Angela Davis: A Queer Revolutionary
"I totally support the politics of coming out, but at the same time, I'm critical of the assumption that one's identity has to be the major driving force that determines one's politics."
Once seen as an extreme or radical point of view, discussions of prison abolition are suddenly being taken seriously in the mainstream.
It's a remarkable change, one that Angela Davis isn't taking any credit for. "I don't really consider myself so significant as an individual," she says on this week's LGBTQ&A.
"I'm aware of the ways in which, especially in capitalist societies, there's a tendency to focus on the individual at the expense of allowing people to understand that history unfolds, not as a consequence of the actions and the words of great individuals, but rather as a consequence of people coming together, joining hands, and uniting with their differences—not across their differences, but with their differences—in a quest to create more freedom and more happiness in the world."
While credit for this new moment can be assigned to the work of many people, including a large number of names that history will never know, it's Angela Davis who's become a symbol for some of the boldest, most essential work of our lifetime: abolition, feminism, anticapitalism, the list goes on. From the movement that rose up around her arrest in 1970, she has appeared on murals and t-shirts, in songs by The Rolling Stones and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. This type of international attention wasn't something she ever desired, not something she's ever become fully comfortable with, but all along, she's used that attention, shrewdly pointing it away from herself and onto her work.
I had the extreme honor of getting to interview Angela Davis—a sentence I never thought I’d be typing.
She talks about why her incarceration was so crucial in shaping her political journey, why we must challenge the notion that there is only one important revolutionary struggle, and why she supported the LGBTQ+ movement long before she discovered her own queerness.
A portion of the interview is spent talking about Angela’s time at the Women’s House of Detention, which last month I got to speak to the historian Hugh Ryan about.
Here’s how he describes the prison:
"It was one of the Village’s most famous landmarks: a meeting place for locals and a must-see site for adventurous tourists. And for tens of thousands of arrested women and transmasculine people from every corner of the city, the House of D was a nexus, drawing the threads of their lives together in its dark and fearsome cells."
That full interview with Hugh is available on the podcast here. It’s a recent favorite of mine and I think you’ll be as equally wowed by Hugh as I am.
Thank you, as always, for listening.
This is the final episode of our season, but we will be back later this year with more interviews.
I’ll see you then.