Activist Angela Davis Addresses Social Issues at Paramount Theater

Philosophy graduate student, Katelyn Aberl held an informal public streaming of the speech in New Cabell Hall.

This Tuesday, Angela Davis spoke at the Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. Davis is a civil rights activist, scholar, and writer who advocates for the oppressed.

The event was part of UVa’s Engineering’s Excellence Through Diversity Distinguished Learning Series and was free and open to the public. Those who did not receive a ticket could watch the talk through a livestream. 

Katelyn Aberl is a graduate student in the Philosophy department and like many, was unable to get a ticket for the Tuesday event but still wanted to watch Davis speak. Aberl read Davis’ biography and attended a Davis talk at Ohio State where she completed her undergraduate degree.

Aberl sent an email to the Philosophy listserv offering an informal public streaming of the speech in New Cabell Hall to make it more accessible for the community. Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion John Gates, and Provost Thomas Katsouleas welcomed everyone prior to Davis’ speech. 

Katsouleas mentioned how tickets for this event sold out in two minutes. Some even made a trip to Charlottesville from places like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. to see Davis speak in person.

Second year Erik Patton-Sharpe, an African American Studies major, introduced Professor Davis to the audience at the Paramount and those watching online.

“She serves as a constant reminder to always remain grateful for the work and hardship,” said Patton-Sharpe.

Davis traveled from Dublin to visit Charlottesville. Her speech acknowledged a vast array of current issues including racial and economic justice, gender equality, immigration, sexual harassment, and gun violence.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Davis lauded women for their contributions in social and political movements. Davis paid tribute to Heather Heyer, the young woman killed during the August 11th-12th violence in Charlottesville, for her courageous actions in fighting for racial justice.

“Women have been the backbone of all movements—civil rights, black liberation movements, movements in latin communities.”

Davis focused on the importance of using an intersectional lens to look at racial and feminist matters.

“Diversity needs to be combined with justice…it has to be combined with engagement.”

The activist also discussed how many people associate 1920 with being the year that women received the right to vote even though only white women could do so. It wasn’t until 1965 that black women got the vote, Davis reminded.

“How can you continue to insist that women got to vote in 1920?”

The speaker emphasized that one woman does not represent all women and the fight for gender equality will be more successful if it considers the different experiences of all women of various socio-economic backgrounds.

She also praised the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida for their demands for gun control, but mentioned that “young black activists have not been similarly greeted.”

Davis called for the disarmament of police in light of recent brutality against African Americans, proclaiming: “We should always ask for what we want.”

The activist closed her speech with a quote from Ella’s Song, a tribute to civil and human rights activist, Ella Baker.

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes,” she concluded.

The speech was followed by a question and answer period. Aberl, like many others, enjoyed Davis’ talk and thought it was well executed.

“She didn’t sugarcoat the historical review. For as much as we have some success, it’s not perfect,” the graduate student noted.

The Distinguished Learning Series will conclude on April 12th with a visit from Michael Sam, a former NFL player and LGBTQ activist.


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