Angela Davis is a pretty rad woman. Born in 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama – one of the most racist areas of the U.S – Davis became one of the most prominent activists of the 20th Century. In the 1960s, she emerged as a powerful countercultural radical as the leader of the US Community Party, which had close ties to political organisation the Black Panthers, and those at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement. Now, director Emmanuel Afolabi celebrates Davis’s power and legacy in his latest film, Angela.
Using archived recordings of Davis’s powerful speeches, Afolabi pays tribute to Davis’s mission to end racial discrimination and the marginalisation of black women. “As a filmmaker, I wanted my work to speak for the marginalized communities”, Afolabi told Milk.xyz. “Angela Davis is an iconic figure in the 70s who not only fought racial discrimination in the prison system but also speaks about the black women who are being marginalized and the unfair distributions of opportunities in the black community. I wanted Angela Davis’ voiceover to be about women and advocating for the black community.”
The short film shows a young Angela Davis – played by Della Orrey – talking to friends and peers on the streets of her area, interspersed with archival footage of New York in the 1970s. Alongside the proactive revolutionary we know well, we are given a glimpse of a more human side of Davis: we see her tired, nervously preparing her speeches. “I also wanted to portray Angela Davis in a humanistic way”, Afolabi says.
What’s alarming about the film is that so many of the issues Davis advocates for in her stirring speeches are still present today. Mass incarceration of black men in America; the killing of innocent black people by police that is still fought by the Black Lives Matter movement; the lack of opportunity afforded to black women, from childcare to abysmally low wages – all of these are issues still affect black Americans in 2018.
Davis’s strong commentary on matters of race and gender inequality in America, which was powerful in the 1970s, resonates with the spirit of today’s activism to deliver a reinvigorating message: while we have come so far already, there is still more to do.