• lucky bommireddy

i miss lectures and adore angela davis

Angela Davis walking off into the distance –––––––

One of the perks of living near a college community is the primo selection of cool free educational programming available almost any given week. I love lectures – going to a lecture is like listening to a podcast without multitasking (side note: please reach out to me at your earliest convenience if you are someone who listens to podcasts without multitasking – I have a few questions for you, the first one being HOW), which if put into analogy form might look something like

lecture : podcast :: oat milk : any other kind of milk (this analogy may not make the most sense but it's the one I kept coming back to – if you know, you know)

Ergo, come one fine Thursday evening, my sister and I went to see Angela Davis speak as part of a series of lectures/panels on black feminisms across the Americas. Her keynote itself was so good, and I took notes here and there when I could remember to, so I've compiled them and done a lil bit of extended research and am putting some of that down here because it's worth sharing and I'm sure some of you will appreciate it and hopefully come away from it with some fresh or renewed or more pronounced perspective.

The symposium was held in honor of Marielle Franco, a Brazilian activist who championed the rights and lives of black women, youth, and LGBTQ people, while fighting fiercely against both extrajudicial violence and state-perpetrated violence/militarization. She went on to serve on the City Council of Rio de Janeiro and chair the Women's Defense Commission shortly before being brutally assassinated last March. She's an incredible woman, and I highly recommend taking the time to dig into her work and her legacy. This NYT article is a good place to start, as is this petition calling for justice to be served via "the creation of an independent commission comprised of prominent and respected national and international human rights and legal experts and tasked with carrying out an independent investigation of the murder of Marielle Franco with the full cooperation of state judicial and police authorities" (sign it!!!).

There was..... a lot that was addressed in the span of an hour/hour-and-a-half, and I tried translating my notes into proper sentences but was getting overwhelmed trying to address my different trains of thought and also don't want this to turn into an essay, so I'm just giving you a refurbished/slightly elaborated version of my notes – 

Why Are the Feminisms We're Most Familiar With Situated In the US?

  • reexamining/challenging how we use "American" as a label –––––"American" in reference to people from the US is colonialist; embracing "American" as an identity that consciously includes and celebrates people from around the continent

  • universality shouldn't be moderated/calibrated by white men

  • championing and learning from examples of organizing and activism from around the world, i.e. campaigns against police violence in Brazil and Palestine, Kurdish protests

  • making space for black feminisms from non-US societies – in a global context

  • learning from organizing traditions in Brazil –––––– e.g. domestic workers, sex workers

  • it is in fact possible to work across what may seem like huge divides

Feminism & Knowledge Production

  • considering the epistemological dimension of black feminisms

  • feminist theories and methodologies allow us to understand and confront the world – beyond gender and sexuality

  • embracing interdisciplinarity that allows us to acknowledge knowledge from outside an academic context

  • looking at unexpected places for insight

  • thinking about what happens through processes of institutionalization

  • re academics who pursue studies in prison reform/abolition – the paradox of dedicating a career to studying the thing that you are promising to end

  • sometimes we mistake the frames of our analytical constructs with our social realities

Carceral Feminism vs. Abolitionist Feminism

  • prisons are inherently anti-feminist, so it doesn't make sense to default to sending men/people to prison as a feminist solution to other anti-feminist practices

  • replacing carceral feminisms with abolitionist ones

  • Against Carceral Feminsim (I want to scream, this article was so good – and short! so read it)

  • What is abolitionist feminism and why does it matter? –––––– "Abolitionist Feminism invites us to consider the world we want, and how to organise to build it. Seeking a world beyond prisons, Abolitionist Feminism focuses our attention on developing stronger communities and bringing about gender, race and economic justice. It encourages us to consider our approach to problems from a social justice rather than criminal justice perspective; systemically rather than individually. When tackling gender based violence, for example, more conventional approaches focus energy and attention towards finding solutions within the criminal justice system or the carceral state. Yet we need to consider the wider harms this approach causes for marginalised communities especially, who are already over-criminalised. Abolitionist Feminism asks us to consider the violence and harm caused by the state, as well as inter-personally, and seek alternative strategies for addressing these harms."

Re-Grounding Our Common Understanding of Feminism

  • being more critical of mainstream feminism, which is really bourgeois feminism

  • recognizing the racism and class bias that is deeply inherent in the glass ceiling metaphor –––––– those at the top of the hierarchy are so far above and away from those at the bottom, who don't even face the glass ceiling barrier because they're stuck behind other barriers created by systemic oppression to keep them at the bottom

  • from another talk Davis gave addressing this topic –––––– "Any feminism that privileges those who already have privilege is bound to be irrelevant to poor women, working class women, etc."

  • a feminism in which women simply take the place of men and everything functions as it did is a false/harmful feminism

  • diversity and inclusion should always be accompanied by justice and transformation

Becoming Activists – No Matter Where We Are

  • wherever you are (academia, corporate world), you can create an arena of struggle –––––– this is what movements are built on

  • learning more by looking more closely at the structural aspect of violence

  • asking questions other than 'who', focusing less on the abusers, more on the ideologies and institutions that perpetuate/enable that violence

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”
–––––– Angela Davis

My sister and I spent 30 min after the lecture walking around and taking pictures because it was nice out for the first time in weeks; AD walked through one of the pics and this was the face my sister made when I told her so ––––––


Recent Posts

See All