By Vanessa Reis
Nonprofit organization Current Movements hosted a screening of Shola Lynch’s Free Angela and Political Prisoners Saturday night at the Eaton Workshop in Washington, D.C., documenting Angela Davis’ transformation into a revolutionary icon in this film directed by Shola Lynch.
According to their Facebook page, Current Movements aims to connect grassroots activists, movements and organizations through art, film and technology. This screening marked the beginning of the Current Movements Film Series in partnership with Eaton Workshop, in which they will screen two films each month that connect art and activism.
The film tells the story of Angela Davis, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and went on to attend Brandeis University, which had very few black students at the time. She studied in Germany for some time but returned to San Diego, California to become a member of the Black Panther Party. It was here that Davis became a voice for the Black Power movement.
Photojournalist Stephen Shames said the Black Panther Party’s 10-point program was about jobs, education and equality, but the point that “everyone remembers is the self-defense.”
Angela Davis defended the Black Panther Party’s use of arms as self-defense, saying in a speech, “This conspiracy to commit murder and genocide on our people forces us to exercise our constitutional right to bear arms and to use those arms to defend our community, our families and ourselves.”
Upon the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, journalist Lowell Bergman said there was “a sense that this wasn’t going to be settled at the ballot box or in debates. This [was] going to be war.”
The film went on to discuss Davis’ weeks spent as a fugitive, as well as her trial and acquittal in 1972. Davis said of her trial, “I thought it was important strategically for a black attorney to be the public face of a political prisoner trial.”
Her defense attorney, Howard Moore, said he “wanted to present to the world the picture of African American lawyers performing at a very high level on the worldwide stage.” During Davis’ trial, protests were held around the world demanding her freedom.