Full circle

[Photo: Oregon State University CC BY-SA 2.0]

By Keisha Bell

Have you ever had a sense of déjà vu? Maybe such recognition was not a “sense” but an actual awareness of knowing that “Yes, in fact, I have been here before.”

How did it make you feel?

Meet Angela Yvonne Davis, known by many as simply Angela Davis. This powerhouse was born in Birmingham, Ala. on January 26, 1944. Being the child of a national organizer, Davis’ intellectual development was encouraged by communist organizers and thinkers. These early childhood influences are significant factors seen throughout her life.

In 1969, Davis was an acting assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At that time, she gave her first lecture at UCLA’s Royce Hall to which then California Governor Ronald Regan objected. He urged the university’s Board of Regents to fire Davis because of her membership in the Communist Party.

California Superior Court Judge Jerry Pacht forbade the Board of Regents from firing Davis solely because of her affiliation with the Communist Party. Davis’ employment was terminated during the following year, however, by the Board of Regents when they determined that she had used “inflammatory language” in four different speeches.

After her termination, Davis continued her work as a civil rights activist, an educator, author and lecturer. She has traveled and been embraced both nationally and internationally despite being charged in 1970 with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley.

[Note: On August 18, 1970, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover listed Davis on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List. On October 13, 1970, FBI agents arrested her. On June 4, 1972, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty.]

In 2014 an interesting thing happened. Things came full circle with one exception. Instead of being the object of disapproval, Davis was graciously welcomed. She returned to UCLA as a Board of Regents’ lecturer. In the same place where she had delivered her first speech 45 years earlier, Davis gave a public lecture in Royce Hall. Who would have guessed that?

Sometimes life will bring us to a place of unpleasantry, but those pit stops do not have to be our final destinations. Davis continued to do her life’s work no matter what her circumstance looked like and it brought her back to receive a gracious welcome where she once received a slap in the face. Davis persevered. May she be an example to us all.

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com

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