Angela Davis keynote caps weeklong social justice activities at Radford
Student artists personalized the legacy and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to open Radford University’s MLK Week Commemorative Program on Jan. 20 in Bondurant Auditorium.
Dancer Fiona Scruggs, poet Kondwani Fidel, vocalist Amber Hairston and pianist Cameron Hughes dramatically set the stage for a night of reflection and inspiration.
President Penelope W. Kyle welcomed more than 400 RU students, faculty, staff and community guests to the event, titled "Transformation and Advocacy for Our Community."
"Tonight we celebrate Dr. King and how his influence steers our university toward being a better place for all," she said.
Dean of Students Irvin Clark introduced keynote speaker Angela Davis, distinguished professor emerita of history of consciousness and feminist studies at the University of California Santa Cruz, calling her "a living witness to and protagonist in today’s historic struggles."
Dr. Davis is internationally known for her ongoing work to combat oppression. Her work as an educator – both at the university level and in the larger public sphere – emphasizes the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial and gender equality.
In her address, Davis outlined a bold path toward fulfilling King's vision. She voiced concern about the tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions.
According to Davis, the United States with five percent of the world’s population has a disproportionate 25 percent of its prison population. She also noted that the female prison population, approximately a third of the overall American prison population, is the fastest growing sector of those behind bars. According to Davis, a missing generation of African-American men, aged 20-50 has been lost to violence and incarceration.
Davis pointed to the roots of American racism in its slave past and how that grim legacy lives on and is reflected in today’s prison crisis. She challenged the audience to think seriously about a world without prisons and a 21st century abolitionist movement toward justice, freedom and economic equality.
The commemorative program and campuswide activities were sponsored by campus organizations such as R-SPaCE, the Diversity Awareness Programming Board, Scholar-Citizen Initiative, Greek Life, McConnell Library, the Women’s Studies Program, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the Club Programming Committee.
Davis’ address capped RU's weeklong celebration of Dr. King’s career and influence on today’s world. To commemorate the official holiday on Jan. 18, more than 250 Radford University students, faculty and staff helped others as part of the University’s third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. In Salem, volunteers worked throughout the day at Feeding America Southwest Virginia and in Christiansburg, volunteers processed donations at the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program (MCEAP) Thrift Store and More.