Role Models in Pan-Africana: Angela Davis – Hero or Villian?

Go Lean Commentary

He who does nothing makes no mistakes.

If this proverb is correct then the opposite must also have some merit: “those who are highly accomplished will make mistakes … and enemies along the way”. This can be said about most Civil Rights activists. In fact, the book Go Lean…Caribbean asserts that there must be effective advocates in society if change is to be forged; then the book lists some samples and examples like Mohandas Gandhi (India) and Dr. Martin Luther King (US Civil Rights). Both of these men were killed by assassins, their enemies.

The Caribbean wants change and progress; we want to reform and transform; we will also need advocates and sacrifice; (hopefully no assassinations). An earlier advocate Abolitionist Frederick Douglass is quoted as saying:

“Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

This is Black History Month; the encyclopedia is filled with biographies or men and women who have agitated, plowed, enticed thunder-lightening, roared and struggled; (we have address many in the postings of this commentary; see below). There is one more to consider; that of an American Civil Rights Activist with a long reach around the world, Dr. Angela Davis. Davis is associated with Good, Bad and Ugly; her biography features good deeds, bad deeds and some “ugly”.

Yes, Angela Davis’s resumé is not so straight-forward; to say she has “a controversial past” is kind of simplistic. Here are some highlights, according to the news article in Appendix A below:

  • Activism with the Black Panthers.
  • Running for Vice-President of the United States on the Communist party ticket.
  • Her role in a 1970 hostage situation in a California courtroom, where a judge and three others were killed. (She was accused of providing the weapons used in the attack and landed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted list, but was eventually acquitted).

This history is apropos to consider during this February, during Black History Month. This entry is 4 of 5 in this series from the movement behind the book Go Lean … Caribbean in consideration of the impact that Black people have had on the recent history of modern society.

The full list of commentaries in the series are cataloged as follows:

  1. Black History Month 2019: Dr. Bennet Omalu – Definer of Gladiator Sports
  2. Black History Month 2019: Marcus Garvey’s World View
  3. Black History Month 2019: Starting 75 years of Bob Marley’s legacy
  4. Black History Month 2019: Angela Davis – Hero or Villian?
  5. Black History Month 2019: WEB DuBois – Moved to Africa for Later Life

Though not of Caribbean heritage, this submission presents Dr. Angela Davis as a Role Model that has had an effect on our Caribbean people and culture. In the past, Davis has had direct relations with Caribbean affairs. Looking back – see Appendix B below – she has been Right and Wrong on Caribbean transformations:

  • Good: She has advocated for Majority Rule in this region, as most Caribbean lands – 29 of 30 – feature a majority Black-and-Brown population, but until the last 50 – 60 years, most only had ‘White Minority Rule“, while the Majority languished.
  • Bad: Embracing Angela Davis required a wide-eyed acceptance of her political leanings; she was a vocal and unapologetic Communist. She is known to have said: “only under socialism could the fight against racism be successfully executed”. This experimentation turned perilous for Cuba, Grenada and many other countries that toiled under this failed economic-political regime; (remember the USSR).
  • Ugly: The experimentations and sampling of cooperative-commune living turned deadly in Guyana in 1978 with the Jonestown Massacre where more than 900 people died. Though she was not there physically, many times she projected her presence there “virtually” with recordings, films and inspirational writings. It is difficult not to assign her some of the bloodguilt.

The Go Lean movement has presented many  previous commentaries that highlight the effectiveness of Role Models; consider this sample here: Be the Change – Model of Education Advocate: Linda Brown, RIP Viola Desmond – Canada’s Rosa Parks – She Made a Difference Learn from Billie Jean King – Get Gender Equity without a ‘Battle’ Katherine Johnson – Rocket Scientist? Yes, We Can!

While many of these previous advocates and Role Models are dead-and-gone, Angela Davis is very much alive-and-well. She continues to give us her words (she has written a few books), her perspectives and her actions – she continues to advocate for Human Rights causes around the world. She has provided so much content for us to look, listen and learn lessons from.

We can truly summarize her biography with this assessment:

Her heart was in the right place.

This is what we should always expect from the February Black History Month exercises: education, inspiration, reflection, and a call to action.

Thank you Dr, Angela Davis, for all that you have done in trying to help the Caribbean and other victims of Human Rights and Civil Rights abuses around the world. We say to you as we concluded the epilogue of the Go Lean book (Page 252):

Thank you for your service. We’ll take it from here.

So thank for helping us to get one step closer to making our homelands, better places to live, work and play. 🙂

About the Book
The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Who We Are
The movement behind the Go Lean book – a non-partisan, apolitical, religiously-neutral Community Development Foundation chartered for the purpose of empowering and re-booting economic engines – stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 13):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accedence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix A – Title: Alabama group reverses course, wants to honor Angela Davis
By: Joe Sterling, CNN

An Alabama civil rights group that rescinded an award for political activist Angela Davis said it learned from its “mistakes” over the controversial move and asked the Birmingham native to accept the honor after all.

The move comes after the group’s board of directors last week issued a “public apology for its missteps in conferring, then rescinding, its nomination of Dr. Angela Y. Davis in early January ”

It is not known whether Davis will attend. CNN has reached out to her for comment.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute President and CEO Andrea Taylor said in a statement. that “Dr. Angela Davis, a daughter of Birmingham, is highly regarded throughout the world as a human rights activist.

“In fact, the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study acquired her personal archives in 2018, recognizing her significance in the movement for human rights, her involvement in raising issues of feminism, as well as her leadership in the campaign against mass incarceration. Her credentials in championing human rights are noteworthy.”

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute initially intended to honor her with its 2018 Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award in February.

But the group earlier this month rescinded the honor following opposition.

Withdrawing the award came after “supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision,” the institute’s board said in a statement at the time.

“Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis’ statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based,” the statement said.

Mayor Randall Woodfin, who said he regretted the board’s move, said protests were made “by some members of the community, Jewish and otherwise.”

Reacting to the rescission, Davis said that “although the BCRI refused my requests to reveal the substantive reasons for this action, I later learned that my long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue. ”

Davis, who is a critic of the Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories, said she was “stunned” by the move.

“I have devoted much of my own activism to international solidarity and, specifically, to linking struggles in other parts of the world to US grassroots campaigns against police violence, the prison industrial complex and racism more broadly. The rescinding of this invitation and the cancellation of the event where I was scheduled to speak was thus not primarily an attack against me but rather against the very spirit of the indivisibility of justice,” she said.

“Dissension” and “missteps”
The rescinding drew criticism from academics and the institute lost three board members who stepped down from their positions because they “regret the circumstances surrounding the selection process regarding the 2018 Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award and the dissension this has caused.”

The institute’s board of directors on January 14 made a “public apology for its missteps in conferring, then rescinding, its nomination” of Davis.

“Immediately after that public apology, in keeping with its commitment to learning from its mistakes and in order to stay true to the BCRI’s founding mission, the board voted to reaffirm Dr. Davis as the recipient. Dr. Davis was immediately thereafter personally invited to reaccept the award,” the institute said.”

The Rev. Thomas L. Wilder, interim BCRI board chair, asked people to “partner with us to rebuild trust in the Institute and its important work.”

“At the end of the day, we stand for open and honest dialogue on issues. It is only through our ability to talk openly and honestly with one another that we can achieve true understanding and appreciation for one another’s perspectives. We look forward to continuing the institute’s legacy as we foster dialogue and open communications, improve our board governance and policies, and stay focused on our Vision 2020 strategic plan.”

In her reaction to the board’s initial rescinding, Davis said she was intent on planning an “alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us. ”

Other issues, not just Palestinians
Larry Brook, editor of Southern Jewish Life magazine, said it is incorrect that opposition to the Davis appearance was solely due to her stance on Israel and the Palestinians.

He wrote a story in December about Davis’ appearance but he said there wasn’t much talk about why the cancellation originally happened.

“In the absence of a concrete explanation, a narrative spread nationally and internationally that the event had been canceled because the Jewish community dislikes her views on the Middle East, with pro-Palestinian groups charging that the Jewish community is trying to ‘silence’ dissenting voices,” Brook said.

There were other issues, he said, and other recipients of the award had been tough on Israel, too.

“Davis also has a controversial past, through activism with the Black Panthers, running for vice president on the Communist party ticket, and her role in a 1970 hostage situation in a California courtroom, where a judge and three others were killed. She was accused of providing the weapons used in the attack and landed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted list, but was eventually acquitted,” Brook. wrote in his piece on Friday.

Brook said the latest development was unexpected.

“When they originally canceled the honor, I was surprised they’ve gone that far. Now that they’ve gone back and reestablished it? That also surprised me.”

Source: Posted January 25, 2019; retrieved February 6, 2019 from:


Appendix B – Reference: Angela Davis
Angela Yvonne Davis
 (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, academic, and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist in the 1960s working with the Communist Party USA, of which she was a member until 1991, and was briefly involved in the Black Panther Party during the Civil Rights Movement.[4]

After Davis purchased firearms for personal security guards, those guards used them in the 1970 armed takeover of a Marin County, California courtroom, in which four people were killed. She was prosecuted for three capital felonies, including conspiracy to murder, but was acquitted of the charges.[5][6]

Davis is a professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in its History of Consciousness Department. She is also a former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department.[7] Her research interests are feminism, African-American studiescritical theoryMarxismpopular musicsocial consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons. She co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison–industrial complex.

Davis’s membership in the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) led California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1969 to attempt to have her barred from teaching at any California university. She supported the governments of the Soviet Bloc for several decades. During the 1980s, she was twice a candidate for Vice President on the CPUSA ticket. She left the party in 1991.[8]

Source: Retrieved February 6, 2019 from:

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  • Go Lean Caribbean says:

    Angela Davis and I are about the same age and I have followed her since she came on the scene. She is one of my “Sheroes”. I think the first time I heard about her she was teaching at UCLA. She was fired, because of her affiliation with both the Black Panther and Communist Parties. She sued and was able to get your position back. During that time there were rallys on her behalf. I participated. Angela is known for her Civil Rights activism on behalf of women and the poor and disenfranchised.
    Probably, like most during that time, I became a supporter when she was involved with the Soledad Brothers and was accused of assisting them in the courtroom break that resulted in the deaths of some. She was on the run after the break for several months before she was arrested. I remember feeling sorry for her, because she was unable to grieve for George Jackson, who she was reportedly in love with. I remember that I had an Afro at that time and people often did double takes thinking I was Angela. Now, we both know that I look nothing like her. She was jailed for several months and there were lots of ‘free Angela’ rallies during that time. Like most Black folks I was on her side and wore my ‘Free Angela’ T-shirts. She was eventually acquitted after spending 18 months in jail. .Since then, she has spent most of her time in Academia, traveling and speaking. She retired from teaching at UC Santa Cruz around 2008.
    Angela Davis is an intelligent, thoughtful, giving woman who has spent her lifetime fighting against racism and on behalf of you and me. I think part of my reason for identifying with her so much is that we came from similar backgrounds. Of course, I in no way match her intellect, experiences or education. When I think of the recent fiasco in Birmingham I find it hard to believe that anyone who has an ounce of sense would want to deny her accolades.
    A few years ago I attended a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. The bride happened to be Angela’s niece. We were there for a few days and I could kick myself for not saying any more than ‘how are you today?’
    B.W. (Los Angeles, CA)

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