The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues (Davis)

Although Davis rightly resists oversimplifying the Civil Rights movement into the work of Martin Luther King, I was – likely because I was taught of his central, if not exclusive role in the movement – reminded of his thoughts on interconnectedness while I read her work. I couldn’t find the quotation I wanted, but I think this one works well.

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality. — King

What’s amazing in this collection of speeches is how clearly she shows the dependency between intertwined struggles and inextricable problems. Since this is a collection of speeches (it was all City Lights offered – I picked it up because I had only the vaguest ideas about Davis and a desire to fill in one of my many gaps), there are some recurring themes. One that comes up repeatedly is the self-sustaining capitalistic model of our current prison system. But she takes the conversation past what I’ve encountered in one very profound way. She wonders what would happen if we abolished the prison system altogether.

There are many other remarkable moments of insight here – about citizenship and about what it means for the LGBTQ movement to want the rights to marry and be in the military, among others.

The majority of the speeches come from talks given during GW Bush’s two terms, though the book ends with talks shortly after Obama is elected. I count myself quite fortunate that I get to go hear her speak in a few weeks ( I find myself wondering whether her comments will include any kind of reflection on his presidency and / or the upcoming election.

Mostly, I can’t wait to listen and learn.

I can’t find a link to the Pat Parker poem, “Where do you go to become a non-citizen?” but if you can, please share it. But I did find this ( and what a remarkable piece this is.

I appreciated Davis’ relentless hope. For someone with her relentless insight and personal experience to profess hope, well, I can climb on board with that too.


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