OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – You may know her best for the iconic photographs of her big and perfect afro, but there is so much more to the activist, author and educator Angela Davis. The Oakland Museum of California is hosting an exhibit of worldwide significance about Davis.
Whatever your politics are, her story is of an American one… and it has deep roots in California. The exhibit strives to personalize her story of activism which still resonates to this day. It is called ‘Seize the Time.’
“When you look at the content of the exhibition there are a lot of images of Angela. We know her from her afro, her image as an icon. But I think we really want to peel back the layers on who she is as a person, not just an icon,” said Lisa Silberstein, the museum project lead.
A key to doing that is a 2019 museum interview with Davis. The museum felt hearing her perspective, as she is now in her 70s, gives visitors a deeper view of who she is, particularly as an important figure in Oakland.
“Angela lives here in Oakland, has lived here a long time,” Silberstein said. “This is a reflection of Oakland and who Oakland is. I think we really wanted this exhibit to not only humanize Angela Davis but have visitors understand that they could continue to connect with the social justice issues that Angela fights for.”
Angela Davis grew up in an activist family in Jim Crow Alabama. She grew politically in the turbulence of the 1960s — a member of the communist party. In 1970, police said a San Rafael courtroom shooting was with guns registered to her. She went into hiding and was later arrested. That instigated a call for her freedom which exploded around the world.
Lisbet Tellefsen has a 40-year friendship with Davis and owns thousands of pieces chronicling her life. She is the author of the book “Seize the Time.” Among the highlights is the relationship between art and activism.
The exhibit links Davis’ year-plus time in jail, informing her battle against mass incarceration and its connection to slavery. In 1972 ultimately an all-white jury in Marin County found her not guilty on all counts.
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“Could Black political activists get a fair trial in this country? Angela is one of the few wins and we have to celebrate our victories,” Tellefsen said.
This is the kind of exhibit where you would want to spend some quality time – not just for what’s on the wall, but the scores of articles and documents that make you want to linger to absorb and maybe even jog your own memory – such as videos of the era, including the court case.
“She is an extraordinary role model. Her life is important not only for what she has done but for what she continues to do and what she represents as a model for future activists,” Tellefsen said.