Communities Beyond the Screen: “Movements Can Change the World”

The room flooded with applause as over 200 people rose to show homage to civil rights activist Dr. Angela Y. Davis. On Friday, February 10th, Dr. Davis spoke at Brown University Salomon Center for Teaching in the DeCiccio Family Auditorium. Her presentation, entitled “Freedom is a Constant Struggle,” was hosted by the Brown Center for Students of Color, as an installment of the Black, Asian American, Latinx, Multiracial, Native American, and Southwest Asian/North African Heritage Series. She helped the audience to understand that it’s not a single act of voting for one person or the Congress that makes significant changes but movements.

She began the evening by commending Brown University for recognizing October 12th as Indigenous People’s Day, and, in turn, she encouraged the audience to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock.

She acknowledged that in this current period, “We are discovering something new about the collective psyche of our country.” Although the last election appeared to be a turn back to a season when white supremacy was predominate, she recognized that consciousness arrived in surges after. She explained that consciousness became visible in the Women’s Solidarity March that took place the day after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.

Dr. Davis said, “[there is] No such thing as race-blind,” and asked, “What if the issue has little to do with white people?” She said that the Women’s March was meant to show women will no longer be forced into the margin. Women of Color and Trans Women were more visible while historically the face of the women’s movement has been white women. One example was how the Suffrage Movement had lead to all women’s right to vote in 1920 however, the south made laws that were difficult for black women to vote until 1965.

Dr. Davis mentioned how many people protested the travel-band of seven predominantly Muslim countries established by the Trump Administration. She acknowledged these protests as another form consciousness surging as a result of the election. Some movements began before the election such as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement (BDS) which according to their website,, “Works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”

She reflected on the previous eight years. Some people believed that since there was a black man in the white house, racism had been conquered, “We’ve been saying ‘all lives matter forever,” said Dr. Davis, “When black lives are truly made to matter than truly all lives are made to matter.”

She briefly discussed police brutality towards people of color. She also spoke about the Prison Industrial Complex and its foundation in racism and legacy of slavery. Capitalism, according to Dr. Davis, had always been racial and in the case of the Prison Industrial Complex, racism is used for profit both directly and indirectly. She said prisons become profitable but do not help to rehabilitate.

Dr. Davis pointed out that issues and struggles even beyond racism are intersectional meaning problems are mixed with all disenfranchised groups. She concluded that she understood that this is a dangerous period but wanted the audience to, “believe that something better is possible. Act as if our actions can push us in the direction of freedom.” She said that all should imagine themselves greater than themselves. All are connected to those before and those to come after.

Knowing that movements can change the world, she said, people ought to create and build a community beyond online and know that the work communities do now does matter.

“Let us always remember freedom is a constant struggle.”