CHICAGO, ILL: Without a doubt, the highligt of the event was the rally at Trinity United Church of Christ on West 95th Street in Chicago where Angela Davis spoke.
First, I attended the dinner which honored Charlene Mitchell and Angela Davis. Ms. Mitchell was one of the organizers of the Free Angela Davis campaign, and has worked tirelessly for civil rights. She was the first African-American woman to run for president of the United States in 1968. Though Ms. Mitchell did not speak at the event, her presence was a powerful reminder of past struggles for justice. Ms. Mitchell organized her first activism at the age of 13, and worked on many issues including ending apartheid in South Africa. An amazing and powerful woman, from whom we could all learn a lot.
(My dinner companions were a couple who live near Terre Haute, IN – near of the infamous “CMU” – Communications Management Unit prisons. They were kind to invite me to come visit, and I hope to take them up on their offer!)
The Rally was held at Trinity United Church of Christ, also known as “Obama’s Church” e.g., the church President Obama attended when he lived in Chicago. Mr. Obama was vilified in the press because of the church pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright who supposedly espoused “radical” beliefs. Though Rev. Wright did not attend the rally, several pastors of the church spoke. Two of the pastors, Rev. Rochelle Michael and Rev. Otis Moss III, offered beautiful, moving prayers which spoke to the heart of the problem of injustice in America. The prayers were poems, observing the injustice in the world and how we can work together to change the world for the better. No wonder the right-wing media had a melt-down over what Rev. Wright said – if his words were as powerful as the words of the current pastors, the right-wing media does not want to hear about people rising up and creating justice in the world for everyone. I was thrilled to be in such a beautiful church where such beautiful words of wisdom and justice were spoken.
Bill Hampton spoke about his brother, Fred Hampton, who was murdered in the middle of the night in his bed by the Chicago police. Fred Hampton was murdered in 1969 – 45 years ago at the age of 21. His memory is very much alive – Mr. Hampton spoke about his brother, and the continuing struggle against police murders. Mr. Hampton asked that his mother stand to be recognized. He spoke of Angela Davis as a tall sister with a tall system.
Mr. Hampton said that Angela Davis still had the fire burning, and that after she was found not-guilty and freed, she has continued to work to free political prisoners.
Frank Chapman introduced Angela Davis. Frank began by saying that he remembered the exact date the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression – May 17, 1973. Why he knew the date is of much more interest. Mr. Chapman stated that he was convicted of a murder he did not commit in 1961 and was given a sentence of life plus fifty years. In 1973, his lawyer wrote to him and told him the NAARP had formed and that they were going to get him out of prison. In 1976, he came home to St. Louis and met Angela Davis.
Angela Davis came to the podium as the audience gave her a standing ovation. She is tall, and has a striking afro hair-style that makes her stand out. Her words were inspiring.
Ms. Davis began by saying she felt as if she had come to a 40-year reunion of the NAARPR and standing up to resist police violence. Then, she began her presentation with a history lesson. She said the most radial decade in US history were 1865 to 1876. At that time, leadership came from former slaves. It was the withdrawal of federal troops from the south that gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan. When she was young, the police was controlled by the Klan. Domestic terrorism were inflicted by the police and the Klan.
She emphasized that if we are only upset about individuals who perpetuate police violence, and not the structure of that violence, that we will never get to the root of the problem.
Ms. Davis believes that we are witnessing an epidemic of police violence and vigilantism. She observed that there are 300 million guns in the US – enough for one for nearly every person in the US. She advocates gun control, and brought down the house when she said that we should remove guns from the police, the FBI, ICE and the military.
Why are so many black and Latino people arrested and incarcerated? Because it is these communities who are subject to extensive surveillance. Racist violence – genicidal violence is embedded in our culture – beginning with the genocidal violence perpetuated against native peoples. Ms. Davis told us to remember that we were meeting at that moment on occupied land.
We must think beyond individuaism. Racism is embedded into our institutions. Prison, she said is “civil death” and mass incarceration is fueled by racism.
We must think beyond the individual, and change the institutions of racism.
Ms. Davis received a standing ovation. Everyone wanted to talk to her, to touch her. For all her power speech, she seemed quite modest, as if to say, we are all in this together, and that she, herself, is nothing special, just another .
The rally ended with a beautiful prayer by Rev. Otis Moss, the Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.
Posted by Lynne Jackson
May 22, 2014