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Angela Davis Met Miami's Growing Social Justice Community for a Chat

Illustration for article titled Angela Davis Met Miamis Growing Social Justice Community for a Chat

Last week, famed prison and civil rights activist Angela Davis spoke to an expanding social justice community in Miami, a city whose progressive movement is more active than its reputation might suggest.


The last few years have seen the rise of the Dream Defenders, a student-based liberation organization, Critical Resistance, an international prison abolition group, and Power U Center for Social Change, an organization disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. In 2014, hundreds of protestors blocked the I-95 highway during Art Basel, Miami’s annual lucrative art party, to protest police violence. It was proof that the aforementioned organizations are successfully nurturing the local political culture, writes Adeline Oka at The Observer.

In a way, Miami was ripe for a visit from Davis, who became a symbol of black political struggle and prison abolition in the 1970s, after she was monitored by the F.B.I.’s Cointelpro for her Black Panther Party membership and her former communist beliefs, falsely accused of a litany of crimes and imprisoned for two years before regaining her freedom. (For more on her story, watch the documentary Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners over Christmas break. It’s great.)


During Davis’ talk in Miami, the city where she first learned that she’d become one of the FBI’s Most Wanted nearly fifty years ago, she championed issues closest to her heart.

At distinct moments throughout the course of the two-plus-hour-long program, Ms. Davis aroused stentorian cheers. Like when she said that while great strides have been made in bringing social awareness to the ills of mass incarceration, prison abolition was the goal, not prison reform. Or when she traced police brutality and educational inequity to the fact that in the U.S., “slavery was never fully abolished.” Or, when she said there was much to learn from the Haitian Revolution, which established the world’s first black republic. (When she immediately followed with praise for the Cuban revolution, the Miami crowd was significantly more subdued.)

Ultimately, Davis encouraged the crowd to expand their communities and foster bonds that stretch past “who we live with, who we inhabit space with, even who inhabit cyberspace with.”

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Image via Getty.

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She is one of, if not the, most important activist and academic of the last half century. Are Prisons Obsolete? should be required reading in every high school and for anybody employed by the prison industrial complex.

After the abolition of slavery it took just thirty years for the state to construct and implement an alternative in Jim Crow and “separate but equal.” After the passage of the Civil Rights Act it took just twenty years for the state’s war on drugs to grow the prison system into yet another form of enslavement. The terrifying thing is that even if we abolished the prison system today, we’d probably have an alternative form of black disenfranchisement and enslavement fully implemented and operational within a decade.