Angela Davis Honored

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(The indomitable Angela Davis).

This year’s Merton Award Dinner in honor of Professor Angela Y. Davis, was a progressive event that showcased the diversity and inclusion that the Center’s namesake, Father Thomas Merton, would have applauded.

The audience at the Sheraton Hotel at Station Square in, of all places, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, included Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, high school and college students, senior citizens, political activists, peace and justice pioneers, religious leaders, Gays, and Atheists. 

Davis noted, during her eloquent acceptance speech, that the audience at the award ceremony was one of the most diverse she had seen in quite awhile; and she travels all over the world.  Local spoken word poet, Nathan James opened the program with two fiery signature pieces that made the audience sit up and take notice. The moving tribute to Professor Davis by political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, made the evening memorable for those who had never heard his voice.

The Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice collaborated with West Coast based Prison Radio to have political prisoner, Mumia Abu Jamal, introduce and congratulate Professor Davis, via audio recording, from Pennsylvania’s Death Row.

In 1969, Angela Davis came to national attention when her flight from authorities, while on the FBI’s most wanted list, infamous 1972 trial and subsequent acquittal by an all-white jury, became international news.  Ten years after Angela Davis’ acquittal, Philadelphian Mumia Abu-Jamal, was sentenced to Death Row because his political action and personal stance against racism and police brutality, placed him, like Angela Davis, in the line of fire.  An international community has called for a new trial for Mumia; and his battle to obtain a fair trial has become a unifying theme for many social justice groups in the U.S. and abroad.  Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on Pennsylvania’s Death Row for 24 years.

Gordon Allport, author of The Roots of Prejudice, said that “rivalries and hatreds between groups are nothing new. What is new is the fact that technology has brought these groups too close together for comfort.—and we have not yet learned to how to adjust to our new mental and moral proximity.” According to the planning committee, this year’s Merton Award Dinner was a success due to the inter-generational, multi-cultural and social diversity of those who helped coordinate the event. Over 600 people, from all walks of life, came out to celebrate Davis’ legacy of social justice.

The multi-cultural audience demonstrated that we are capable of shaping a social justice movement that is reflective of the diversity that exists in the world and that we can “adjust to our new mental and moral proximity.” As we strive to move beyond our personal comfort zones in the peace and justice movement, we are likely to come face to face with those whom we perceive as “different”. Yet, we cannot allow our imaginary fears to prevent us from building a movement that is inclusive of all of the people.

In the ongoing movement for radical social change, we must be prepared to move to the next level by demonstrating a willingness to operate within a framework that is inter-generational, multi-cultural and socially diverse.  To achieve this goal we must continue to practice the “doctrine of inclusion” illustrated in the teachings of Father Thomas Merton if we are ever to reform the corrupt national and international policies of the United States Government.

This year’s dinner was Nov. 10.

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