Archive | February, 2018


27 Feb

The “Me Too” movement became trending towards the end of 2017 as a hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It followed soon after the public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

The hashtag was first used by Tarana Burke and was popularised by Alyssa Milano when she encouraged women to tweet it to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.
Tarana Burke is an American civil rights activist. She is known for being the first to use the phrase “Me Too”, in 2006, to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society. The phrase has since developed into a trending online hashtag. She is currently Senior Director at Girls for Gender Equity.
Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is a Brooklyn-based, inter-generational non-profit organisation dedicated to strengthening local communities by creating opportunities for young women and girls to live self-determined lives.

In October 2017, Alyssa Milano encouraged using the phrase to help reveal the extent of problems with sexual harassment and assault by showing how many people have experienced these incidents themselves.
After millions of people started using the hashtag it spread to different countries and translated into different languages.

There has been a lot of attention on USA with the news of many women who have opened up about the sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein and a few other award winning Hollywood producers. Unfortunately sexual harassment does not only happen in the USA but has been very much alive on the film and TV sets in South Africa.
Many years ago, I dated a man who’s business partner saw it fit to touch me inappropriately , any chance he got, when addressing the issue, I was first told, that I was overreacting, then I was told that he was drunk and I should leave it alone, only when I threatened police and legal action was an apology made and the touching stopped.

A few years back I wrote an article on how I had to resign from a TV show as the production house were trying to force me to perform semi-naked and simulate sexual scenes, it was the same set that I witnessed how young actresses were not given the respect of closed sets whilst acting out bedroom or sex scenes, on one particular day a young actress had to walk across set in her skimpy panties without any covering as the production did not see it necessary to respect her and close off the set. When I spoke candidly about my personal ordeal, I received a lot of private messages in my social media inboxes, these messages were from young actresses, who had been treated the exact same way and even named the producer, although I had not put his name in any my articles, unfortunately, they did not believe they had a voice and did not report the incidents. Another concerning matter was when I had a mediation with the producers and the heads of the channel, my agent at the time called me to say that I should not speak too much as I might not be able to work again, I immediately informed her that if that is how people work, then I would rather not work on their sets, I fired her after that.

I began speaking to other actresses and soon discovered that there have been many cases of misconduct and sexual harassment on sets, by prominent actors. In one case, an actress reported it to her agent and producer, the actress who reported it was then told to sign an NDA, which restricted her from going public. The actor (the perpertrator) was fired but for other reasons as according to the producer that did not want to upset the male actors feelings, totally dehumanising the actress and silencing her.

Last week on one of my social media feeds, I came across a worrying post by my fiend Amrain Ismail-Essop. She has given me permission to talk about it and post in on this stream, this is what she posted:

Amrain Ismail-Essop
February 22 at 7:48am ·

This is a hard post to make but I feel deeply that it is necessary. People tend to balk at all the personal posts, ‘how can someone share that’. I am sharing it because I strongly feel that if we don’t, if we keep silencing ourselves, these abuses will continue.
Yesterday I was Sexually harrassed on set. It doesnt matter what I was wearing because that has no bearing on what was done. If I was wearing a burka it still wouldn’t matter. Why? The undelying attitude of the aggressor was one of entitlement, of ownership and of power over me (well his assumed power).
He walked up to me, his eyes locked on my right breast as he approached. His stare never faltering. As he closed in he looked down and filled himself for a good few seconds, without embarrasment and rather a look of right, on my breast. he was so close, he almost touched me. He then casually sauntered off. I watched him watching me, stood firm, the anger building, my fists clenced. Not once did he acknowledge my presence, nor did he make eye contact. All this in plain public view.
I approached him, surrounded by other actors, and told him not to look at my breast.
His answer:
‘I was looking at your bra and could see it wasn’t the right bra for the camera and I check these things.
No look of humiliation on his face, no look of shame, no apology was given. He is a unit magager not a cameraman (so his excuse is baseless), and even if he was a camerman, he would have no need to feast on my flesh. My flesh is MY TEMPLE, MINE.
He didn’t stop there. He then made a comment (aimed at me) that he believed one of us actors were Halaal, in reference tos ome of the product being pork. Once again his arrogance and entitlement made him feel like he had the right to dictate how I should live and be. HE HAS NO RIGHT.
I will mention his colour and his ‘faith’ NOT BECAUSE I wish to stereotype or paint all men of this community with the same brush, as we all know this is all too prevalent across every colour and creed. He calls himself a Muslim ( MUSLIM MEN are not like this, nowhere in the texts does it say you have a right over women. These are the actions of a few misguided and disturbed individuals). He wears the marking, a long thick beard in the fashion of a ‘devout’ man. He wears this marking with pride, it apparently denotes a pious man of Islam. I keep thinking would he feel so emboldened to do this to a white woman?
Muslim men that have this attitude of hypocrisy, YOU DO NOT OWN your Muslim sisters (I do not practice and I have no shame about this, I do identify with my cultural heritage, how can I not). YOU ARE NOT their moral comapss, nor their dictators and judges. STEP BACK INTO YOUR OWN SPACE. THIS SPACE IS MINE! And I an not afraid to put you back into yours.
I once again stood up for myself right there and then. I reported him too. I am not sure what was said and if he will face any repercussions. BUT I WILL NOT BE SILENT.
What further angered me was a response from another male actor to me (of the same age and colour as the first man, but a different religion (he calls himself a Christian and goes to Church regularly), as if to offer solace; ‘ He should have known better, some women are touchy about these things’.
Are you fucking kidding me?! Some women are touchy about these things? I immediately challenge him on that and his pathetic retort; ‘ English is not my frst language, that’s not what I meant’. Yes it is what you fucking meant. OWN YOUR SHIT AND APOLOGISE! Don’t hide behind your ‘morality’ as if it has made you God. I was then compared to this actor’s neighbour who is ‘a difficult woman, always arguing’. Well honey, if you are uncomfortable with the fact that women are empowering themselves and not going to let you get away with your prejudicial, patriachal and plain abusive bullshit anymore, perhaps it’s time you packed up and bought a ticket to Mars. Because we don’t want your kind here anymore.
So why do I mention the colour and religious factor? These men will vehemently fight for their rights and identity, fight for their right to practice religion and for their right to freedom under a previously oppressive state, yet when it comes down to it, these rights are really only for them and not for all. Not for the higher value that we are all equal and the same. They use their identity to pervert and override the rights of others. It’s another tool in an arsenal of abuse. And it does not belong.
It was hard getting through the day after that. I did my professional best but I won’t lie this experience cut deep. As women we face this crap everyday all day long, and are expected to still perform and if we speak up are seen as agressive or victimising ourselves. No sister! I HEAR YOU!
I was so irate that on my way home, I screamed and cried loudly in my car, all the way. I raged at the insanity. This is happening ALL THE TIME. I WONT STAND FOR IT. This is not the first time either. But no longer will I be ‘civil’ about it.
Speak up, for yourselves and for your sisters, mothers, daughters, friends. Speak up. I STAND WITH YOU.

After reading the post, I immediately made contact with her and requested permissions to share with the SA guild of actors, chairman, Jack Devnarain. He responded within hours and shared empathy for her and expressed a tremendous amount of support. Through SAGA we have been working on implementing laws that protect actors, both male and female form these type of incidents, after all it is a human rights violation.
Amrain had made the production house aware of the incident but to date, she has not received an apology or feedback as to how they plan to handle the matter. As a member of the IPO (independent producers organisation), I have attached an official letter stating their stance on issues pertaining to sexual harassment. I wonder of this particular production company are even aware of this.

IPO – Respectful Workplace Policy – signed

So in conclusion to this blog, I urge talent and crew to speak out on any forms of abuse, sexual harassment or misconduct they they expertise whilst world on sets. The world has focused the attention on international predators, its time to smoke out our local ones.
We need to move away from attacking and ridiculing the survivors and rather showing more empathy and support. On her article many have liked it, some have shared and a few have confessed to experiencing it. We need to take more action, being sexually violated is a human rights issue.

If you have been a survivor of sexual harassment or abuse on set whilst working in SA, please speak up and talk about it under the hashtag #METOO.CO.ZA

For assistance with counselling, court preparation or safe housing, contact:

If you are. working actor in South Africa, I urge you to jon

If you are a concerned citizen, help us speak out under #METOO.CO.ZA

African Global Excellence: Honouring Danai Gurira.

19 Feb


Danai Jekesai Gurira
I have to be honest the first time I had encountered Danai Gurira’s work was last Friday event at the premier of Black Panther in South Africa. Danai plays the role of Okeye I Marvels. Black Pantehr.

In my series of saluting black excellence within the arts, I have decided to research and educate myself on who this powerful screen goddess is. To my great excitement, she is of Zimbabwean ancestry, who speaks four languages: French, Shona, basic Xhosa, and English.


So who is Danai?

Danai was born in Grinnell, Iowa, to Josephine Gurira, a university librarian, and Roger Gurira, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville. Her parents moved to the United States from Zimbabwe, in 1964. She is the youngest of four siblings; Shingai and Choni are her sisters and Tare, her brother, is a chiropractor. Gurira lived in Grinnell until December 1983, when at age five she and her family moved back to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, after the country gained independence.
She attended high school at Dominican Convent High School. Afterwards, she returned to the United States to study at Macalester College, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Gurira also earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting, from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Danai the playwright:
As a playwright, she has been commissioned by Yale Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Playwrights Horizons, and the Royal Court.
She co-wrote and co-starred in the off-Broadway play In the Continuum, which won her an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress. In December 2011, In the Continuum commemorated World AIDS Day 2011. The play, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe, was performed at Harare’s Theatre and featured the story of two women who were navigating the world after contracting the AIDS virus.
In 2009, Danai made her acting debut on Broadway in August Wilson’s play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone playing Martha Pentecost. Danai received the Whiting Award for an emerging playwright in 2012. In January 2015, Familiar, a play written by Danai and directed by Rebecca Taichman, opened at Yale Repertory Theatre. It later premiered Off-Broadway in New York at Playwrights Horizons. The play is about family, cultural identity, and the experience of life as a first-generation American, and Danai has said that it was inspired in part by family and friends of hers.

In 2015, Lupita Nyong’o starred in Gurira’s 2009 play, Eclipsed, Off-Broadway at The Public Theater. It was announced the play would move to Broadway in 2016 at the John Golden Theatre. It was the first play to premiere on Broadway with an all female and black cast and creative team. The play is set in war-torn Liberia and focuses on three women who are living as sex slaves to a rebel commander, and is about how they deal with this difficult situation. The play was inspired by a photograph of female fighters and their tale of survival. She received the 2016 Sam Norkin Award, for Eclipsed. Eclipsed was also nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, and won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design in a Play.


Danai on film and television.

Danai starred in the 2007 film The Visitor, for which she won Method Fest Independent Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has appeared in the films Ghost Town, 3 Backyards, My Soul to Take, and Restless City, as well the television shows Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Life on Mars, and Law & Order. From 2010 to 2011, she appeared in the HBO drama series Treme.
In 2013, Danai played a lead role in director Andrew Dosunmu’s independent drama film Mother of George, which premiered at 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Gurira received critical acclaim for her performance as a Nigerian woman struggling to live in the United States. In June 2013, Danai won the Jean-Claude Gahd Dam award at the 2013 Guys Choice Awards.
In January 2016, it was announced Gurira had been cast as Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, in All Eyez on Me, a biopic about the rap star.


The Walking Dead.
In March 2012, Danai joined the cast of their horror-drama series The Walking Dead, where she plays Michonne, a relentless, katana-wielding character who joins a close-knit group in an apocalyptic world. Together they are forced to relentlessly fight flesh-eating zombies and certain of the few surviving humans, some of whom are even more diabolical and dangerous than the zombies themselves.

In 2008 Danai appeared at the Global Green Sustainable Design Awards to read a letter written by a New Orleans native displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
In 2011 she co-founded Almasi Arts Inc., an organisation dedicated to continuing arts education in Zimbabwe. Gurira currently serves as the Executive Artistic Director.
In 2015 Danai signed an open letter begun by the ONE Campaign. The letter was addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa respectively. The following year Gurira founded the non-profit organization Love Our Girls, which aims to highlight the issues and challenges that specifically affect women throughout the world. In 2016 Gurira partnered with Johnson & Johnson in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Olivia Makete could have been your mother!

9 Feb

Calling on all compassionate souls. Let us try and help Mme Olivia Makete.

This week we were shocked at the horrifying pictures of an elderly lady been kicked and beaten outside Luthuli house, by a man wearing ANC t-shirt. The man has been identified as branch secretary Thabang Setona, who has subsequently been suspended. This is not about him but about the woman, an elderly woman who could have been one of our mothers. This is about the fact that abuse is a living reality in South Africa. Why is it that a large man thinks he has the right to pull an elderly women from a moving vehicle and beat her? This patriarchal mentality needs to come to an abrupt stop.


Olivia Makete is kicked outside Luthuli House in Johannesburg .
Image: Alon Skuy.

As many of us who looked at the picture and video, were disgusted but also hurt as that could have easily been or mother or grandmother. Speaking and commenting on various posts, many of us wanted to help and do more. So I reached out to my friend, Ntombi Nkosi , and I asked how we could possibly get in touch with Mme Olivia. Ntombi, connected me to the spokesperson of BLF: The Black first Land first organisation.This evening 8 February 2018, I met with Comrade Thandiswa Yaphi (treasurer general), Brian Tloubatla (Deputy national spokesperson) and. Tshidiso Tsimang ( deputy secretary general).
According to the medical reports Mme Olivia was beaten on her breast, arms and legs. She still is in severe pain and struggles to sleep at night.

So who is Olivia Makete?
She is an elderly lady who lives with her husband and two children, who are are 11 and 15 years old, respectively. She has two other children who do not live with her.
She has to support and feed her family and struggles to go an fetch water as she lives in a shack.

Robert Makete and his wife, Olivia Makete, outside their shack in Orange Farm.
Image by Penwell Dlamini.

According to the representatives from BLF, there were approximately 15 people who were travelling in the same vehicle that she was pulled out of. Unfortunately, she was not the only one to receives harsh lashings and beatings. Some were smashed in their faces with bricks. Many have been left with physical scars, which can heal but its the emotional and psychological scars that will take time.

So why am I writing this, we as a group of concerned citizens wish to help Mme Olivia Makete.
I must stress that this is a non-political move and my meeting with BLF was to understand the dynamics of what occurred.

They will liaise with the family and discuss a way in which funds can be distributed to the family. If you wish to support through food parcel or day to day living items, those are gladly accepted.

So this is a call to concerned citizens, member of the medical and legal fraternity and possibly housing development, how can you help?

Medical attention, due to her age, the wounds and pain will take longer. She will need extensive medical care.
Legal team.
A house as she lives in an informal settlement in a shack
Day to day living items.
Your compassion.

Whilst we set up a crowdfunding system with the family, please send your details via my messenger inbox as to how you want to help and we will move from there.

If you know of anyone who is in the same situation or anyone who needs counselling please contact POWA

Black female Icons: Angela Davis

8 Feb

Angela Davis is an activist, scholar and writer who advocates for the oppressed. She has authored several books, including Women, Culture & Politics.


Angela Yvonne Davis, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. She is an American political activist, academic, and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

Her Background:
Her family included brothers Ben and Reginald and sister Fania. Davis attended Carrie A. Tuggle School, a segregated black elementary school, and later, Parker Annex, a middle-school branch of Parker High School in Birmingham. During this time, Davis’ mother, Sallye Bell Davis, was a national officer and leading organiser of the Southern Negro Youth Congress, an organisation influenced by the Communist Party, trying to build alliances among African Americans in the South. Consequently, Davis grew up surrounded by communist organisers and thinkers who significantly influenced her intellectual development.
Davis was involved in her church youth group as a child, and attended Sunday school regularly. Davis attributes much of her political involvement to her involvement as a young girl in Birmingham with the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. She also participated in the Girl Scouts 1959 national roundup in Colorado. As a Girl Scout, she marched and picketed to protest racial segregation in Birmingham.
By her junior year in high school, Davis had applied to and was accepted at an American Friends Service Committee (Quaker) program that placed black students from the South in integrated schools in the North. She chose Elisabeth Irwin High School in Greenwich Village. There she was introduced to socialism and communism, and recruited by a Communist youth group, Advance.

Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she was one of three black students in her freshman class. She encountered the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse at a rally during the Cuban Missile Crisis and became his student. She worked part-time to earn enough money to travel to France and Switzerland before she attended the eighth World Festival of Youth and Students in Helsinki, Finland. She returned home in 1963 to a Federal Bureau of Investigation interview about her attendance at the Communist-sponsored festival.
During her second year at Brandeis, Davis decided to major in French and continued her intensive study of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Davis was accepted by the Hamilton College Junior Year in France Program. Classes were initially at Biarritz and later at the Sorbonne. In Paris, she and other students lived with a French family. She was in Biarritz when she learned of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, committed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, in which four black girls were killed. She grieved deeply as she was personally acquainted with the young victims.

Nearing completion of her degree in French, Davis realised her major interest was in philosophy instead. She became particularly interested in the ideas of Herbert Marcuse. On her return to Brandeis, she sat in on his course. Marcuse, she wrote in her autobiography, turned out to be approachable and helpful. She began making plans to attend the University of Frankfurt for graduate work in philosophy. In 1965, she graduated magna cum laude, a member of Phi Beta Kappa.


In Germany, with a stipend of $100 a month, she first lived with a German family. Later, she moved with a group of students into a loft in an old factory. After visiting East Berlin during the annual May Day celebration, she felt that the East German government was dealing better with the residual effects of fascism than were the West Germans. Many of her roommates were active in the radical Socialist German Student Union (SDS), and Davis participated in some SDS actions. Events in the United States, including the formation of the Black Panther Party and the transformation of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to an all-black organisation, drew her interest upon her return.

She joined the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-black branch of the Communist Party USA, named for international Communist sympathisers and leaders Che Guevara and Patrice Lumumba, of Cuba and the Congo, respectively.
Davis earned her master’s degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1968. She earned her doctorate in philosophy from the Humboldt University in East Berlin.

Beginning in 1969, Davis was an acting assistant professor in the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Although both Princeton and Swarthmore had tried to recruit her, she opted for UCLA because of its urban location. At that time, she was known as a radical feminist and activist, a member of the Communist Party USA, and an associate of the Black Panther Party.

The Board of Regents of the University of California, urged by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, fired her from her $10,000 a year post in 1969 because of her membership in the Communist Party. The Board of Regents was censured by the American Association of University Professors for their failure to reappoint Davis after her teaching contract expired. On October 20, when Judge Jerry Pacht ruled the Regents could not fire Davis solely because of her affiliation with the Communist Party, Davis resumed her post.
The Regents released Davis again, on June 20, 1970, for the “inflammatory language” she had used in four different speeches. The report stated, “We deem particularly offensive such utterances as her statement that the regents ‘killed, brutalised (and) murdered’ the People’s Park demonstrators, and her repeated characterisations of the police as ‘pigs'”.

Her arrest and trial and FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List;

Davis was a supporter of the Soledad Brothers, three inmates accused of killing a prison guard at Soledad Prison.
On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, a heavily armed, 17-year-old African-American high-school student, gained control over a courtroom in Marin County, California. Once in the courtroom, Jackson armed the black defendants and took Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages. As Jackson transported the hostages and two black convicts away from the courtroom, the police began shooting at the vehicle. The judge and the three black men were killed in the melee; one of the jurors and the prosecutor were injured. Although the judge was shot in the head with a blast from the shotgun, he also suffered a chest wound from a bullet that may have been fired from outside the van. Evidence during the trial showed, however, that either could have been fatal. The firearms which Jackson used in the attack, including the shotgun used to kill Judge Haley, had been purchased by Davis two days prior, and the barrel of the shotgun had been sawn off. Davis was found to have been corresponding with one of the inmates involved.
As California considers “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offence… principals in any crime so committed”, Marin County Superior Judge Peter Allen Smith charged Davis with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley” and issued a warrant for her arrest. Hours after the judge issued the warrant on August 14, 1970, a massive attempt to locate and arrest Angela Davis began. On August 18, 1970, four days after the initial warrant was issued, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover listed Davis on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List; she was the third woman and the 309th person to be listed.

Soon after, Davis became a fugitive and fled California. According to her autobiography, during this time she hid in friends’ homes and moved at night. On October 13, 1970, FBI agents found her at a Howard Johnson Motor

On January 5, 1971, Davis appeared at the Marin County Superior Court and declared her innocence before the court and nation: “I now declare publicly before the court, before the people of this country that I am innocent of all charges which have been levelled against me by the state of California.” John Abt, general counsel of the Communist Party USA, was one of the first attorneys to represent Davis for her alleged involvement in the shootings.
While being held in the Women’s Detention Center, Davis was initially segregated from other prisoners, in solitary confinement. With the help of her legal team, she obtained a federal court order to get out of the segregated area.


Across the nation, thousands of people began organising a movement to gain her release. In New York City, black writers formed a committee called the Black People in Defence of Angela Davis. By February 1971 more than 200 local committees in the United States, and 67 in foreign countries, worked to free Davis from prison. John Lennon and Yoko Ono contributed to this campaign with the song: “Angela”. In 1972, after a sixteen-month incarceration, the state allowed her release on bail from county jail. On February 23, 1972, Rodger McAfee, a dairy farmer from Fresno, California, paid her $100,000 bail with the help of Steve Sparacino, a wealthy business owner. Portions of her legal defence expenses were paid for by the United Presbyterian Church.

A defense motion for a change of venue was granted, and the trial was moved to Santa Clara County. On June 4, 1972, after 13 hours of deliberations, the all-white jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The fact that she owned the guns used in the crime was judged insufficient to establish her responsibility in the plot. She was represented by Leo Branton Jr., who hired psychologists to help the defence determine who in the jury pool might favour their arguments, a technique that has since become more common. He hired experts to discredit the reliability of eyewitness accounts.

After her acquittal, Davis went on an international speaking tour in 1972 and included Cuba, where she had previously been received by Fidel Castro in 1969 as a member of a Communist Party delegation. Her reception by Afro-Cubans at a mass rally was so enthusiastic that she was reportedly barely able to speak. Davis perceived Cuba to be a racism-free country, which led her to believe that “only under socialism could the fight against racism be successfully executed.” When she returned to the United States, her socialist leanings increasingly influenced her understanding of race struggles. In 1974, she attended the Second Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women.

Davis was Professor of Ethnic Studies at the San Francisco State University from at least 1980 to 1984.
Davis was a professor in the History of Consciousness and the Feminist Studies Departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Rutgers University from 1991 to 2008. Since then, she is Distinguished Professor Emerita.
Davis was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Syracuse University in Spring 1992 and October 2010.
In 2014, Davis returned to UCLA as a Regents’ Lecturer. She delivered a public lecture on May 8 in Royce Hall, where she had given her first lecture 45 years earlier.
On May 22, 2016, Davis was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in Healing and Social Justice from California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco during its 48th annual commencement ceremony.

Davis left the Communist Party in 1991, founding the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Her group broke from the Communist Party USA because of the latter’s support of the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union and tearing down of the Berlin Wall. She continues to serve on the Advisory Board of the Committees. In 2014, she stated that she continues to have a relationship with the CPUSA but has not rejoined.
Davis has written several books. A principal focus of her current activism is the state of prisons within the United States. She considers herself an abolitionist, not a “prison reformer.” She has referred to the United States prison system as the “Prison–industrial complex,” aggravated by the establishment of privately owned and run prisons. Davis suggests focusing social efforts on education and building “engaged communities” to solve various social problems now handled through state punishment.


Davis was one of the founders of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organisation dedicated to building a movement to abolish the prison–industrial complex. In recent works, she has argued that the prison system in the United States more closely resembles a new form of slavery than a criminal justice system. According to Davis, between the late 19th century and the mid-20th century, the number of prisons in the United States sharply increased but crime rates continued to fall. During this time, she argued that racism in American society was demonstrated by the disproportionate share of the African-American population who are incarcerated. “What is effective or just about this “justice” system?” she urged people to question.

Davis has lectured at Rutgers University, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, Smith College, Bryn Mawr College, Brown University, Syracuse University, and other schools. As most of her teaching is at the graduate level, she says that she concentrates more on posing questions that encourage development of critical thinking than on imparting knowledge. In 1997, she identified as a lesbian in Out magazine.
As early as 1969, Davis began public speaking engagements. She expressed her opposition to the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and the prison–industrial complex, and her support of gay rights and other social justice movements.

More than a generation later, in 2001 she publicly spoke against the war on terror following the 9/11 attacks, continued to criticise the prison–industrial complex, and discussed the broken immigration system. She said that if people wanted to solve social justice issues, they had to “hone their critical skills, develop them and implement them.” Later, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she declared that the “horrendous situation in New Orleans” was due to the structures of racism, capitalism, and imperialism with which our leaders ran this country.
Davis opposed the 1995 Million Man March, arguing that the exclusion of women from this event necessarily promoted male chauvinism. She said that Louis Farrakhan and other organisers appeared to prefer that women take subordinate roles in society. Together with Kimberlé Crenshaw and others, she formed the African American Agenda 2000, an alliance of Black feminists.

Davis has continued to oppose the death penalty. In 2003, she lectured at Agnes Scott College, a liberal arts women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia, on prison reform, minority issues, and the ills of the criminal justice system.

At the University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz), she participated in a 2004 panel concerning Kevin Cooper. She also spoke in defence of Stanley “Tookie” Williams on another panel in 2005, and 2009.
In 2008, Davis participated as a keynote speaker at Vanderbilt University’s conference, “Who Speaks for the Negro?”. She has visited the University twice since then; most recently she gave the Commemorative Murray Lecture on February 25, 2015, to talk with students in a fireside chat on college activism.
On April 16, 2009, she was the keynote speaker at the University of Virginia Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies symposium on The Problem of Punishment: Race, Inequity, and Justice.

On October 31, 2011, Davis spoke at the Philadelphia and Washington Square Occupy Wall Street assemblies. In 2012 Davis was awarded the 2011 Blue Planet Award, an award given for contributions to humanity and the planet.

On January 23, 2012, Davis was the Rhode Island School of Design’s MLK Celebration Series keynote speaker and 2012 Honoree.
Davis is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
Davis was an honorary co-chair of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington, which occurred the day after the inauguration of Trump as President.

Davis is the author of several books, including Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974), Women, Race, and Class (1980), Women, Culture and Politics (1989), Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003), Abolition Democracy (2005), and The Meaning of Freedom (2012).


Honouring Black Female Icons: Ntokozake Shange

1 Feb


Ntozake Shange is a self-proclaimed black feminist. Shange wrote and performed For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, which has inspired and emboldened generations of women.She addresses issues relating to race and feminism in much of her work.

Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams into an upper middle-class African-American family. Her father was an Air Force surgeon and her mother a psychiatric social worker.

From an early age, Shange took an interest in poetry. While growing up with her family in Trenton, Shange attended poetry readings with her younger sister Wanda (now known as the playwright Ifa Bayeza). These poetry readings fostered an early interest for Shange in the South in particular, and the loss it represented to young Black children who migrated to the North with their parents. In 1956, Shange’s family moved to St. Louis, Missouri where Shange was sent several miles away from home to a non-segregated school that allowed her to receive “gifted” education. While attending this non-segregated school, Shange faced overt racism and harassment. These experiences would later go on to heavily influence her work.

In 1966 Shange enrolled at Barnard College in New York City. During her time at Barnard, Shange met fellow Barnard student and would-be poet Thulani Davis. The two poets would later go on to collaborate on various works. Shange graduated cum laude in American Studies, then earned a master’s degree in the same field from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. However, her college years were not all pleasant. She married during her first year in college, but the marriage did not last long. Depressed over her separation and with a strong sense of bitterness and alienation, she attempted suicide. In 1971, having come to terms with her depression and alienation, Shange changed her name. In Xhosa, Ntozake means “she who has her own things” (literally “things that belong to her”) and Shange means “he/she who walks/lives with lions” (meaning “the lion’s pride” in Zulu).

In 1978, Shange became an associate of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP). WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organisation. The organisation works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of women-based media.

In 2003, Shange wrote and oversaw the production of Lavender Lizards and Lilac Landmines: Layla’s Dream while serving as a visiting artist at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

Her individual poems, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Black Scholar, Yardbird, Ms., Essence Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, VIBE, and Third-World Women. Since then she has sustained a triple career as an educator, a performer/director, and a writer whose work draws heavily on her experiences of being a black female in America.


For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf:

Written in 1975, the play is a unique blend of poetry, music, dance and drama that took the theatre world by storm.
It included seven women on the stage dramatising poetry. The play used female dancers to dramatise poems that recall encounters with their classmates, lovers, rapists, abortionists, and latent killers. The women survive abuse and disappointment and come to recognise in each other the promise of a better future. The play received both enthusiastic reviews and criticism for its portrayal of African-American men.

Shange’s other productions.
A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (1977)
Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1977)
Spell No. 7 (1979)
Black and White Two Dimensional Planes (1979)

Her novels:
Shange plays with conventions in her novels as well. Her first full-length novel, Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo (1982), is an admixture of narrative, recipes, letters, poetry and magic spells. Shange’s other novels include Betsey Brown (1985) and Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (1995). Liliane finds the author exploring the issues of race and gender in contemporary America in innovative prose.

In The Love Space Demands, a choreopoem published in 1991, Shange returned to the blend of music, dance, poetry and drama that characterised For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide. “


A few of her famous quotes:

“but bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical
dilemma/ i havent conquered yet/ do you see the point
my spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul & gender/ my love is too delicate to have thrown back on my face

my love is too delicate to have thrown back on my face

my love is too beautiful to have thrown back on my face

my love is too sanctified to have thrown back on my face

my love is too magic to have thrown back on my face

my love is too saturday nite to have thrown back on my face

my love is too complicated to have thrown back on my face

my love is too music to have thrown back on my face”
― Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf


“we need a god who bleeds now
a god whose wounds are not
some small male vengeance
some pitiful concession to humility
a desert swept with dryin marrow in honor of the lord

we need a god who bleeds
spreads her lunar vulva & showers us in shades of scarlet
thick & warm like the breath of her
our mothers tearing to let us in
this place breaks open
like our mothers bleeding
the planet is heaving mourning our ignorance
the moon tugs the seas
to hold her/to hold her
embrace swelling hills/i am
not wounded i am bleeding to life

we need a god who bleeds now
whose wounds are not the end of anything”
― Ntozake Shange


“somebody/ anybody
sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life
she’s been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn’t know the sound
of her own voice
her infinite beauty
she’s half-notes scattered
without rhythm/ no tune
sing her sighs
sing the song of her possibilities
sing a righteous gospel
let her be born
let her be born
& handled warmly.”
― Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf