Remembering Angela Davis…

It may be Howard Zinn‘s influence that always causes me to repeat a silent mantra, “History, whose-story,” each time I consider how historians mark the record. Despite the fact that we now use video and the rising voice of the blognation to counter the seemingly pointless narrative delivered by mainstream media, the words of Marshall McCluhan also continue to chant in my subconscious ears, “The medium IS the message” – a phrase he introduced in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964.

While the New Yorker decides to play a “joke” on everyone – hoping that readers will peel back the cover of their latest issue to read what’s between the ads in order to get at the clever punch lines – the conservative right gets it immediately! They love the cartoon, espousing it as an accurate portrait of all things considered Hussein about the Obamas. That cartoon image may work well for the New Yorker as a viral ad for its own publication but, because broadcast media has already decapitated it from the body of intellect that explains it, that visual image will far outdistance any literary efforts at humor. Here in the Midwest and across the nation most people just get another free dose of fear-marketing: Osama, Obama, flag-burning, fist-pumping, foreign, militant, danger.

When I look at the New Yorker cover, I immediately think of Angela Davis. The 1970’s militant image of an African American woman, proud of her natural wooly hair, sporting bandileros of ammo and a weapon slung over her shoulder is now shared with Michelle Obama. But, Angela Davis is and was an intellectual force to be reckoned as an educator, an activist for social justice and an author with 10 books to her credit beginning in 1971 with If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance (ISBN 0-451-04999-3 ). She continues teaching and lecturing (How Does Change Happen? Angela Davis video clip October 10, 2006)…

Speak Out! promotes speakers, artists, exhibits and films including appearances by Angela Davis. Here’s a few of the important background facts they provide:

Professor Davis’ teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and UC Berkeley. She has also taught at UCLA, Vassar, the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford University. She has spent the last fifteen years at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is Professor of History of Consciousness, an interdisciplinary Ph.D program, and Professor of Feminist Studies.

Like many other educators, Professor Davis is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions. Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” she now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement.

Now, if only the artistic merger of identities that takes place in my mind when I see the cover of the latest New Yorker Magazine would actually have an affect on the Obamas, we might be rewarded with a candidate who is about real change. For now, I will continue tracing the speeches of Angela Davis for that message.

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