UHSP Convocations Series Features Celebrated Activist

Published on 26 February 2021

University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis’ Liberal Arts Convocations Series recently hosted a virtual presentation honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The presentation featured Angela Davis, Ph. D., professor emerita of history of consciousness and feminist studies at the University of California Santa Cruz. Davis is a well-known author, speaker and activist whose advocacy for racial justice spans several decades.

The event was organized as a joint effort between the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and its Liberal Arts Convocations series. Alechia Abioye, Ed.D., director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, introduced Davis, and took turns with Brian Walter, Ph.D., professor of English and director of convocations, to conduct a question and answer session with her.

“Dr. Davis’ work has paved the way for female leaders who believe in creating just and equitable environments for womxn and marginalized groups,” Abioye stated. “As we examine the health and civil rights crises faced by our country, Dr. Davis’ insights motivate us to continue to move forward both individually and as an institution.”

Walter opened the discussion by asking Davis to reflect on King’s legacy.

“Dr. King had the capacity to give voice to the yearnings of Black people in the South,” Davis explained. “But when we think of Dr. King, we should think not only of his individual contributions but about all of the participants involved in the crusade against racism. Their collective actions radically transformed the path of Black people in this country.”

Davis also reminded the audience that although there were many famous men involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, women were an integral part of that movement and are often lesser-known than their male counterparts.

“We should not ignore the fact that many protests, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, were organized by women,” Davis stated. “My mother was an officer in the Southern Negro Youth Congress, which paved the way for the civil rights movement, and many other women organized protests and boycotts before and after the work of Dr. King.”

Davis noted that at the time of King’s assassination, she was in California advocating for police reform after a Black man was killed in his own home by police officers. She noted that movements such as Black Lives Matter and the protests in response to George Floyd’s death have deep roots in the civil rights movement of the 1950s.

“What I like about the Black Lives Matter movement is that it situates the struggle against anti-Black racism within the context of historical colonialism and slavery,” Davis explained. “Also, it was founded by women and advocates for all women of color as well as non-binary women and transgender women. But it’s really an umbrella organization that represents many different groups who are all challenging the impact of colonialism and racism.”

Davis’ current work focuses on reforming the U.S. prison system, and she has written about prison reform in her book, “Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture.”

“It was both a privilege and a delight to share Dr. Angela Davis' perspective on the rich legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the UHSP community,” Walter stated. “As we strive not just to achieve diversity and inclusion but also, as an institution, to serve the overarching causes of racial and social justice, we could not have found a wiser, more generous, or more authoritative advocate for the values that we aspire to than Dr. Davis. Her scholarly expertise is enriched by a life story that itself constitutes an inexhaustible lesson in both the failings and the triumphs of American history.”

The Liberal Arts Convocations series deepens and extends the University’s curriculum to the great varieties of human experience and discourse, providing the entire UHSP community with intellectually and culturally edifying experiences in the liberal arts and humanities to enrich, complement and extend the reach and value of its professionally-focused degree programs.

Read more about the 2020-2021 Liberal Arts Convocation series.

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