MLK Day & Reconsidering Violence.

January 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today we should do more than remember MLK, we must also listen to the voices that he spoke against and between. Systematized racism is an enduring American and global reality. Let’s consider the notions of peace, love, hate, and violence in a more effective context. I think that this brief clip of Angela Davis speaking on the idea of Black violence offers one of the most articulate and accessible responses I’ve ever heard.

Thanks to this site, here is a transcript:
The best part of The Black Power Mixtape is the glimpses it shows of the Black movement at this magnificent high point, as important as the civil rights struggle that came before it. The segments with Black Power leaders themselves, in both public and private moments, are riveting. There is one interview clip with Angela Davis that would make the movie a must-see even if the film only lasted for that four-and-a-half minutes. The interview took place while Davis was in prison, facing trial on trumped-up murder charges in California. She was asked by a reporter how she felt about the “violence” of the movement–

When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence, without realizing that the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles and goals that you’re striving for, not in the way you reach them.

On the other hand, because of the way this society is organized, because of the violence that exists on the surface everywhere, you have to expect that there are going to be such explosions. You have to expect things like that as reactions.

If you’re a Black person and you live in the Black community, all your life, you walk out on the street every day, seeing white policeman surrounding you. When I was living in Los Angeles, for instance…I was constantly stopped. The police didn’t know who I was, but I was a Black woman, and I had a natural, and I suppose they thought that I might be a “militant”…

You live under that situation constantly, and then you ask me whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Whether I approve of guns? I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Some very, very good friends of mine were killed by bombs–bombs that were planted by racists…From the time I was very, very small, I remember the sounds of bombs exploding across the street, our house shaking. I remember my father having to have guns at his disposal at all times because of the fact that at any moment, we might expect to be attacked.

The man who was at that time in complete control of the city government–his name was Bull Connor–would often get on the radio and make statements like “Niggers [sic] have moved into a white neighborhood, we’d better expect some bloodshed tonight.” And sure enough, there would be bloodshed.

Davis then talked about the four African American girls, aged 11 to 14, who were killed in the racist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963:

One of them lived next door to me. I was very good friends with the sister of another of them. My sister was very good friends with all three of them. My mother taught one of them in her class. In fact, when the bombing occurred, one of the mothers of one of the young girls called my mother and said, “Can you take me down to the church? I have to pick up Carole, we heard about the bombing, and I don’t have my car.”

And they went down there, and what did they find? They found limbs and heads strewn all over the place. And then after that, in my neighborhood, all of the men organized themselves into an armed patrol. They had to take their guns and control our community every night because they did not want that to happen again.

I mean, that’s why when someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. Because what it means is the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what Black people have gone through–what Black people have experienced in this country since the time the first Black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.

And if you haven’t seen it, the Black Power Mixtape film is currently available on Netflix instant.


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