DEC 1st 2012
Passion & Integrity
Commerce & Creativity
Equality Not Hierarchy

Angela Yvonne Davis
Visionary Award
Angela Yvonne Davis
Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama to parents who were both schoolteachers. Growing up in a neighborhood that was rife with racial conflict, she learned about social injustice at an early age. Davis' mother was a national officer and leading organizer of the Southern Negro Congress, an organization heavily influenced by the Communist Party. Consequently Davis grew up surrounded by communist organizers and thinkers who significantly influenced her intellectual development.

While at Brandeis University, where she intensely studied the works of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, Angela encountered the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse at a rally during the Cuban Missile Crisis and then became his student. In a television interview, she said "Herbert Marcuse taught me that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar, and a revolutionary."

During several years studying abroad she graduated from Frankfurt University magna cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, later earning her doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt University in East Berlin. On her return to the U.S Angela became an assistant professor in the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At that time, she was known as a radical feminist and activist in the Civil Rights Movement, a member of the Communist Party USA and an associate of the Black Panther Party. As early as 1969 Davis began publicly speaking, voicing her opposition to the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, the prison system, and her support of gay rights and other social justice movements. She opposes the death penalty, and ceaselessly advocates for prison reform, minority issues, and gender equality.

Through her activism and scholarship, Angela Davis has been deeply involved in the quest for social justice. Her work as an educator – both at the university level and in the larger public sphere – has always emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice.

Professor Davis' teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and UC Berkeley. She also has taught at Vassar, the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford University. She is currently Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, an interdisciplinary Ph.D program, and of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Angela Davis is the author of nine books and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. In recent years a persistent theme of her work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She draws upon her own experiences in the early seventies as a person who spent eighteen months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. Davis has also conducted extensive research on numerous issues related to race, gender and imprisonment. Her most recent book is The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues.

Davis is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to building a movement to abolish the American prison system. She suggests focusing social efforts on education and building "engaged communities" to solve various social problems now handled through state punishment. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia that works in solidarity with women in prison.

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 urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement.

For her lifelong selfless courage in championing a wide range of social issues, Angela Davis is receiving TheWIFTS Foundation 2012 Visionary Award.

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