Angela Davis keynotes local festivities honoring MLK

Written by on February 1, 2013 in Local and National News - No comments

By Lynn Sereda
Special to The Voice
Washington State can boast about its history of celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The annual march in Seattle is one of the nation’s largest. MLK Day also is known for a large march in Olympia, which also includes a lobby day. Buses full of people from all over the state come to give voice to many of the causes and dreams that King espoused during the Civil Rights Movement.
This year’s celebrations of MLK Day included two events in the suburbs of Snohomish County, where Angela Davis, an important figure of the Black Power movement of the 1960’s and ’70’s, came to speak.
On Jan. 17, Davis was at Edmunds Community College to speak to students. Later that evening she headed to the Lynnwood Convention Center to speak to a crowd of more than 1,000 people.
This was the City of Lynnwood’s Seventh Annual MLK Celebration which also included performances by local choirs, dancers and poets. A large number of people, especially young people, came up from Seattle for the chance to hear Davis speak.
Davis is the author of several books and is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she taught in the History of Ideas Program. Davis noted the historical convergence of this year’s MLK Day with the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.
She said that she hoped people, and especially students, would take the opportunity of this historical anniversary to reflect deeply on the history of the civil rights movement as well as understanding the painful legacy of slavery.
Davis stressed that Civil Rights were not something given freely to African-Americans, especially as part of the Emancipation Proclamation. This document was more about a strategy for the North to win the Civil War, as 200,000 freed slaves became soldiers. Civil rights only manifested when people joined together in struggle to demand freedom.
She also said that economic justice, including such programs as Social Security, weren’t just given to people during the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt. These programs were created to quell large-scale discontent during the Great Depression, where people were demonstrating in front of banks and also forming blockades to prevent evictions.
Davis also said the election of a black president was the manifestation of a vision that Martin Luther King, Jr. held, and that it is cause for celebration. But she urged people to remember that America is still engaged in war abroad, and that more people at home are falling into poverty. Sadly, poverty and economic inequality are not even mentioned by many politicians, she added.
Like the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, Davis feels that today’s immigrant rights movement is the important struggle of the 21st Century. She also feels that “mass incarceration” in prisons is another important struggle, and claimed that 25 percent of the world’s imprisoned are in the U.S. Criminal justice system.
Davis said that the alternative to the prison industrial complex is to build engaged communities and devote resources to education. She then noted that there is a local effort to close the Juvenile Detention center in Seattle and applauded that effort.

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