Statement by Sandew Hira on the attack on freedom of speech

At the beginning of January I received an invitation from the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy (NiNsee) to give the keynote lecture on June 29th, 2019 on black philosophers, spirituality and slavery in the Maritime Museum. I accepted the invitation.

In recent weeks, a group of extremists led by Theo Para has set up an intimidation campaign in the Surinamese community to prevent me from giving the lecture on black philosophers and slavery. The Maritime Museum was put under great pressure to cancel the venue. NiNsee has thus lost its location. The Maritime Museum has made its decision without applying the principle of hearing both sides. I was never asked or given a chance to present my side of the story. The board of NiNsee was subsequently put under enormous pressure to cancel the lecture. On Radio Tamara, hours of broadcasts were devoted to demonizing my person and callers were allowed to make a call upon people to disrupt the lecture. The board of NiNsee collapsed under that pressure and canceled the lecture.

On June 6th, the chairman of NiNsee, Linda Nooitmeer, called me in Suriname to make an appointment to talk about the situation. On June 7th I had a Skype conversation with her and NiNsee director Martin Verbeet in which they indicated that they wanted to cancel the lecture. I responded that that would mean that they would no longer respect the freedom of expression. I suggested that NiNsee could organize a conversation between me and the people who criticize me, so that we can uphold the principles of diversity of opinion and freedom of expression in a worthy atmosphere of dialogue. I also told them that this group had previously tried to put pressure on the Pakhuis De Zwijger not to let me speak at their event, but that as a white institution they had kept freedom of expression in high regard and I expected the same from a black organization, and certainly an organization built on the principle of freedom. Nooitmeer and Verbeet agreed with my argument and asked for a delay to make a final decision until Wednesday the 12th of June. They would then tell me about the next steps. I did not get a call on Wednesday. On Saturday afternoon, Nooitmeer called me with the announcement that NiNsee had decided not to organize a dialogue meeting and withdrew the invitation of June 29th.

The NiNsee press release states the following:

The NiNsee board, in close consultation with the National Maritime Museum, has decided to cancel the Keti-Koti lecture 2019.

This decision was prompted by the unrest within the community regarding the planned Keti-Koti lecture with Sandew Hira as keynote speaker. Because of this unrest, the desire of NiNsee to organize a worthy Keti-Koti reading in 2019 – which contributes to harmony and solidarity within and outside the community – does not seem feasible.

NiNsee has the ambition to collaborate with anyone who makes a positive contribution to its mission. However, now that the implementation of this ambition has led to an escalation between supporters and opponents of having Sandew Hira as a speaker, NiNsee cannot help but withdraw.

The extremists have got their way. The group of Theo Para has been calling, emailing and speaking to put pressure on organizers and venues to cancel rooms or cancel lectures in which I am involved. In Suriname, Hugo Essed is their counterpart and is conducting a demonizing campaign against me in the Surinamese media that challenges my integrity.

The same group has previously tried to silence me at the Pakhuis De Zwijger debate center in Amsterdam. On March 18th, I was invited to lead a presentation of a documentary about Frantz Fanon. I was not even a speaker, but a chairman of the session. The management and program leaders have been put under enormous pressure to get me out of the program, but they have kept their back straight and have not succumbed. The theme doesn’t matter to the extremists. Even if I spoke about the weather, they would have a campaign to make it impossible for me to speak.

On Saturday afternoon, June 15th at 12:00, Glenn Codfried from Radio Mart invited me to talk to me about these developments. Radio Mart announced that on Friday. When I arrived at the studio on Saturday at 10.30 am, it appeared that the window had been smashed from the front door and microphones and the broadcasting modem had been stolen, so that the broadcast could not take place.

These are serious developments. In the wake of the violation of freedom of expression, the principle of diversity of opinion is also attacked. The extremists believe that only one vision is possible in social discussions and that diversity of visions is not acceptable and that other visions should not be heard.

The theme of my reading was a decolonial vision of the history of slavery. Dutch historians and people of color trained by them have always described slavery from the point of view of the colonizer. I explain in my writings and lectures that black thinkers during slavery and afterwards have made analyses that are fundamentally different from those of the enslavers and their ideologues. The extremists want to prevent the presentation of decolonial theories.

This is a very disturbing development in the Surinamese community. Freedom of expression is an important achievement that has come about through hard struggles in which many people have sacrificed their lives. The essence of freedom of expression is that everyone has the right to express his or her opinion, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the person. Even people who do not agree with me must have the right to express their opinion.

Diversity of views is a crucial part of a democratic society. The dominant colonial historiography may be challenged by decolonial and other alternatives. That is part of the process of knowledge production in a multiform society.

Discussion and debate are the foundations of a democratic society. That is why I challenge Theo Para and Hugo Essed to face-to-face debates on issues in which they have a different opinions than me. Such debates are an extension of the freedom of expression. Every Surinamese should be a proponent of this, including Para and Essed.

I call on the Surinamese community in the Netherlands to organize a meeting where I can hold the keti koti lecture as a protest against the violation of freedom of expression.

Sandew Hira

June 15, 2019

A new anti-imperialist movement is needed

Sandew Hira, The Hague 2019, June 5

In recent weeks the US has become more aggressive in its rhetoric’s and its military buildup towards Venezuela and Iran. In Columbia and Puerto Rico the US is deploying troops and special operations forces as a signal that they actually preparing a invasion. The US is planning to send 120.000 troops to the Middle East and has deployed an aircraft carrier to the Iran regional waters. Are we heading towards new wars and military invasions? The risks are certainly there, because there are aggressive hawks in the US establishment that push towards war. Furthermore, the regime’s of Saudi Arabia and the apartheid state of Israel are supporting these hawks. In Latin America, Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed president of Venezuela, is openly pressing for a military invasion by the US.

A remarkable feature of US internal politics is that Trump came to power on an anti-war ticket promising to make an end to wars in foreign countries and the liberal Democrats along with the right-wing extremists Republications are pushing for confrontation. In the case of North Korea the liberal media are mobilizing against a possible deal to make the Korean peninsula free from nuclear weapons. This deal seemed possible, but the liberal media with the hawks from the Republican party shift the focus from peace to the nature of the Stalinist regime in North Korea. Trumps rhetoric on Venezuela is not countered by a Democratic narrative for peace. The tacitly and openly support the aggression against the Bolivarian revolution.

Another risk factor is the absence of a worldwide mass movement against wars as was the case during the Vietnam war of the invasion of Iraq. The social movements in the sixties and seventies were based on a strong anti-imperialist tradition of the socialist movement. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the demise of socialist regimes in many countries new narratives of liberation took the center stage. Class analysis was replaced by narrative that were rooted in the tradition of liberalism: the individual replaced class in the analysis of oppression. With class analysis the question of strategy and focus on the main enemy – imperialism – put on the table the problem of alliances and building broad coalitions against the main enemy.

With the focus on individual oppression these questions disappeared. In fact narratives of liberation are now used to justify wars. The US invasion of Afghanistan was defended by Hillary Clinton by referring to the need to liberate Afghan women from the Taliban. When the drum beats for a war against Iran start, the oppression of homosexuals will be used to rally activists from social movements for an imperialist project.

The focus of these activists is not who is the main enemy or what is the relationship of forces on the world in the wake of new and devastating wars but on how are is the LGTB community oppressed in Iran?

The threat of war is there. The need for a new world movement against war is there. The question is if the activists in the current social movement are able to move from the analysis individual oppression to the analysis of imperialism and its global institution of power that threatens the existence of the planet and thus build a massive force for peace. Or will a new activism emerge that is able to go beyond this individual analysis and beyond class analysis and move to decolonial theory as a tool to understand imperialism.

 

 

Pravini: musical documentary The Uprising

On April 25th artist & activist Pravini Baboeram launched The Uprising. This music documentary on the decolonial movement in Europe makes an innovative contribution to education and awareness. For the first time decolonial theory is presented with songs and animation, combined with interviews of academics and activists. The songs are all written and composed by Pravini, who offers a poetic perspective on the experiences of people of color through her lyrics and vocals. The Uprising features many members of the Decolonial International Network, including Islamic Human Rights Commission and Parti des Indigènes de la République, highlighting their campaigns, analysis and strategies for decolonization in a European context. Click here to watch the trailer.

The Uprising is a conscious effort by Pravini to educate and empower people in the movement: “I made this film to provide people with a language to challenge institutional racism and colonial legacies. Often times people know something is wrong, but can’t find the words to address of challenge it. To me this film is a creative way to offer people the language they are looking for. This language consists of music, of a decolonial perspective of the past and of strategies for the future. This film is a tool for educational contexts, whether it’s higher education institutions or grassroots organizations, to engage in a conversation on decolonization and encourage people to contribute tot his movement.”

The Uprising is available for screenings. For more info check out this presskit or contact Pravini Productions at: info@pravinimusic.com.

Sandew Hira in Venezuela

From May 12-18, 2019 DIN coordinator Sandew Hira will be in Venezuela for two workshops: one on reparations for colonialism and the other on Decolonizing the Mind. Hira will also strengthen the relationship between the Institute for the Decolonization of Suriname (DEKOSUR) and the National Institute for the Decolonization of Venezuela. Hira is scientific director of DEKOSR, which was set up with the help of DIN.

Hira will post a daily blog on the website of the Islamic Human Rights Commission about his experiences in Venezuela and his analysis of the events going on there.

Additional resources on Venezuela

The US-sponsored coup d’etat in Venezuela has failed to produce the desired result: the fall of the Maduro government. Yet the suffering of the people of Venezuela continues now other means are used to attack the Bolivarian revolution: the threat of a military invasion and the sabotage of the electricity network. The economic boycott is being intensified and the media campaign of vilifying the Bolivarian revolution is still going on. In addition to the resources mentioned in the previous newsletter we have some listed some alternative media that cover the coup In Venezuela from an anti-imperialist point of view.

https://therealnews.com/: the Real News Network

https://thegrayzone.com/: the Grayzone

https://venezuelanalysis.com/: Venezuela analysis

https://www.fort-russ.com/category/latin-america/: Fort Russ News

https://www.globalresearch.ca/: Global Research

https://www.telesurenglish.net/: Telesur

Stephen Small keynote speaker at conference: Black In/visibalities contested

The Afro European network organizes its 7th biennial conference in Lisbon. Stephen Small, co-editor of the book series Decolonizing The Mind, is one of the keynote speakers.

The conference is a platform for the production of knowledge in the pertinent field of transdisciplinary research on racism, black cultures and identities in Europe. It also offers the opportunity to strengthen and widen networks between scholars, activists and artists that question structural racism and are critically engaged with the production of postcolonial knowledge on european blackness and the african diaspora. This dialogue and networking is promoted through keynotes and panels, round-tables, individual speakers and artistic and cultural activities.

Click here  for more information.

Resources on Venezuela

The Islamic Human Rights Commission has set up a webpage with resources on the current situation in Venezuela in English, Spanish and Dutch. The page contains references to background information and analysis of the coup. Ramon Grosfoguel, Sandew Hira, Maz Blumenthal and Ahmed Kabalo reports directly from Venezuela with their analysis of the situation.

See the webpage here.

The imperialist coup in Venezuela: a decolonial analysis

Sandew Hira
The Hague, Holland
February 8, 2019

A new form of coup has emerged in 2019. Apart from military coups and invasions by foreign USA and America has invented a new form: setting up a virtual state supported by the imperialist by acknowledging a president that is not elected by the people, seizing state assets and transferring them to this president, and in the final analysis setting up an alternative army.

The facts

The Western media has created an image of the Bolivarian revolution as the ultimate proof of failure of revolutionary politics. I will not deal with these distortions and refer to sources that goes in depth on this issue:

https://www.globalresearch.ca/venezuela-straw-breaks-empires-back/5667967

https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14305

I will develop a theoretical analysis of the new technique of imposing colonial/imperial rule on oppressed people.

The classical method

The classical method of colonialism since 1492 has been invasion, occupation, genocide, colonial administration rule with brutal and violent means, divide and rule, using “house negroes” and promoting mental slavery. In the rise of colonialism European nation states have competed with each other in gaining imperial supremacy. Spain and Portugal ruled in the sixteenth century, Holland played a major role in the seventeenth century, France and England rose to the imperial top in the eighteenth and nineteenth century and the United States gained the upper hand in the 20th century. America, who was a colony of England, ruled in a different way than its predecessors. The purpose of colonial rule was economic exploitation: enriching the West at the expense of the rest.

The European states use invasion, occupation and colonial administration as the main instruments of colonial rule. The USA use military intervention often followed by the installation of indigenous elites as rulers and safeguarded by military bases as its main instrument. They don’t set up an own colonial administration as the Europeans did.

Here is a list of military interventions by the USA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations.

Military coups and interventions

Since World War II America has used military coups and military to establish its rule. The military cadres were often trained by the Americans. The generals and officers were in close contact with their instructors and when the times was their they staged a coup and took over the state apparatus.

A military coup aims to take over state power from within. Military intervention aims to topple a regime that can not to toppled from within.

Taking over the state means in practice:

  • Establishing a new government and administration: the executive power.
  • Controlling the army, police and intelligence services; killing and imprisonment of opposition forces and installing a reign of terror.
  • Closing down the parliament (legislative power) or installing a rubber stamp parliament.
  • Controlling the judiciary: judges, prosecutors.
  • Controlling the communication infrastructure, media and the educational system to impose the narrative of the ruling power and controlling the mind.
  • Controlling the economic institutions of the state: central bank, state companies, trade unions etc.
  • Controlling the institutions for dealing with the world (participation in international institutions, formal relations with other states).

The anti-colonial and anti-imperialist forces

He biggest threat to colonial rule was the anti-colonial movement. Every act of oppression generated an act of resistance. The struggle of the anti-colonial movement resulted in the twentieth century in the political independence of the former colonies. The classical European colonizers (France, England) lost their direct political grip, but American military might and networks re-established control in an indirect political way.

The triumph of the Russian revolution in 1917 and the ensuing new world system after World War II resulted in a world that was divided in a socialist and capitalist bloc. Socialism had an answer to capitalism: the working classes were in power.

  • The oppressed classes (workers and peasants) controlled the government via workers and peasant councils.
  • The capitalist economy was replaced by a planned economy: private companies were nationalized.
  • The educational system was based on concepts of scientific socialism. Culture and media celebrated socialism.

Socialist states came into being via violent revolution: conventional wars (World War II), insurrection, guerrilla war.

The armed forced are the key to the establishment and maintenance of the state. Taking over the armed forces means taking over the most important element of the state. That is the point of departure for the establishment of the political, judicial and cultural control.

The fall of the socialist bloc

Until 1989 two third of the world population lived in the socialist bloc. And then the socialist bloc collapsed. In 1989 socialism was abolished in Cambodia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. In 1990 Benin, Czechoslovakia, South Yemen, East Germany, Mozambique and Bulgaria followed. In 1991 the socialist system collapsed in Somali, Ethiopia and the Soviet Union. Finally in 1992 Mongolia, Congo-Brazzaville, Albania, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Angola followed suit. In less than four years a large part of the socialist bloc just ceased to exist and capitalism was re-established. The largest socialist society (China) re-introduced the market economy but within the political framework of socialism. The same goes for Vietnam and to a much lesser extent to Cuba.

The ideological implications of this collapse were important. Marxism is the theoretical basis for socialism. If socialism collapsed, what should we think of Marxism as a theory of liberation? Where did it go wrong? In struggling with these question new theories of liberation came into existence under such labels as orientalism, liberation theology, postcolonialism and decolonial theory.

There are also practical implications: preparing for socialism meant establishing a Leninist vanguard party to take over the state in a period of social revolution and thus establishing a military wing of the party that can act at the moment of truth and seize state power during a revolution. But if socialism is a questionable answer, what do you do if you take state power: keep the capitalism system in tact? How do you organize for a just social, political and economic system.

In the Middle East a country like Iran provided an answer outside of Marxism: Islamic Liberation Theology. In 1979 the pro-Western dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was ousted from power by a mass revolution led by anti-colonial Islamic theologians. In Latin America an answer was sought in the combination of Marxism, nationalism and indigenous thinking under labels as Zapatismo, buen vivir, pacha mama etc.

New challenges

In countries with a parliamentary system these forces managed to take state power in elections with leaders like Evo Morales of Bolivia, Cristina and Néstor Kirchner in Argentina; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay and Lula da Silva in Brazil. Elections made it possible to take control of the executive and legislative branch of government. The most crucial problem however are the armed forces: army, police, intelligence services. Any revolutionary government that has no control of the armed forces will sooner or later end up like Allende: murdered in a violent coup d’état.

But then there is still the judiciary, the communication infrastructure, the media, the educational system and the economic institutions. How to deal with them?

Do you want nationalization of all private properties, or just some. Do you want a planned economy or a combination of market and planned economy? Do you want to bring the private media and cultural institutions that are not controlled by the state under the control of the state? What does independence of the judiciary means? Can the judiciary be independent or can it be used as an instrument of warfare (lawfare).

Political struggle by revolutionary forces within a parliamentary democracy with the old state institutions in tact get a new dimension. In the old context of revolution the focus of political struggle was armed forces: social struggle sooner or later ends up in taking control of the armed forces.

Now it is proven that revolutionary forces can come to political power by elections and the masses of oppressed people is able to understand and act on revolutionary policies by electing leaders that want to deliver on promises for a just and social society.

This brings in a new dimension of political struggle: the election as the platform for social struggle that inevitable have to address the state power. The old elite is now removed from one part of state power. They will react with a reorganization of the power they have in other parts of the state and society, such as the use of private media, parliament and opinion makers to constantly attack the new government and create an atmosphere of crisis and panic, the use of those parts of the judiciary they control, the organization of demonstrations my making use of legitimate concerns of sections of the population that is suffering from economic crisis that is created and maintained by the opposition etc.

Now there is a new element in the struggle: the organization of a coup by taking over not the whole state of elements of the state. Venezuela is the first country where this is being undertaken. What is the mechanism of struggle that is used in this coup? The create an atmosphere of illegality of the current government.

The good, the bad and the ugly

In Venezuela this has not worked despite the fact that the private media are in the hand of the opposition and in a country of 30 million it is possible to bring hundreds of thousands of people into the street for protest. They still constitute a minority that is not able to win elections. In Venezuela the technique has failed, but outside of Venezuela it works in the countries where imperialism controls the narrative of the mass media. The use of lies is an crucial element in creating this atmosphere.

  • Elections that are lost by the opposition are fraudulent.
  • The masses of the people hold the government responsible for the economic crisis and therefore they have no legitimacy in the eyes of the people.
  • The government is brutal and uses violence against its own people.

The power of deceit is in the constant repetition of lies. Thus it is possible to colonize the mind of people who act on false information. Because there is no free press in the west where the principle of multiple views is respected (the views of the Venezuelan people are not aired in the West) it is possible to have large sections of the people who believe and act on this false information: the support the demand for getting rid of an elected government by force.

Another element in the colonization of the mind is the hypocritical framing of politics as a choice between the good versus the ugly. The west represents the good of humanity and universal values of freedom and the political adversaries of the west are the bad and the ugly. The framing is constituted by the media and the Western experts/pundits who constantly stress the ugly and the bad by constructing lies based on selective presentation of facts: Maduro is dictator and the people are demonstrating against him. The images shows that.

Once the framing is established, anything goes. There are no legal of moral limitations on what the good can do against the ugly, because the good is by definition always right. And so international laws and institutions are pushed aside. War and economic boycott are justified. Just anything is possible, however outrageous it is to common sense. You are either for or against Maduro and at the same time you don’t question those who present themselves as good. There is no discussion about principles of sovereignty or hearing both sides of the story.

A new coup d’état: Juan Guaidó

And so the stage is set for a new form of coup. An individual who until recently was unknown to the majority of Venezuelans declares himself the unelected president of the country and immediately get recognition of mightiest country in the world. In fact, he is the puppet of his master: the USA. And now parts of the functions of the state are transferred to this person.

The function of president of a country is conferred upon him. Then the puppet president can exerts his power: he can invite the USA to invade his country. He uses an alternative justice system. A new Venezuelan Supreme Court now functions in exile that supports this president. Its 33 jurists live in the U.S., Panama, Colombia and Chile. Every 15 days, they hold court via video conference. It has sentenced Maduro to 18 years in prison.

The economic assets of Venezuela that are outside of the country and under direct influence of the West are brought under control of the puppet president: the Bank of England refuses to return gold that belongs to the Central Bank of Venezuela and thus operates within the economic boycott policy of the puppet president. The bank accounts of Venezuela in the USA are handed over to the puppet. It block $7bn in assets and results in $11bn of lost export revenue over the next year.

But all this are part of a coup that ultimately needs a military component. As Mao Zedong says: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. An so there are frantic attempts to split the army. If this does not succeed the next step is the organization of a military intervention. But the result is uncertain. In the storyline of the good versus the bad a military intervention immediately produces the desired result: the masses of Venezuela will welcome the liberators with open arms. Given the experience in Iraq, Afganistan and Vietnam the outcome might not be so certain, so the military intervention might me more of a threat than a reality. Then the next stage is to organize armed resistance by a mercenaries and fomenting a civil war in the hope that this will tear the country apart and eventually will lead to the downfall Maduro.

The new coup scenario is mind blowing for people with decency, common sense and feeling for justice. But is a logical outcome of a decay of the old imperial world system.

A long view of history

The 21st century if the scene of the downfall of American imperialism. The Spanish and Portuguese empire lasted for 325 years from 1500 till 1825 (more or less). The Dutch empire lasted 350 years from 1600 till 1950. The French empire lasted for 310 years from 1650 till 1960. The British empire lasted for 360 year from 1600 till 1960. The year are not exact time markers but give a sense of the duration of the empires with each empire have its prime might in different centuries.

American imperialism came to prominence at around 1900 and reached its peak fifty years later when it rise from the ashes of World War II to global power. After the demise of the Soviet bloc liberal theorists like Fukuyama argued that history came to an end and capitalism has triumphed indefinitely. But the rise of China as a super power poses new challenges. Henry Kissinger argues: “We have been dominant in the last fifty years. They have been dominant in 1800 of the last 2000 years.” Conservative political scientist Graham Allison says: “The past 500 years have seen 16 cases in which a rising power threatened to displace a ruling power. Twelve of those ended in war.”

We are living through an era of the decline of an imperial power that is part of colonialism and the rise of a new world order in which countries that have been under colonial influence are being liberated and take on a new role. The US empire is being challenged in every part of the world.

In Latin America the Cuban people were in the forefront of fighting American imperialism, who never succeeded in establishing regime change in Cuba. The rise of revolutionary movements for change challenges the power of the American backed old elites and Venezuela is at the forefront in leading these movements together with Bolivia.

In the so called Middle East the coalition of the apartheids regime of Israel with the corrupt dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Egypt is the cornerstone of US policy and they are challenged by the struggle of the Palestinian people. Iran is a major anti-colonial force in this region and a leading supporter of the Palestinian liberation struggle.

And alongside the resistance against imperialism comes the rise of China as a new superpower and the old tension between the West and Russia that challenge American hegemony.

Any conflict in the world is now a complex relation of local struggle with an global and historical dimension. The struggle in Venezuela is not just about a controversy between Maduro and Juan Guaidó. It is not only about the struggle between the oppressed Indigenous and colored population and the old white-skinned elite in Venezuela. It is not simply the age-old fight of the colonizer and the colonized. It is part of a new changing world order in the era of decline of American imperialism.

Therefore it is a duty of every progressive person who wants a world of peace and justice to take sides in the struggle in Venezuela, because it is part of a wider struggle for peace and justice. We need to defend principles of honesty and integrity in media coverage and hold on to the principle that both side should have equal hearing and fight the colonization of the mind. And especially for activists in the global north who are enduring a daily bombardment of misinformation about what is going on in Venezuela, this is the time to show if you understand the historical dynamics of colonialism and imperialism: do the right thing and mobilize against military interventions and economic boycotts.

 

 

In solidarity with Angela Davis

In October 2018 the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute announced that Angela Davis, a Birmingham native, would receive the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights award, calling her “one of the most globally recognized champions of human rights, giving voice to those who are powerless to speak”.

Recently, the organization changed its position and said Davis does not meet the criteria after all but did not explain why. It is now clear that it is because of her outspoken support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that protests against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

DIN urges all activists to distribute the statement by sister Davis on this issue.

Angela Davis’ Statement about Birmingham

On Saturday January 5, I was stunned to learn that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Board of Directors had reversed their previous decision to award me the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. 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. This seemed particularly unfortunate, given that my own freedom was secured – and indeed my life was saved – by a vast international movement. And I have devoted much of my own activism to international solidarity and, specifically, to linking struggles in other parts of the world to U.S. grassroots campaigns against police violence, the prison industrial complex, and racism more broadly. The rescinding of this invitation was thus not primarily an attack against me but rather against the spirit of the indivisibility of justice.

I support Palestinian political prisoners just as I support current political prisoners in the Basque Country, in Catalunya, in India, and in other parts of the world. I have indeed expressed opposition to policies and practices of the state of Israel, as I express similar opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to other discriminatory U.S. policies. Through my experiences at Elizabeth Irwin High School in New York City and at Brandeis University in the late fifties and early sixties, and my subsequent time in graduate school in Frankfurt, Germany, I learned to be as passionate about opposition to antisemitism as to racism. It was during this period that I was also introduced to the Palestinian cause. I am proud to have worked closely with Jewish organizations and individuals on issues of concern to all of our communities throughout my life. In many ways, this work has been integral to my growing consciousness regarding the importance of protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The trip to Birmingham, where I was born and raised, to receive the Fred Shuttlesworth Award, was certain to be the highlight of my year—especially since I knew Rev. Shuttlesworth personally and attended school with his daughter, Patricia, and because my mother, Sallye B. Davis, worked tirelessly for the BCRI during its early years. Moreover, my most inspirational Sunday School teacher Odessa Woolfolk was the driving force for the institute’s creation. Despite the BCRI’s regrettable decision, I look forward to being in Birmingham in February for 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.

Angela Y. Davis

January 7, 2019 to exist.