Tag Archives: Angela Y. Davis

Do the Work

“Sometimes we have to do the work even though we don’t yet see a glimmer on the horizon that it’s actually going to be possible.”

― Angela Y. Davis

Radikal Readings: Angela Davis: An Autobiography

I’ve read and re-read eight of Dr. Angela Y. Davis’ nine books in the past few years, but I intentionally saved her autobiography, letting it sit on my shelf until now. Dr. Davis has had a profound influence on my life and thoughts on social justice, racism, feminism, and criminal justice. I’ve watched documentaries, her speeches, and read countless articles on her work, but I wanted to savor her writing on her life experiences.

Dr. Davis’ autobiography didn’t any new information for me per say, but it was the way in which she wrote that captured me. I had never read an in-depth account of her time in prison as was offered in this book. It also details her life growing up, her family, time in college and just how she became involved in social justice. It’s not just an autobiography, but a call to arms to fight the racism that is still so deeply embedded in our country. It’s hard not to see the parallels of the time that she writes about and today’s fight for justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.

I admire Dr. Davis and her story, her fight against racism and the unjust, and her perseverance. It only motivates me further to continue to the fight. I am so grateful for her sharing this story and her work.


Radikal Readings: Freedom is a Constant Struggle

Every time I read Angela Y. Davis I am left in well-informed awe. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement is her latest book which is a collection of essays, speeches and interviews from the recent past. In it, Davis touches on the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. She cites the deaths of Mike Brown and Rekia Boyd, the Occupy Movements and resulting mass movements and protests, and as the title suggests, she links it to the struggles and injustices in Palestine.

Davis stresses the importance of understanding the struggles of others and how it relates to our own. How it is necessary for people as a whole to organize and act. It is not just individuals who change history. This is evident in the historical examples she gives from the Montgomery Bus Boycotts – how it would not have been possible without the organization of black women.

The way she weaves together the struggles against neo-liberal capitalism, the prison-industrial complex, systemic injustices, settler colonialism in Palestine, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia is masterful. It makes for a short but extremely powerful read.

Radikal Readings: The Meaning of Freedom And Other Difficult Dialogues

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You know of my love for Angela Y. Davis if you’ve read this blog before. She has had a profound influence on my life and thoughts on social justice, racism, feminism, and criminal justice. Her book Are Prisons Obsolete? had a massive impact on my views of prison abolition and I’ve made it a point to read everything I could get my hands on by her. The latest book I picked up is The Meaning of Freedom And Other Difficult Dialogues – a collection of speeches she’s given around the world.

What is the meaning of freedom? Davis confronts the interconnected issues of power, race, gender, class, incarceration, conservatism, and the ongoing need for social change in the United States, as the book’s description puts it. The collection of speeches range from 1994 to 2009 and although some of these were written over 20 years ago, they are still extremely relevant in 2016.

Throughout the speeches is a constant reminder that those who go to prison are stripped of their rights, including disfranchisement. Which had that not been the law, would have drastically altered the result of the 2000 elections if the 650,000 Florida prisoners had been allowed to vote. She also reminds us of the underlying cause of the prison industrial complex is capitalism and the racism which have become institutionalized.

Like Davis’s other works, it is an empowering read. A call to action for activists to fight to change the way our systems work. A call to continue the struggle for freedom from all forms of oppression that deny people their political, cultural, and sexual freedom.

The Prison

“The prison therefore functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers. This is the ideological work that the prison performs—it relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.”

Angela Y. Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?

Radikal Readings: Are Prisons Obsolete?


Out of every book activist, academic, and the all around amazing Angela Y. Davis has written, this is the most recommended. I have made up my mind to read every piece I can by Ms. Davis and I have to say, Are Prisons Obsolete? was the most intriguing.

The subject is one, like Davis says, not very many people who do not have to deal with the prison system actually think about. Yes, I knew about the racist, gender-biased American prison system, however, the detail in which Davis describes it is devastating. It is the most comprehensive look at the social, economic, and political theories behind the system.

The privatization and corporatization of the “prison industrial complex” was something that was a complete shock to me. She goes on to discuss the non-unionized labor, ties to slavery, criminal punishment and the racist and sexist targeting of the poor. Davis also states what many of us do not think twice about: it is nearly impossible for us to imagine anything other than prisons for punishment of crime.

Yet, one of the most intriguing aspects of this book is the very last chapter in which Davis outlines a world without prisons. She describes it such detail and uses such a brilliant example that you can picture it just over the horizon. That is one of the aspects that I love about Angela Davis the most. She not only makes you think about issues, but she challenges us to look at them differently and ask those questions that are so difficult.

Are Prisons Obsolete? is a life changing book. Please read this.