At EdCC, Angela Davis talks of nation’s progress after King

LYNNWOOD — Student Shaneisha Miller came prepared to ask Angela Davis a serious question about societal change.

“I want to know how we can continue to make progress against racism and toward social justice,” the young Lynnwood woman said as she waited for the lecture to begin.

A retired university professor, Davis, 68, is perhaps best known for her political and civil rights activism, which was considered radical in the late 1960s and early ’70s. She spoke at Edmonds Community College on Thursday as part of the school’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“I have two questions,” Miller told the famed speaker during the question-and-answer period. “And the second one is, well, today’s my 18th birthday and I wonder, would you autograph my journal?”

Davis’ visit to the college was a chance to meet a celebrity of history and to hear her words of encouragement.

She reminded the standing-room-only audience that it’s been 150 years since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, 58 years since the black housemaids of Montgomery, Ala., organized a bus boycott, 45 years since King was assassinated and 13 years since the establishment of a federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.

“It’s time to reflect on black history in America and the struggle for freedom,” Davis said. “This year, the second inauguration of Barack Obama lands on Martin Luther King Day. We have a president who identifies with the struggles of Dr. King. This fact tells us that we have come a long way since Jim Crow racism.”

Still, the country has a long way to go to make sure that all people are treated equally, said Davis, who lives in Oakland, Calif. As an author and educator, Davis said she has worked to bring attention to economic, racial and gender injustices.

Davis grew up in Birmingham, Ala., the daughter of parents who belonged to the NAACP when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People “was a radical group,” Davis said.

In graduate school in California, Davis was affiliated with the Black Panthers and the Communist Party. Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan tried but failed to bar her from teaching in California state colleges. In 1970, she was on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list for her alleged involvement in a violent attempt to free some inmates of the Soledad Prison.She denied the charges but was held in jail for 18 months until her trial, when she was acquitted.

Davis said the country’s criminal justice system, its growing number of prisons and the great numbers of incarcerated young black and Latino men continue to be a concern for her.

“We are still living with the ghosts of slavery. And our society is saturated with violence. The United States represents only 5 percent of the world’s population, but we have 25 percent of all the people in the world who are imprisoned,” Davis said. “We need to think about the relationships between state violence, gang violence and domestic violence and face our complicated problems.”

Those problems won’t be solved overnight and it will take generations of struggle to make a difference, she said.

“The legacy of Martin Luther King is that we work toward the future, the dream. We need to combine patience with urgency as we move ahead to make revolutionary changes,” Davis said. “We need to imagine a radical future where prisons are abolished and police have no need for guns. Our solution to violence will be to build vibrant communities where people are not isolated.”

After the lecture, Davis called Shaneisha Miller forward and autographed the student’s journal.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the outcome of the charges against Angela Davis. The story is now correct.

More in Local News

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

Marysville hit-and-run leaves man with broken bones

The state patrol has appealed for help solving an increasing number of hit-and-runs in the state.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Woman confronts man leaving house with stolen item

“He swung at her with a crowbar, missing her.”

Police seek suspect in Wells Fargo bank robbery

He was described as white, in his 30s, heavyset, with blonde hair and a maroon sweatshirt.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Stabbing in Everett follows dispute between brothers-in-law

The victim, 54, was hospitalized. The suspect, 29, had not been apprehended Thursday.

Most Read