Iconic Civil Rights activist Angela Davis visits CSU, discusses political climate

Nate Day

Dr. Angela Davis speaks as part of Black History Month. Davis gave the keynote speech at the LSC Theatre on Feb. 6. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

Almost a week after Turning Point USA Founder and President Charlie Kirk visited Colorado State University, famed civil rights activist Angela Davis brought her ideas to the campus. 

Davis was the keynote speaker for Black History Month at an event put on by the Black/African-American Cultural Center and RamEvents Tuesday night.

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An estimated 850 students, faculty and community members gathered to hear Davis speak in the Lory Student Center Theatre, according to Kelsey Baun, program coordinator for Campus Activities.

Students were ecstatic to see Davis on campus.

“I like to learn the history of where I came from,” said Jordan Logan, a junior studying communication studies. “To bring a woman with such power is an amazing thing.”

CSU alum Montserrat Granados echoed those sentiments.

“All voices are important,” Granados said. “Women of color especially need to have their voices heard.”

Davis, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, rose to fame in the 1960s as a leader of the Communist Party USA and the Black Panthers. 

Davis spoke on many topics, including the systemic oppression of women and Black individuals in the United States, the importance and meaning of Black History Month, Haiti and Donald Trump’s presidency.

Davis kicked off the event by reminding the audience that they were gathered on “stolen land” in reference to the Ute and Arapahoe tribes who previously lived in this area of Colorado before diving into the problematic term “African Americans.”

“The term ‘African American’ puts unnecessary national boundaries on people,” Davis said. “It doesn’t include everyone.”

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Next, Davis dove into systemic oppression, saying that “freedom is frequently assumed to be a White state of being.”

I think it’s important that students think seriously about how important it is that they have the opportunity to spend time (in activism). You won’t actually become aware of how important this phase is until your no longer in it.” – Angela Davis, Civil Rights activist 

Davis also spoke on Haiti, recognizing the country as the “catalyst in the liberation movement” around the world. Davis explained while Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries, we likely would not have developed our own national freedom without their leadership.

Following these comments, Davis spoke on Trump’s policies, asking the audience “when was America ever great?”

“Justice dictates renewing DACA,” Davis said. “Justice also dictates dropping any notion of a wall lest we end up like Israel and Palestine.”

Davis wrapped her speech by empowering students, reminding the audience that “students have always been at the forefront of change.”

In an interview with The Collegian following Davis’ speech, she spoke on the recent incidents of racism and anti-Semitism that took place last semester.

“White supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations now feel that they own the White House,” Davis said. “It seems to me that the role of progressive people who are opposed to racism and anti-Semitism to create the kind of force that overshadows those that would engage in these racist acts.”

Davis’ passion for activism began when she was studying at Brandeis University when figures like Malcolm X and James Baldwin spoke at her campus. According to Davis, she always did better in school when she engaged in activism.

“I was compelled to budget my time and to do my school work if I wanted to do the activist work,” Davis said. “I don’t think that students should ever believe that learning is ever disconnected from advocacy and from activism.”

Similarly, Davis encouraged current students to balance their own time and engage in activism.

“I think it’s important that students think seriously about how important it is that they have the opportunity to spend time (in activism),” Davis said. “You won’t actually become aware of how important this phase is until your no longer in it.”

Collegian reporter Nate Day can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @NateMDay.