solution. Maybe that is because, just like my peers, I am part of the problem.
|Akiia Robertson is a senior Communications Studies major at UNC-CH.|
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