TRANSCRIPT: Angela Davis October 31, 2011 NYC

soothsayer Jun 13th, 2012 242 Never
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  1. Transcript for Angela Davis at Washington Square Park, New York. October 31, 2011.  
  3. Video of Angela Davis
  6. and the video of the Questions and Answers.
  9. transcript by Robert K. Chin
  11. -----------------
  13. [Angela Davis] >> It is truly an honor to be among you this afternoon.
  14. For you are reinventing our political universe.
  15. You have renewed our collective passion.
  16. You have reminded us that it is still possible to build communities of resistance.
  17. You continue to show us your commitment, your dedication, your collective labor.
  18. Your refusal to assent to class hierarchies, racial hierarchies, gender hierarchies, sexual hierarchies.
  19. Your movement calls upon the majority to stand up against the minority.
  20. The old minority are the new majority.
  22. And so we say "No" to Wall Street.
  23. We say "No" to big banks.
  24. We say "No" to corporate executives making a million dollars a year.
  25. We say "No" to student debt.
  26. We say "No" to eviction.
  27. "No" to police violence.
  28. "No" to global capitalism.
  29. We say "No" to the prison industrial complex.
  30. "No" to racism, to class exploitation, to homophobia, xenophobia, to transphobia, to ableism, to the devastation of the environment.
  31. We say "No" to military occupation.
  32. We say "No" to war.
  34. We have come together as the "99 Percent".
  35. There are major responsibilities linked to your decision to assemble here in community.
  36. So how can we be together? How can we be together, in a unity, that is not simplistic, and oppressive?
  37. How can we be together in a unity that is complex, and emancipatory?
  39. And so here I evoke the black feminist Audre Lorde,
  40. "Differences must not be merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dielectric."
  41. In this complex unity,
  42. We say "Yes" to life,
  43. We say "Yes" to happiness,
  44. We say "Yes" to community
  45. We say "Yes" to education, to free education.
  46. "Yes" to economic, and racial, and gender, and sexual equality.
  47. We say "Yes" to imagination,
  48. "Yes" to creativity
  49. We say "Yes" to hope,
  50. and "Yes" to the future.
  52. Finally, A few words about my hometown Oakland, California.
  53. You have heard about the police attack on Occupy Oakland.
  54. Scott Olsen remains in the hospital.
  55. Oakland General Assembly met in the renamed Oscar Grant Park and responded to the police assault by calling for a General Strike on November 2nd a General Strike that is revolutionary.
  57. I share with you the language of the poster:
  58. "Decolonize Oakland"
  59. "We are the 99 Percent"
  60. "We Stand United"
  61. "November 2nd 2011"
  62. "General Strike"
  63. "No Work"
  64. "No School"
  65. "Occupy Everywhere"
  67. Thank you.
  70. [facilitator] >> Mic check, mic check.
  71. Thank you Angela. We now have time for questions, Fraley will take stack. Please make sure she gets your eye contact, come and tap her from behind.
  72. Also, we want to invite all of you in the back to sit down and stay awhile. Who would like to be on stack For questions for Angela?
  74. [question] >> Hi Ms Davis, Professor Davis
  75. Thank you for all your work. My friend Angela and I just came from Zuccotti Park and we're struggling  and working to plan a day of action that amplifies all of what you just said and fuses together the oppressions that affect women, that affect trans people, that affect people of every color, and every nation of origin, and every difference that exists in this world. But disproportionately it affects them more than the people who are seen on tv screens and in the newspapers about this movement.  How do you suggest that we effectively fuse these concerns without further marginalizing some, or muting their voices, but bring attention to this connected but very different set of issues and make real cultural change? Thank you.
  77. [Angela Davis] >> That is a complicated question. That is the question you are working out through your practice. That is what I meant when I said that we have to learn how to be together in a complex unity. In a unity that does not erase our differences. In a unity that allows those voices, that have been historically marginalized, to speak out on behalf of the entire community. I am sure that as the days, and months go by, you will all learn more about this process than we know now. It is important that this movement expresses the will of the majority from the outset. But that majority must be respected in terms of all of the differences within.
  79. [facilitator] >> Next on stack is Linda.
  81. [question] >> Hi, I'm Linda. I like to thank you for being here. But is there anything that you think we can do at Occupy Wall Street to support the work that you do to end the industrialized prison complex? [audio unintelligible] any ideas you..
  83. [Angela Davis] >> There is a lot that you can do to end the prison industrial complex. Education will help to end the prison industrial complex. Housing, jobs, health care, especially mental health care; all of these things will help to make the prison obsolete.
  85. [facilitator] >> Next on stack is Ethan.
  87. [question] >>I'm right here. Hi, my question is also about the prison industrial complex. As an activist you courageous served time -- for a long time -- in your struggle. How should we approach using the prison system as a tactic when participating in direct action. Recognizing that for many in the movement the ability to be arrested is a great privilege and can cause weird dynamics because for so many, they're enslaved by that system. So how do you propose, or how do you suggest that activists carefully deal with that dynamic when using civil disobedience as a tactic?
  89. [Angela Davis] >> Another complex question. First of all, I think it is important to take prison abolition seriously.  We can begin to add prison abolition to all of our radical political agendas. As far as civil obedience, civil disobedience - not civil obedience - is concerned, it must be taken seriously as well. It should not happen simply because it seems to matter. It should happen in order to further a particular goal. And I understand that there is a new app, "I got arrested", am I right? It is important to have context in the larger community; lawyers, community activists, other people who will respond when civil disobedience happens. It should be organized, and it should happen for a reason. In the meantime, we call for prison abolition, say "Free Mumia", we say "Abolish the death penalty"," Honor Troy Davis".
  91. [facilitator] >> The next two people on stack are either our facilitators, or Shawn who's been very active. I like to open up stack first to new voices. Is there anybody out there would like to get on stack? You're on!
  93. [question] >> Mic check, hi I'm Janelle, and my question is to Ms Davis, how do you propose to shake the apathy of young people of color around the nation so that they get involved, and how to shake the apathy of the celebrities of this nation, especially those who come from poorer, and underserved communities that still need their help. People like Kanye West, and Jay-Z who prefer to rap about riches and wealth when those who serve them are still in poverty. And how do we make this movement inclusive so everyone feels that they can provide for everyone, and that everyone's included, and that everyone's going to be served
  95. [Angela Davis] >> Your question is both about inclusiveness, and about asserting pressure on those who don't necessary want to be included.  The more we build the movement, the more those who are staying away will feel compelled to join us. The real question I believe is to insist on inclusiveness, not only formally, but by demonstrating that we can all be fluent in each other's stories. To use a quote from Jacqui Alexander, "We have to become fluent in each other's stories"
  97. [facilitator] >> Next on stack, right here.
  99. [question] >> Hi my name is Ester, my question is similar. I was wondering if you had any words for people of color who may not be here because they feel somehow disempowered because they normally have not had the privilege, or feel comfortable taking up space, and also how do leaderless movements affect traditionally marginalized people?
  101. [Angela Davis] >> That is the question. I am not sure I have the answer, but I can say that it is important to insist on the involvement of people of color, of women, of people with marginalized sexualities, of immigrants, and especially undocumented immigrants. Everyone has to be willing to listen to their voices. Those who have traditionally exercised privilege have to become conscious of the way that privilege can continue to be marginalizing. So this is work we must all do. Thank you.
  103. [facilitator] >> Next on stack, right here.
  105. [question] >> So in a couple of months I think the population's attention will start to turn to the electoral process. And the Democrats like to front like they are against the big banks and Wall Street. I would like to hear your thoughts on how you can get involved politically, whether through third parties, or any other way you think you can intervene.
  107. [Angela Davis] >> This is one way. The two-party system has never worked it does not work now, and we clearly need alternatives. Personally, I believe we need a powerful, radical, third party. In the meantime this movement -- which is not a party -- can accomplish much that political parties are unable to accomplish. And so it would seem to me that the best way to exert pressure on the corrupt two-party system is to continue to build this movement. And to demonstrate that it reaches not only across the country, but across the ocean. And connects with people who are struggling in the Middle East, and connects with people who are struggling in Africa, and in Europe, and in Australia, and in Latin America. That I think is the best way to put pressure on the political system right now.
  109. [facilitator] >> Next on stack, Michael Adams
  111. [question] >> Ms Davis, I have always been against capitalism. I think capitalism is selfish and greedy. I think we should print new money, and use the barter system like our ancestors did millions of years ago. And I want to know what your opinion on that, and again, I also … I was a corporate slave, I worked for a big corporation, and I don't anymore. I want to hear your answer [audio unintelligible] capitalism [audio unintelligible].
  113. [Angela Davis] >> I agree with you that capitalism sucks, and for the majority of my life -- the overwhelming majority --  since I was a student in high school right here in Greenwich Village, I have said, along with thousands and millions of others "Down with capitalism". But we need a more complex alternative.
  115. [question] >> What about barterism?
  117. [Angela Davis] >> I think we need... I agree that eventually we should be able to exist without money, and we should imagine a time when money becomes obsolete, in the meantime, there is a whole range of issues that can define our radical struggle. But I agree, down with capitalism.
  119. [facilitator] >> Next on stack.
  121. [question] >> Hi everyone, my name is Keshi. Hi Professor Davis, thank you for speaking with us today, and providing me the opportunity to ask you a question. What is your opinion of the language of Occupy Wall Street, what implications does the word "occupy" have on this greater global movement considering the history of colonial rule. What role does language have in making this movement sustainable, political, and inclusive? Thank you.
  123. [Angela Davis] >> A great question. We challenge language, we transform language, we remain aware of all of the resonances of the language we use. We know that that movement in Puerto Rico is raising the slogan, "Unoccupy". We must be aware when we say "Occupy Wall Street" that this country was founded on the genocidal occupation of indigenous land. We must be aware when we say "Occupy Wall Street", or "Occupy Washington Square" that occupations in other countries are violent and brutal.  Palestine remains occupied territory and we have to learn how to say "No" to military occupation. At the same time, we transform the meaning of occupation. We turn occupation into something that is beautiful, something that brings community together, something that calls for love and happiness, and hope.
  125. [question] >> What about the right of women to vote in other countries. How do we feel about that?
  127. [Angela Davis] >> All women should have the right to vote. That should be understood. Although you are right that in many countries, including here in the US, women do not have access to vote.
  129. [question] >> What about the Middle East, all the Muslim countries of the Middle East?
  131. [Angela Davis] >> As I said, it should be understood, that women should have the right to vote everywhere. And we should all support that right everywhere. But there are many other issues as well. Oftentimes the assumption is that democracy means the right to vote. But it should mean much more.  And I think this movement is developing new, more creative strategies for democracy.
  133. [facilitator] >> Next on stack, women in the white scarf.
  135. [question] >> Hi, it's an honor as well. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I want to be real. How do we navigate, or reconcile what we call "complex unity" but the reality that equality, or progress, or (et cetera) necessitates a redistribution of "fill-in-the-blank", voluntary or otherwise from those that have more to "fill-in-the-blank".
  137. [Angela Davis] >> Thank you for the question. That it seems to me is what this movement is all about. How to transform formal equality into substantive equality, into real equality and so we stand behind calls for housing, free education, the de-commoditization of education and health care, but we also call for the use of the imagination, demands for jobs, demands for justice. Equality, freedom; that it seems to me is what this movement is about; freedom, and the redefinition of freedom.
  139. [facilitator] >> Next on stack, right here.
  141. [question] >> Hello, revolutions and uprisings have come and pass only to arrive full circle with another revolution. It seems to me that we're on the cusp of something really great. So my question is what we can do to make this not just "another revolution", but something that will sustain us, and humankind.
  144. [Angela Davis] >> Good question. But I think it would be great, if this could be "another revolution", but I understand your question.  Drawing from the past, inhabiting the present, imagining the future will allow this movement to move us forward. We never know what the future is going to bring. We can never fully know the possible consequences of our activism. The scholar activist Stuart Hall has said that "there are no guarantees".  There are no guarantees but we have to act as if, act as if it were possible to build a future which reflects our dreams, our aspirations, our imaginations.
  146. [facilitator] >> Next on stack, right here.
  148. [question] >> Given the attention to the electoral process, I understood that we should vote for a third party. But would there be more power in choosing to not vote at all?
  150. [Angela Davis] >> I'm glad you asked me to clarify. Because when I said that we need a third party, a radical party, I was projecting for the future. And while I think independent political parties play an important role today, I also have to say that we cannot allow a republican to take office. Don't we remember what it was like when Bush was president? That was only a few years ago. And as much as we can say that Obama has disappointed us, it is a qualitatively different situation. And so I think the best way to put pressure on the Obama administration is to continue to build this movement. This movement reflects the forces that made it possible for Obama to be elected in the first place. Let us not forget that, and let us continue to build this movement so that embraces trade unions, so that embraces people who are in churches, and poor students, and movements, and everyone. If we say the 99 percent, we have to commit ourselves to organizing the 99 percent.
  152. [question] >> Thank you Ms Davis. For all you have done for us and continue to do for us. I think you are a shining example of serious study and reflection that we should all take up. I have recently started reading the Communist Manifesto as part of my own study.  I know that at one time you identified as a member of the communist party, and I'm sure you are familiar with this particular set of ideas. I am intrigued with the idea of the "dangerous class". "The social scum, that passively rotting mass, that may occasionally be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue". Can you give us three potential ideas for how the Occupy Wall Street movement can investigate our own potential to be part of the "dangerous class"?
  154. [Angela Davis] >> Three. Number one, the slogan, "I am Troy Davis". Troy Davis as he faced death at the hands of the state offered us the possibility of continuing the movement against capital punishment in his memory. So that is one way. I have been active in the prison abolition movement for many years. This year is the fortieth anniversary of the Attica uprising. It is perhaps serendipitous that this movement takes shape 40 years after Attica. Become a part of the dangerous class by studying the way in which prisoners in Attica forty years ago Black prisoners, Latino prisoners, White prisoners, Native American prisoners came together in community, in democratic community, to call for radical change; that is the second way. I can give you many many more ways, but you only asked for three. Identify with undocumented immigrants; that is another way. Identify with trans people who are arrested at a greater rate than any other group of people in this country. That is my fourth way. I can give you many many more ways, but think I will stop here. I think you get my drift.
  156. [facilitator] >> Finally on stack, Christina.
  158. [question] >> Once again, thank you for coming down. This is a huge pleasure. and I brought my daughter so she can witness this. My question is what do you suggest we have as a welcome mat to our conservative brothers and sisters to let them know that we are all in this together.
  160. [Angela Davis] >> There is conservative, and there is CONSERVATIVE. My strategy has always been to bring those who are most receptive into the movement. And the larger we get, the more those who are conservative, who feel left out, and they will join us, it's as simple as that. Thank you.
  162. [crowd cheers]
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