Political activist Angela Davis talks social change at UMD


“History repeats itself…and everyone wants to find a solution but you can’t find a solution without talking about the problem first,” says junior Darien Ellis, an English major minoring in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Ellis, one of the many students filing into the Grand Ballroom at Stamp Student Union last Thursday, was eager to hear social change activist Angela Davis’ perspective on present day issues.

Students wait in line for Davis' speech.
Students wait in line for Davis’ speech. (India Hamilton/Pulsefeedz)

Senior electrical engineering major Abriana Stewart-Height says she was hoping for a lesson from Davis on how new activists can have a physical presence in today’s movements, rather than just being present on social media.

Davis’ speech, an installment in the University of Maryland’s Voices of Social Change series, touched on Stewart-Height’s comment when she emphasized that the intellectual work that students are doing at universities everywhere has to be in compliance with the practical work of protesting and organizing. She advised students to stay motivated. “The struggle is a protracted one that is not going to end after two weeks, two months or two years,” said Davis.

Another point Davis made was how the focus of conversations surrounding social change today is diversity when in the past, conversations were about broader ideas such as freedom and justice. “[Diversity] is difference that doesn’t make a difference at all,” said Davis. “We need to find a way to strengthen the notion of diversity and add justice to diversity.”

Early on in her speech, Davis joked that students often come up to her and tell her that their parents used to protest for her freedom, making her feel old. “I would like to know how [Davis] feels about Black Lives Matter and how that relates to what she went through in the 60s and 70s,” said Morgan Johnson, a junior government and politics major at UMD.

Black Lives Matter, a social change and advocacy group started after Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2013, and recently deemed a hate group by conservatives, has been responsible for a lot of the leadership in recent movements. Davis spoke about the founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, and her background in performance arts, stating, “Artists are our beacons…[Cullors] understands the role art plays” in today’s movements.

Angela Davis answers student questions after her speech.
Angela Davis answers student questions after her speech. (India Hamilton/Pulsefeedz)

Davis closed her speech with the idea that “If all lives matter, we would not have to emphatically proclaim that black lives matter.”


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