Activist, author and professor Angela Davis spoke at NYU on March 4 as the Institute of African American Affairs’ scholar-in-residence. Her lecture, Feminism, Abolition and Radical Reconstruction in the 21st century, centered on the role of feminism in today’s society and the abolition of the incarceration system.
“Abolition involves so much more than the abolition of slavery,” Davis said. “It involves more than the abolition of imprisonment as the dominate form of punishment. Feminism involves so much more than gender equality.”
Davis spoke on the relationship between feminism and abolition, and she said the two are necessary to positively change society.
“Feminism needs abolition and abolition needs feminism if we’re going to bring about radical change,” Davis said.
Davis is known for her activism for social justice, particularly racial and gender justice. Her activism dates back to the 1960s civil rights movement, when she was a leader of the American Communist Party and involved with the Black Panther Party. She is a self-described radical feminist and has been heavily involved with prisoners’ rights, founding her own organization dedicated to abolishing the industrial prison system.
The crowd at her lecture, which exceeded the number of chairs in the auditorium, was vocal throughout the night, frequently breaking out into applause or yelling affirmations.
Anna Lyons, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Science’s Draper Program, said the lecture was amazing.
“I worship Angela Davis, so this was really exciting for me,” Lyons said.
The audience cheered when novelist Walter Mosely, who introduced Davis, announced that Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a leader in the Black Panther Party, was recently released from prison after 44 years. However, Davis noted that there are many political prisoners behind bars, like former Black Panther Party member Mumia Abu-Jamal.
“We have to work toward the day when we can say that Mumia is free,” Davis said. “And all of the other political prisoners, not only here but in places like Israel.”
Davis also discussed racism’s effect on the incarceration system as well as structural racism and how it has affected society.
“This structural racism enables periodic explosions of racist violence and the killings of young people like Trayvon Martin and Jonathan Davis,” Davis said.
Part of the night’s lecture and the following question-and-answer session involved the current campaign to boycott Israel. CAS freshman Thandi Young asked Davis for advice on her upcoming trip to Israel.
“[Davis] said she had faith that I would do well, so I loved her response,” Young said. “It was the best response I could have gotten to my question.”
With Davis’ radical reputation, much of the audience seemed to come expecting a radical lecture. However, Young said she did not think the lecture was extreme.
“What she was saying was truth,” Young said. “I don’t think what she said tonight was anything significantly more radical than what she’s done to add to the movement, the revolution.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, March 6 print edition. Bailey Evans is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.