I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.
From the segregated southern states to the height of academia, via inclusion on the “FBI Most Wanted” list, Angela Davis has lived an extraordinary life. Angela is a political activist, academic, author and civil rights champion, campaigning and writing about racial justice, women’s rights, and criminal justice reform.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944, she was accepted on a de-segregation programme to attend high school in New York. From there, she gained three degrees in the US and Germany and is now professor emerita at the University of California, in its History of Consciousness Department, and a former director of the university’s Feminist Studies Department; despite having employment difficulties in the late 60s, due to her membership of the American Communist Party. Around this time, she was also associated with The Black Panther Party, and was wrongly accused of murder and remanded in jail. Although branded as a terrorist by the FBI, people around the world, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, campaigned for her release, and in 1972, an all-white jury found her not guilty.
Angela then continued her distinguished speaking, teaching and writing career, and came out as lesbian in 1997, when she was one of the founders of Critical Resistance, to dismantle what they call the “prison industrial complex”. She also founded the African American Agenda 2000, a group of Black feminists working to combat racism, sexism, and homophobia, in response to the all-male “Million Man March”. Her books include If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance and Women, Race and Class.
I am a member of Birmingham Clarion Singers choir, singing for peace and social justice, and Angela Davis is an inspiration to us all. One of our former Presidents, composer Alan Bush, wrote “Song for Angela Davis”, which we perform today. I can think of no better way to describe why Angela Davis inspires me than the words, written by Nancy Bush:
You, who are proud to name your race, and not afraid to speak your mind
You, whom they made a prisoner, as their accuser stand.
— Maria Hughes, Ageing Better Network Enabler
This blog is part of a series for LGBT History Month 2022, where members of the Birmingham LGBT Team write about the LGBT people whose lives have influenced and inspired them.