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Civil Rights Institute Cancels Gala Honoring Angela Davis After Outcry From Jewish Community
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=44501"><span class="small">Michael Harriot, The Root</span></a>   
Tuesday, 08 January 2019 09:21

Harriot writes: "One of the nation's most prominent civil rights museums has reneged on its plans to celebrate one of America's most outspoken freedom fighters, igniting a national controversy after seemingly genuflecting to grumbles from the area's Jewish community."

Angela Davis. (photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
Angela Davis. (photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Civil Rights Institute Cancels Gala Honoring Angela Davis After Outcry From Jewish Community

By Michael Harriot, The Root

08 January 19


ne of the nation’s most prominent civil rights museums has reneged on its plans to celebrate one of America’s most outspoken freedom fighters, igniting a national controversy after seemingly genuflecting to grumbles from the area’s Jewish community.

On Jan. 4, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute released a weirdly nonspecific statement canceling its plans to bestow the institute’s highest honor upon Angela Davis, a Birmingham, Alabama, native. The ceremony was supposed to serve as the centerpiece of the museum’s annual gala, planned for Feb. 19.

In October, reported that Andrea Taylor, the Institute’s CEO, called Davis “one of the most globally recognized champions of human rights, giving voice to those who are powerless to speak,” announcing that they were “thrilled” to honor the educator, author, activist, and Birmingham native.

Then suddenly, they weren’t so thrilled.

“In September of 2018, the ‪Birmingham Civil Rights Institute‬’s Board of Directors selected Angela Davis to receive the prestigious Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award at its annual gala in February 2019,” the statement posted on the BCRI’s website began, continuing:

In late December, supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision.
Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis’ statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based. Therefore, on January 4, BCRI’s Board voted to rescind its invitation to Ms. Davis to honor her with the Shuttlesworth Award. While we recognize Ms. Davis’ stature as a scholar and prominent figure in civil rights history, we believe this decision is consistent with the ideals of the award’s namesake, Rev. Shuttlesworth.
We regret that this change is necessary, and apologize to our supporters, the community and Ms. Davis for the confusion we have caused. We will move forward with a keen focus on our mission: to enlighten each generation about civil and human rights by exploring our common past and working together in the present to build a better future.
The associated gala event, scheduled for ‪February 16th‬ at Haven has been cancelled. Ticket purchasers will received a full refund.

Because the BCRI was less than transparent in its statement, many people wondered why the institute would moonwalk back its support for the hometown heroine. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin cleared up some of the confusion in expressing his discontent with the Institute’s decision. In a statement Sunday, Woodfin said:

As I consider the controversy over the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s decision to honor Dr. Angela Davis with the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award and its subsequent decision to rescind that honor after protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies, my overriding feeling is one of dismay.

“I am dismayed because this controversy is playing out in a way that harks backward, rather than forward,” Woodfin continued, adding that the decision “portrays us as the same Birmingham we always have been, rather than the one we want to be.”

According to people familiar with BCRI’s decision, the institute’s reversal is centered around the local Jewish community’s opposition with what the Associated Press describes as Davis’ support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to rectify Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Soon after the institute announced their plans to honor Davis, Southern Jewish Life magazine published what could only be described as a “hit piece” detailing Davis’s support of policies that are often seen as anti-Israel.

“Something not included in the Institute’s publicity for the event,” the article reads, “is that Davis has also been an outspoken voice in the boycott-Israel movement, and advocates extensively on college campuses for the isolation of the Jewish state, saying Israel engages in ethnic cleansing and is connected to police violence against African-Americans in the United States.”

According to, local organizers have vowed to protest the institution if the author and internationally known academic does not receive the award. Activists and academics around the country were outraged by the organization’s decision to bow to outside pressure, noting, among other things, Davis’ long history in the struggle for equality for people of all colors, races, religions, and gender.

Davis was born and raised in Birmingham’s “Dynamite Hill,” whose nickname comes from the more than 50 bombings by white supremacists trying to thwart integration during the civil rights era. She became a professor at the University of California’s Los Angeles campus and was known for her radical feminism and her involvement with both the Communist Party USA and the Black Panthers.

After authorities accused Davis of purchasing weapons used in a 1970 courtroom takeover and police shooting, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover made Davis the third woman to ever be listed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. She briefly went on the run, was arrested, and placed in solitary confinement.

Davis was acquitted of all charges.

She has authored a dozen books on race, class, feminism, sexual abuse, and mass incarceration. Her life’s work has been fighting for justice and equality around the world.

Using the hashtag #IStandWithAngela, social media users have pointed out that Davis’ position on Israel is not only consistent with her work and teachings, but it is also right.

Such is the problem with so-called allies.

Their support is always contingent upon their control. They believe that they should have a say over what and whom Black America deems “acceptable.” Black protest is respectable until it appears on their street, dishonors their agenda, or pops up during their football games. Everyone is cool with the march as long as their toes aren’t stepped on.

Even worse, we are often all too willing to comply.

But I shouldn’t say “we.”

More than half of the BCRI’s Board of Directors, including its chairman, are not black.

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+33 # treerapper 2019-01-08 10:42
Join the protest and push back by posting to the Institute's Facebook page. Make your outrage public. Shameful!!!
-17 # Salburger 2019-01-08 11:00
It's always easier to just blame the Jews but there was no serious Jewish campaign against Davis here and there were others who objected. "the vice chair of the museum board, Walter Body, said that the museum had “received questions from the African-America n community, the Jewish community, and the white community. It was not one just community.”John son wrote that one complaint had come from General Charles Krulak, former president of Birmingham-Sout hern College, a Methodist school. Krulak’s complaint cited Davis’s past membership in the Communist Party, among other things." Red baiting was probably more significant and the slant in this version from the Root smacks of Antisemitism.
-17 # Salburger 2019-01-08 11:03
"Their support is always contingent upon their control. They believe that they should have a say over what and whom Black America deems “acceptable.” "They" being the Jews, so anyone who doesn't see the Antisemitism here is being wilfully blind. Shame on the Root and shame on RSN for circulating this Antisemitic screed. The socialism of fools is back in fashion.
+21 # apotem 2019-01-08 11:04
Will the US ever stop punishing people for telling the truth?
+15 # jwb110 2019-01-08 11:10
What's the difference between Dynamite Hill and the Gaza Strip. I have been a supporter of Israel from the beginning. That said, their Governments behavior with the Palestinian question is appalling. Borders were set in a UN agreement and have never been abided by. I am not comfortable having these divided feelings about the issue. That doesn't mean that Angela Davis should have to give up her right to Free Speech in order to be recognized for her work on Civil RIghts. She made a mistake in asking the question about the Palestinian/Isr ael issue. In America she has that right until Trump takes it away.
+14 # Anne Frank 2019-01-08 11:11
"If you would know who rules over you, find out whom you are not allowed to criticize." Voltaire
+24 # Farafalla 2019-01-08 12:16
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Angela Davis

That's why Angela David supports BDS. The right wants to criminalize BDS in a direct assault on first amendment rights in this country. Many EU countries have also criminalized BDS. Maybe Israel should be admitted to the US as a state. It already has at least two senators.

But for a black civil rights organization to drop her speaks volumes of the US complicity with everything Israel does.
+14 # indian weaving 2019-01-08 13:57
The first bill being considered in this new congress is to make BDS illegal against Israel. This bill has bipartisan support. The entire USA government is ruled and controlled by Israel now. Among the 13 members of congress who have dual Israeli / USA citizenship, Schumer's is the most egregious as he's Senate Minority Leader. He is an Israeli first and always.
+15 # lorenbliss 2019-01-08 14:43
Well said. It's as if the U.S. -- perhaps as penance for its genocidal pre-WWII support of Hitler and fascism in general -- has genuflected itself into becoming an Israeli colony.
0 # economagic 2019-01-11 20:23
Not penance; just a part of the price our misleaders, "Fossils and Fools, Inc.," are all too eager to pay to get "our" oil out from under "their" sand.
+10 # lorenbliss 2019-01-08 13:53
Doubt this would have happened were the Trump/Pence Regime not working overtime to make white supremacy "respectable" again.

Though it's outrageous such an organization would not be chaired by an African/America n and have an African/America n majority on its board.
-9 # engelbach 2019-01-08 14:05
Angela Davis has a somewhat checkered history.

An acknowledged communist and courageous champion of civil rights, she also has voiced support for a person convicted of a terrorist bombing in Israel.

Southern Jewish Life's article was not a "hit piece." It was an objective article that described both the pros and cons of Davis's career.

I also take issue with the article's blanket accusation of the "Jewish community" for nixing her award. Members of the Jewish community are not the whole of that community.

This last has led to a number of remarks on Facebook that border too closely on Anti-semitism, accusing "Hebrews" of being responsible for the decision.

I'm sure that it was local pro-Zionist donors and organizations that applied the pressure. There are many Jews in the South and the rest of the US who, like Davis, oppose Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Language must be used with precision to avoid misleading impressions. Journalists, of all people, should know this.
+23 # Gailhen 2019-01-08 14:21
I am an 82-year-old Jewish woman and I think not giving this award to Ms. Davis is revolting. I also support Israel as a nation, but I DO NOT SUPPORT their racist, cruel and reactionary policies towards the Palestinians. We must not forget the consistent and powerful abilities of Ms. Davis. Give her this award and get on with the future. GAILHEN
+18 # Moxa 2019-01-08 15:50
The modern Zionist movement began in the 19th century and was meant to establish a haven for Jews, whose history for centuries was one of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust where 6,000,000 Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis. During this time, there were few safe places in the world--includin g the United States, which turned Jews away.

The justification for the establishment of the State of Israel rests squarely on this. That it was also an appropriation of land which was long home to another people, is also a fact, and the two facts are irreconcilable. Israel at once solved an existential problem for millions of Jews and robbed Palestinians of their homeland.

The 1948 partition of the land was meant to be a compromise. It worked out well for the Israelis; disastrously for the Palestinians. While I believe that a Jewish state needed to be established, I also believe that Israel (like the U.S.) has become a rogue nation; cruel, even sadistic, to its occupied neighbor. I attribute this to an existential paranoia, a fear of being homeless and unprotected as in past times.

But its behavior is indefensible. Though Israel is a Jewish state, the blurring of lines between condemnation of her actions and anti-Semitism must be made clear. Israel is a sovereign nation and should not be immune to criticism, including participation in boycotts to influence its behavior. As a Jew, I say there is nothing intrinsically anti-Semitic about calling Israel out.
+1 # Glen 2019-01-09 16:18
Moxa, one must ask why only the Jews? Why not the millions of others killed by the Nazis? Why did they not receive a homeland or any kind of assistance for their suffering? Those who warned against an exclusive land for Jews were killed off. Their warnings have come to pass. All those who lived in that territory were abandoned and disregarded in favor of the Jews. Why? Yes, we know what has come to pass since then, and the interaction between Israel and the U.S. Was that the original intent?
+10 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-01-08 16:11
Racism again, not to mention the careful, deliberate, perverted confusion of Likud with Israel.
+17 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-01-08 18:20
BDS is ALL about civil rights. The civil rights of thePalestinians . Shame on the Civil Rights Institute. BDS NOW!
More bullshit from the "weenies afraid to offend.