Political activist and author Angela Davis came to campus Saturday, Feb. 29 to deliver the morning keynote for Cal Poly’s Center for Service in Action’s “Change the Status Quo” Social Justice Leadership Conference. The event took place in the Multi Activity Center (MAC).
Davis lived through segregation and actively participated in various social movements, from her association with the Black Panther movement and her work with the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.
On the issue of racial injustice, Davis discussed the belated reform which she said should have followed the abolition of slavery.
“We have only just begun addressing the extent to which the social, economic and political institutions have been deeply infected with racism,” Davis said during the conference.
During the talk, Davis acknowledged the Native American land on which Cal Poly is built and its rich history prior to European colonization. She went on to discuss intersectionality and its implications on discrimination in society today.
Cal Poly Service in Action’s “Change the Status Quo” co-chair and environmental earth and soil science senior Monique Rea said she hopes the talk inspired students to question social norms and “to realize that the world isn’t just one idea, but a multitude of ideas.”
“[Davis] represents change, someone who changes the status quo, someone who uses her experiences and filters that and creates something new from that,” Rea said.
Davis has taken strong stances on political issues throughout her life, including her support of communism in the 1990s and her opposition to the U.S. prison system.
“She is kind of radical but I think that’s what’s great about her because if we’re trying to change the status quo, it doesn’t happen from someone who doesn’t put their ideas out there,” Rea said.
Of the 700 people attended the speech, mechanical engineering sophomore Anders Bjork said he was grateful to have the chance to see Davis in person.
“To be able to come and listen to someone so influential and radical and positive in so many ways is a great opportunity, and I was really happy to see that Cal Poly was putting this event on,” Bjork said.
The talk was followed by a 30-minute question and answer session and set the tone for an entire day of social workshops focusing on topics ranging from white privilege to climate change.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Davis said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.