On Thursday, scholar-activist Angela Davis will sit down for a Q&A on her experience fighting for social justice in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Global 1968. The event will be moderated by English professor Michele Elam and Gabriella Johnson ’17 and is hosted by the Division of Literature, Cultures and Languages (DLCL).
Davis is most well-known for her work in civil rights activism during the 1960s. She spent 18 months in jail before being acquitted of several charges, including murder, for her alleged role in assisting three men accused of killing a prison guard to escape Soledad Prison.
“2018 marks the 50th anniversary of a series of seminal events in world history,” said Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and DLCL Lecturer Elizabeth Marcus, who organized the event alongside department chair Dan Edelstein.
Marcus said she hopes that the event will allow students to consider their own roles as activists today.
“This is an event for students, about students,” she said. “We can learn from both strategies, ideologies and methodologies of past figures in order to contribute to the ways in which students on campus can see themselves as engaged citizens today.”
“We’re going to be thinking about her past work, the work of her contemporaries, and what young people and — really, people of all generations — can do today to continue that work and press on for justice and freedom,” Johnson said. “I hope people see the continuities between the greats and themselves and see themselves as people who are just as capable of contributing in major ways to the movement just as Angela Davis did in her time.”
Marcus stressed the desire for the event to be shaped by those who attend, which is why students and faculty were able to submit questions in advance on the Eventbrite page when obtaining tickets. The Q&A will eventually be opened up to those in attendance after the prepared questions are answered.
“We want this event to be formed by and for students,” Marcus said. “This will be an event about demonstrating undergraduate and graduate desire to change the structure and the priorities of this institution.”
Both Marcus and Johnson said they see Davis’ visit as an opportunity to assess the priorities of community institutions on campus.
Marcus expressed that campus activism could help students think about “how we run community events or the ways in which we become community organizers, [as well as] help identify which communities might need support.”
Johnson, one year after graduation, expressed her desire for further collaborations between community centers on campus.
“I was in organizations, but we were very focused on the problems in front of us and the problems that we thought had to do specifically with our organization’s mission, when really everything that we’re struggling for is interconnected,” she said. “It’s super important to support each others’ work and visibility on campus.”
The Q&A will take place from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. in Cubberley Auditorium, and an exhibition of sources from 1968, including letters written to Davis from France, will be held in the Barchas Room in the Cecil H. Green Library from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. earlier that day.
Contact Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Davis spent time in prison and neglected to mention that she was acquitted of the charges against her. The Daily regrets these errors.