San Antonio came out in droves to welcome legendary civil rights activist Angela Davis on Wednesday. Over a thousand people filled Trinity University’s Laurie Auditorium to hear Davis deliver the Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Lecture.
Most amazing was the diversity of those attending - from college age students to veterano activists from the 1960s civil rights movement, from elementary school youngsters to the more visible GLBT community.
Most were in awe and inspired by Davis’s presence and message.
At times, the charismatic and simpatico Davis chided the audience to test its cred in matters of progressive civil rights. (“Is there a street in San Antonio named for Mumia like there is in Germany?”] When she included Mexican Americans and Chicanos in the struggle, there were gritos from the audience. [“Chicanos in the house!”] When she mentioned the struggle for transgender rights, there was scant applause [“I guess this is San Antonio where things aren’t as progressive when it comes to transgender rights.”].
Davis said that when Rev. King declared in his “I had a dream” speech that he had been to the mountaintop, he never told us what he saw. Davis challenged the audience to wonder what he might have seen. Davis said that the civil rights laws changed many things, but the purpose was not only equality but also freedom.
She said people watching the devastation from the earthquake that hit Haiti take their poverty for granted. Few realize that Haiti is the first republic ruled by people of African ancestry to abolish slavery and achieve complete freedom. Still Haiti had to pay France twelve million dollars to secure their freedom. “Maybe France during this time of crisis in Haiti should give back those 12 million – and begin its reparation to the Haitian people.”
Davis also spoke about how her current involvement in the movement to abolish the prison-industrial complex is tied to the civil rights movement. (In a short snippet on the video report, Davis directs readers to the Current’s cover story on Suicides in the Bexar County Jail.)
The audience was thrilled when Mario Salas presented Davis with a copy of the original petition of the SA chapter of the Free Angela Davis Committee which included the names of prominent Black and Chicano citizens, including the late Albert Peńa, the Rev. Sutton and Rosie Castro, mother of Mayor Julian Castro.
For a moment, Davis jump-started a social activism that San Anto seemed to welcome – energizing both young and veterans alike. Her parting advice:
“Trust yourselves. Be creative, be innovative, and take risks. I want you to give me the advice that I will need to better know how I can support you when you do your revolutionary thing.”