Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Activist questions U.S. prison system

Legendary prison activist Angela Davis wants an overhaul of the current U.S. prison system.

According to Davis, it continues to be nothing more than a place to put good and bad people away, serving neither group much good. In a March 4 speech at St. Cloud State University, the University of California-Santa Cruz professor made it clear that she didn't advocate letting all prisoners free but current rehabilitation methods aren't working.

"We put people in prison and forget about the problem," Davis told a student crowd, many of whom wasn't even alive when she reached national prominence in the late 1960s.

Davis believes that if the U.S. would work harder to improve the educational system, eventually the need for prisons will be less and less.

It was my first time hearing Davis in person -- she is currently featured in HBO's "The Black List, No. 2." She admits she is a feminist, but not a bleeding-heart one.

"I think some people get stuck on the word 'feminism," she notes. "The 'F" word is not that important to me. I like to see men refer themselves as feminists, too."

George Bush "was a major obstacle in so many ways" but President Barack Obama has done much more in his little over two months in office, said Davis. "We can see the possibility of (him) overturning most of the damage Bush and (former Vice-President Dick) Cheney done."

However, Davis warns that President Obama is not"a Messiah." She added that change will not come from one individual, but "community collectively can bring about change."

Several on-campus organizations sponsored Davis' appearance, which occurred a week after Black History Month concluded and on the opening week of Women's History Month, which is observed during March.

"As we celebrate Black History Month and Women's History Month, we tend to focus only on individuals," Davis surmised. "We have names here and there, like Rosa Parks, but we don't know how to acknowledge all those women who (also) refused to ride the bus. We tend to know how to recognize individuals but not (entire) communities."

You can read more about Davis' St. Cloud visit and speech on