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tv   Our World With Black Enterprise  CW  September 4, 2011 6:30am-7:00am EDT

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♪ ♪ on this special edition of "our world with black enterprise." i'm here on the campus of uc santa cruz for an interview with black power icon, angela davis. that's what's going on in our world starting now. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> 40 years ago the black panther party for self-defense picked up their weapons and started a revolution. ♪ ♪ >> the panthers considered the police -- >> we caught police broughtalizing and we wanted to put an end to this. usually they would brutalize and
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they wouldn't because we were armed. we would follow them to the jail and bail the individual out. >> angela davis, a black panther and member of the communist party became an international icon and became a struggle. >> today marx a beginning of a new era in the movement in this country. >> it was brewing with anger and determination. >> we'll walk on this power structure and we'll tell the whole damn government stick them up [ bleep ]. this is a hold up. we've come for what's ours. >> as far as angela davis is concerned, the revolution is far from over, but it is different. today she's professor ameritus at uc santa cruz. she lectures and travels the world. we sit here on the college campus at uc santa cruz. 40 years ago you were far removed from santa cruz. you were an active member of 
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black freedom struggle. >> well, actually, a little over 40 years ago i was teaching at ucla, and because i was fired from my position in the philosophy department there my whole story began. so you might say that it's trajectory from one campus to another campus with a lot of interesting, dangerous, exciting encounters in between. >> one of those major encounters obviously was, i think, the third woman in american history to be on the fbiee most wanted list. >> that's interesting because i had forgotten. i had actually repressed that fact, and i was speaking somewhere and someone introduced me as the third woman in history to hav most wanted list and everybody in the audience applauded. >> right. right. at that moment in history is almost like an honor to be pursued in that way because you
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were fighting for black liberation, no? >> but it was also very scary. i became involved in a whole number of campaigns, the soledad brothers was one of the campaigns in which i got involved in and it was as a result of my activity i found myself charged with what was at that time three capital crimes, murder, kidnapping and conspiracy. i always like to point out that it was not so much what i did that has led to my being widely known. all of that could have happened to me in be on security, but it was because a vast campaign and people all over the country and then people all over the world in europe and africa and asia. i just returned from india where i met people who told me that
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they had organized a free angela davis committee in delhi and in pune. so almost everywhere i've gone in the world everyone told me that there were people involved at the time. it was because of that campaign that i was eventually freed. >> you were sitting in a prison cell 40 years ago, did you see any of this happening? did you see yourself even getting out of the prison? >> well, i mean, it's interesting. i had a lot of hope. i was very optimistic, and i retain that optimism. >> have you, really? >> yes. >> after everything that happened to you, false accusations, incarceration and being kicked out of a university you still retain hope? >> well, so much has happened. a lot of very positive changes have happened. black people are in places where we would never have been able to
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imagine, not even in the white house, right? and we have a way of thinking about the relationship between race and class and gender and sexuality and nation and ability that would have boggled people's minds 40 years ago. so that, to me, is progress. that indicates that we've gone a lot further than i ever would have been able to imagine sitting in that jail cell 40 years ago. >> for so many people you signify a certain kind of militancy and a certain kind of radicalness in the freedom struggle as opposed a civil rights, mainstream civil rights direction. how did you get on that track as opposed to the track that other people were on. you come from alabama. how do you come from alabama to the black panther party? >> i think it was because of generation. nowadays we tend to narrow that
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movement and we tend to think of it only as a civil rights movement, but there were those of us in the '60s who felt as if we needed to go further. we listened to malcolm x. we were also influenced by fidel castro and che guevera and patrice lamumba. we were also thinking about global, revolutionary transformation. we were thinking about freedom in the largest possible sense. >> so much of the mem reeshgs at least in the public in the black panther party are of people standing around with gun, but there were programs and ideas and so much more than just men toting guns, right? >> oh, absolutely. as a matter of fact, initially i would say the guns are more symbolic of resistance which isn't to say that members of the black panther party didn't have weapons and, you know, i had
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weapons myself at that time. it was a different era, but as you points out the black panther party had all kind of programs. as a matter of fact, a free breakfast program that is run by the department of agriculture. that idea emanated with the black panthser party because the assumption was that children could learn if they were hungry. very simple, but nobody else had done it. >> the question a lot of people ask is if the panthers are so engaged and so committed and had such great ideas, why are they still in motion today? >> there is a new black panther party. >> a very different organization. >> exactly. exactly. >> but if you looked at the ten-point program that the black panther party developed, you see that schools and healthcare and into the occupation of the
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police in black communities and all of the other things are still very much on our agenda. the demands have never been fulfilled. they're still there. we still need food. we still need clothing. we still need an end to the occupation and something done about the enormous numbers of people especially black people in prison today. >> i'm glad you said that. when we come back i want to talk to you about the prison crisis and the mass incarceration crisis and what's your resolve for resolving it. >> at that time there were only a couple hundred thousand people behind bars. today there are more than 2 million. ♪ ♪ ♪
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can you say anything about that? >> actually, it goes back further. i date this back to the attica rebellion in 1971, so that is 40 years ago, right? >> yeah. >> it was very interesting that at that time the attica rebellion took place. there were strikes in folsom, the soledad brothers case was a major case involving political prisoners and there was a great deal of public discussion about the prison crisis and at that time there were only a couple of hundred thousand people behind bars. today there are more than 2 million, 2.3 million people behind bars and this is, of course -- the sencensus on any given day. >> how did it happen? some people say the reason there are so many people in prison is people keep committing more crimes and if people keep
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committing more crimes we need more jails. >> it is called criminalization. as a matter of fact, if we look at the fact the so-called drug war has driven the soaring prison population, we see that at one point if one were found to be in possession of an illegal drug, one might get a couple of months or even a year, but now it's possible under three strikes and the mandatory minimum sentences to end up in prison for an entire lifetime for simple drug possession. >> wow! so the fact that the prison population has risen so drastically has absolutely nothing to do with the number of crimes that are or are not committed. the more compelling explanation resides in how imprisonment has become a very profitable
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enterprise. there are so many corporations that have a stake in a larger prison population that it's very difficult to slow down. >> the fight to abolish the prison system started in the '70s when she was fighting for the rehe was political prisoners around the country. >> so the sisters and brotherers that come to participate in the demonstration today will go back to oregon and will continue to build the movement there to free all political prisoners in north carolina. >> if we were to get rid of the prisons as we understand it or at least not use it as a primary mechanism of punishment, what do we replace prisons with? >> we have to think about simple kinds of things. what about schools? the resources that ought to be going into education, especially here in california, but all over the country are going into prisons and therefore people don't have the opportunity to acquire the kind of literacy and
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relationship to knowledge that would steer the trajectory that would lead to prisons in the first place. in my mind education is the very first alternative. housing, some of the basic needs in any society if we were able to provide those, those services to people then they would not move along the trajectory that leads them to prison and then, of course, there is the question of what we do about people who really do commit -- >> that's the question because there are people that say that sounds great and i believe in investing now as opposed to paying later, but what about the rapists? what about the child molesters and the people who have serious anti-social crimes that aren't poverty driven, that aren't driven by shifting social policies. >> well, what are they driven by? the question is we haven't even
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paid enough attention to the reasons why people commit such horrible acts. we tend to assume that if someone is a child molester, just throw them in prison and forget about it so that relieves us of the responsibility of thinking about how we might eventually purge our society from these horrible acts. violence against women. it's really interesting that violence against women was not criminalized. it's only been in the last 30 f we look at all of the things that we've done around -- against violence against women over the last decade, we see all kinds of programs, however, the incidents of violence against women is the same. no matter how many people we put in prison for committing violent acts against women that does not
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prevent the next generation from replicating it. we need to try to figure out what is going on and as long as we have the prison to steer people -- is an excuse of not trying to figure out how to deal with the problem itself. i'm not saying people shouldn't be held accountable. they should, but we have to figure on the ways to get rid of child molestation and violence against women than throwing people in prison. it makes the cycle more effective. i would say what he saw was an infinite progression of struggles for freedom. we will never actually reach the point where we can rest.
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>> angela davis has had a long
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journey since her time in the black panther party. i asked her how she wants to be remembered. >> i've not really thought that much about an individual legacy. i'm not really concerned about people remembering me, but i do think it's important to remember that movement. because the fact that i was facing the death chamber three tim times, the fact that the political environment was extremely conservative and that people refused to believe that they could not win this fight with me. that is something, i think, needs to be remembered because that can be helpful. >> when you think back over the journey from the black panther party until now, what would you do differently? >> if i knew then what i know now i probable would not have done what i did, but it was necessary to do that at that
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particular historical moment. and i always like to point out that those of us who are involved in the black liberation movement and the anti-imperialist movement and communist movemet was possible do thathchc here, but i believet you always need that relationship to go and often be passionate about it. we were naive, but i do believe
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na nah teefity was necessary and that's why young people play such an important part in transform tiff movements everywhere because oftentimes they refuse to believe that it's not possible, and i like to points out that even though we did not win the revolution, we thought we were struggling for, we did bring about dramatic change. >> what i've come to realize over the years is that in the process of struggling for freedom, our very notion of freedom broadened and it becomes more qaa patience and it begins to include so much more and perhaps that's what it's all about. perhaps, you know we'll never reach that end goal, you know, as nelson mandela pointed out in "long walk to freedom," whenever he reached a point where he thought that he could stop and rest he looke ahead and there
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were many, many more struggles to embrace and dr. king, when he went to the top of the mountain what he actually saw was -- we will never reach the point where we can rest. ♪ ♪ >> and we'll be right back.
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that wraps it up for us here on "our world at black enterprise." i'm marc lamont hill. follow me on twitter and visit me on facebook. thanks for watching. we'll see you next week. -- captions by vitac --


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