I’ve always been pretty in tune with history… especially American history and there’s no denying that the 60’s and 70’s were a time of up-rise, evolution and change in this country.
From protests to riots to demonstrations, intellectual and literal battles were fought in this country. Blood was shed, changes were made and regular people became political and national icons for being in what they stood for.
This takes me to Angela Davis. We all know her for that iconic Afro, her hipster style and for unforgettable smile with a little gap in the middle of her teeth. We also know that she was a political powerhouse who never apologized for anything and held her own even in the midst of so much controversy.
But even as a young history buff, I still didn’t really appreciate who Angela Davis was as a person and how young she was when she literally became the face and name for a revolution.
In comes… “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners” – a documentary directed and produced by Shola Lynch and an eye opening, phenomenal, though provoking, radical film about Angela Davis. It’s a side of history that I had never looked at before and last night, after I saw this film I was blown away.
The film covers Angela’s life from the late 1960’s into the early 1970’s so you get a nice history of what happened before, during and after Davis was put on trial in San Jose. The oral history about her intellectual side and revolutionary spirit was refreshing to see and it was inspiring to know that Angela was only in her mid-late 20’s when she became this radical icon.
Born in the south, having traveled to Germany, Angela ended up in California as a grad student at University of California, San Diego, in the late 1960s where she joined the Black Panthers and spend time working with Che-Lumumba Club, the all-black branch of the Communist Party. Later shew as hired to teach at UCLA and she was open about being a Communist when in the late 1960’s that was as radical as you could get regardless of what color you were and she was a black woman doing this!
Then to see footage of this young Angela Davis smoking a cigarette as she talks to a crowd at a rally or news footage of her dawning her Afro, big glasses and fist held high in the air for black power really made her come to life to me as a young, minority woman today. And what really hit home for me, was hearing Angela Davis talk about this time in her life. We get to see Angela reflect on these moments and there were times in the film where her facial expressions alone spoke a thousands words.
And as a current 20-something year old with some revolutionary spunk inside, it was inspiring to see Angela Davis in this element. Back then, she didn’t know she would impact the nation when she supported the Soledad brothers and coined them Political Prisoners. She didn’t know she would be on the run for her life when she was accused with murder and called a terrorist. She didn’t know her time in jail and her trial for freedom would literally mobilize the world. She didn’t know what would happen but she still kept fighting and this nation, kept fighting for her… to free Angela and all political prisoners.
That reaction she caused nationwide and even worldwide with her capture by the FBI and her trial was electrifying. In the film, you see Angela’s sister, Fania traveling across globe to protests and demonstrations all supporting Angela and it’s a political charged spirit that I feel like my generation today lacks.
After watching this film, I would loved to time travel to experience what it was like to live in a nation when, yes, things were very different especially for African Americans, but when, young people took political matters into their own hands. Within the 60’s and 70’s alone, American goes through the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, the Vietnam War, assassinations, drug wars and no matter what you looked like you were fighting for something.
But today, I feel like my generation has lost that spunk, that desire to fight, that desire to be a rebel. I’m including myself in this number because it’s true. I think we’ve become almost complacent with where we are in life. We have our education, our technology and our minds set on doing well in the nation that we live in today. But we don’t want to challenge it. We don’t have that revolutionary spirit was thriving in this nation just decades ago.
It has been such a long time since this country has mobilized together for a cause or for a person like the nation did for Angela Davis. The most recent event that I can remember where young people and African Americans, for that matter, came together to take a stance was after the death of Trayvon Martin — a 17-year-old boy who was killed by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012.
I remember reading the wires, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that in a gated community in Florida, a young, unarmed boy with candy in his pockets was gunned down by a neighbor watch volunteer. It was painful to hear his parents talk about what happened on television because they lost their son way too soon. But the outpouring support they were received in the form of protests, marches, and social media campaign was incredible. You had celebrities and athletes rocking their hoodies up and asking if they looked suspicious. You had people rallying for Justice for Trayvon in Florida and across the country.
And for the first time in a while, you had young people taking a stance for a person they didn’t know personally but wanted to support anyway.
But even though that was a refreshing sense of revolution revived in our American spirit, I still feel like as a whole, we’re aren’t as spirited as we used to. We aren’t as brave as we used to be. It’s hard and scary to stand up for what you believe in especially when you’re the only one. But Angela Davis was an activist, intellect and radical who stood up and helped change a nation.
So thank you Angela for fighting for yourself but all political prisoners and thank you Shola Lynch for taking Angela’s story and bringing it to life. This film inspired me and I truly hope it inspires others.
Until next time,
Angela Davis and Shola Lynch