By: Matt McKenzie
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Feb. 27 started out pretty rough. I had to drive through a blizzard, endure a long search for a parking spot and an even longer walk to Alumni Arena on the North Campus of the University at Buffalo, but it was more than worth it.
Dr. Angela Davis began her presentation with a very necessary acknowledgment of Indigenous peoples, who through systemic violence and oppression were forcefully pushed off of their land. She then moved on to a short reflection of the civil rights movement for Black History Month. Her oration was exploration of not only the great male figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., but also the countless figures who all played parts in the struggle against systemic oppression. The names of women are often ignored and entirely left out of the narrative, which is surprising due to the fact that they are the majority of organizers in practically all social movements. One of these names is Joy Robinson, one of the most significant figures in the Montgomery bus boycott. For these fundament events in the civil rights movement it was not just women who started it, it was not just black women, but also domestic workers who made it happen as well. It was the washing women, the women workers in white people’s homes who were compelled to ride the bus. They had a compassionate idea of the future because of their collective idea of the future things that occurred.
Dr. Davis described how MLK was labelled an “outside agitator,” when he came down to Montgomery. This was just an attempt at a slandering of the support system that was fighting against racism. Combating racism involves more than just fighting it in your town or city. It requires stomping it out in all forms in all cities, or it will just spread again. All oppression has a way of effecting every person on the planet, directly or indirectly. Standing up to it is necessary for destroying it.
These organizers challenged the institutions and authorities of their time. Racism is a systemic problem, and these organizers recognized and attacked the structures at their roots, through a boycott by the people who used the bus the most: women and domestic workers. These structures are inherent in the very foundation of the United States. The oppressive forces of racism, misogyny, etc. are structural and require that they be valued as equal problems that need to be solved altogether, for any one of them to be solved. This article is a a part of series which will examine Dr. Angela Davis, her beliefs, writings, and actions.