A Brief Reflection on “Free Angela”

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We asked some of our guest from our screening of “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners” to share their thoughts about the film. Our first guest blogger is Anthony Smith. Thanks Anthony for your support and sharing!

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A Brief Reflection on Free Angela

By Anthony Smith

On May 29th Toni (my wife) and I hung out with our friends and gospel co-conspirators Dustin and Hannah Wilson to see the new documentary about professor, activist and revolutionary Angela Davis titled “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners”. The event was hosted by The Vine Events, a local group that curates educational, cultural and community events whose lead organizer is Tonya Miller Cross.

Free Angela covered the events surrounding Angela Davis’ imprisonment in California during the late 60s and early 70s. The documentary itself did a great job in weaving her personal story within the larger social and cultural tumult of the 60s.

Rather than a re-cap I’d like to just simply point out random ideas, thoughts and observations that emerged for me on that night.

1. It only takes a handful of committed change-agents to demonstrate that another world is possible. In particular, Davis’ connection with various organizations within the black power movement, Communist party, and other radical movement groups during this period. These folks literally saw themselves ‘ushering in’ another world characterized by equality and freedom. Today, we need more leaders with this kind of mindset. Reminds me of the conversation in larger liberationist movements that focus on pre-figurative politics and what some followers of Jesus would describe as a kind of eschatological politics….whereby a group of people demonstrate in the present moment a more just and peaceful lifestyle in the midst of societal oppression. Will you play a part in ushering a different more just world?

2. You don’t need permission to start a revolution. I was inspired by Davis’ self-possession. She had a strong sense of self and identity as a woman, revolutionary and human being. Her courage to distinguish herself from the patriarchy and nationalism of some of the black power organizations demonstrated her willingness to be about revolutionary projects that fit her own particular story. Also her ability to see herself unfolding within a larger story with different streams pouring into her personal story. She did not distance herself from all that made her who she was and is. She weaved into her story her life as an entrenched Continental Philosopher, child of the Jim Crow South (hailing from the black elite in Birmingham, Al); an elite education and other elements you’d think would disqualify her from solidarity with the oppressed and marginalized. Her elite education did not stop her from joining in the social revolution. But she realized she had to dig in and get her hands and feet dirty. She was not afraid to be her own person thus demonstrating her equality whether it was recognized or not. What revolution will you start?

3. Raison d’etre. This word was used a couple of times during the documentary. I was asked its meaning by someone watching it with me. It is a French phrase that means ‘reason for existence’. It also means to possess a sense of purpose or direction. Dr. Davis represented a human being who discovered her raison d’etre. Also, someone that made an intentional decision to unfold and flourish in it. Unfortunately, the graveyard is overflowing with people who never discover nor walk out their raison d’tre. What’s yours?

Anthony Smith lives in Salisbury, NC. Anthony is one of the co-hosts (along with this wife Toni Cook-Smith) of Mission House, a kingdom experiment in Salisbury, NC. He is the ‘resident emerging theologian’ of an Emergent Village cohort in Charlotte and a co-host of the emergent cohort in Statesville, NC. He also serves on the leadership team of TransFORM, a global network of missional leaders and communities. He facilitates a blog, Musings of a Postmodern Negro, that is an investigation into the intersection of theology, philosophy, race, popular culture, politics, and emerging culture

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2 thoughts on “A Brief Reflection on “Free Angela”

  1. Hello Mr. Smith – Sorry we didn’t meet at the film. It would have been great if we all could have had a discussion right there after the screening. Yes, we do need leaders with the mindset of those times, but perhaps what we need first is less cynicism and less willingness to think (expect) others to do the heavy lifting. Where to begin? Right here in Rowan County would be a good start. There will be a panel discussion on how the new State legislature is affecting all of us on Thursday, June 20 at EastSquare Artworks, 120 E. Innes, Salsibury (at the back of the big parking lot behind Dee’s Jewelry and in the place that a lot of the 2008 and 2012 phone banking was done. Please come, and help us to respond to these upcoming changes in a positive way.

  2. Ms. Peckman. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. I agree with you regarding the cynicism. For some reason people feel powerless in the face of the political headwinds we are experiencing right now. I think the cynicism is tied to this. However, I’m with you on having a positive bi-partisan dialog that represents a more hopeful politics in our county. I was made aware of the meeting this week by Tonya Miller-Cross. I do plan on attending. Looking forward to meeting and dialoging with you.

    Plotting Goodness Together,

    Anthony

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