The Pursuit, Capture and Political Persecution of Angela Yvonne Davis.
READERS’ THEATER – MONOLOGUE
(20-25 minutes) Theatrical Re-Enactment of The Pursuit, Capture and Political Persecution of Angela Yvonne Davis
TITLE: Point of Departure
Producer: VFE Southern ROOTS Cultural Institute
Creative Consultant: Pamala G. Wiley
Writer: Pamala Wiley
Actress: Rochelle McKevie
Originally performed in Louisville, KY 2005
Scene One: Closing In
Back in New York I had been underground for approximately two months, convinced the day would come when many of us would have to live in secrecy. I hated this lifestyle. Staying in unfamiliar places with people I barely knew, going out at night wearing a wig and dark glasses. A glance in the mirror reflected back to me a figure that was unrecognizable.
It was October 13, 1970. A friend and I left Howard Johnson motel. We were going to see a movie. David Poindexter had dropped everything to help me. He and I had become comrades in this final hour. The situation was so desperate. I was tired and hopelessly preoccupied with eluding the police, wondering how much longer I could tolerate isolation, knowing that to contact anyone would be suicide.
Inside the motel, I was gripped by a nagging fear. Every straight-looking American man standing around confirmed my anxiety. I was positive that all these men were agents positioned in a formation that had been previously agreed upon preparing to attack.
I passed my open door. A frail man reached out and grabbed my arm. He said nothing. More agents poured out from behind him. Others streamed from a room across the hall. “Angela Davis?” Are you Angela Davis?” The questions were coming from all directions. I glared at them. During the 10 or 12 seconds, moving between the elevator and the point of confrontation, thoughts tore through my mind like a storm. They forced David into a room on the right and shoved me into another on the left. I turned and took one last look down the long dark passageway. The agents ripped the wig off my head, cuffed my hands behind my back and arrested me on the spot.
Scene Two: House of Detention
The system is poised against us politically, and economically. We live in a socially hostile world. We Black people must contend with this ill-treatment every day of our lives. The Soledad Brothers Case is what caused me to go underground and to be finally put on the FBI 10 Most Wanted List. I was attracted to this case because of the political views of George Jackson who was sentenced to prison for stealing seventy dollars and has been incarcerated over fifteen years.
January 13, 1969, eight white prisoners and seven blacks were “skin searched” for weapons and sent out to a special exercise in Soledad prison, Salinas, California. Within minutes a fight had broken out in the yard. What happened next is a controversial issue. Convict survivors claim the tower guards began to fire into the crowd precisely at the blacks without warning. Four shots were fired and three black prisons were killed. One white prisoner was wounded in the groin. Inmates claimed the guards would not let them assist the wounded.
The dead prisoners lay on the hard, cold pavement for approximately 20 minutes. Thus, one of the prisoners wounded in the leg bled to death. Three days later the Monterey Grand Jury made public their findings.
The guard’s actions were labeled justified. Less than a half-hour after the verdict was announced a guard was found beaten to death. However, he was not the one who committed the shootings. All the prisoners in the unit were put into isolation.
Six days later, three black convicts were accused. Fleta Drumgo, John Clutchette, and George Jackson. The prison system had no concrete evidence that they were guilty, but wanted to use them as an example because they had been previously identified as black militants by the prison authorities.
George was eighteen when he was sentenced from one year to life for stealing $70 from a gas station. He was brought to prison because he couldn’t adjust. All his life he did exactly what he wanted to do, which explains why he had to be jailed. He accepted a deal. He agreed to confess and spare the county court costs in return for a light county jail sentence.
While in prison he read about Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engel’s, and Mao. They redeemed him. He studied economics and military ideas and met Black Guerrillas, George “Big Jake” Lewis, and James Carr W.L. Nolen Torry Gibson and many others. They attempted to transform the black criminal mentality into a black revolutionary mentality. Thus, each of them was subjected to years of the most vicious reactionary violence by the state. Three of them were murdered.
George felt that capture and imprisonment were the closest thing to being dead. He spent years in prison, over half of them in solitary confinement. He faced a mandatory death sentence when he was convicted of the guards’ death.
He pleaded and reasoned and even threatened in a desperate effort to make is family understand his life and accept his commitment to total revolutionary change. He wrote to every family member because of a burning need to communicate.
His deepest concern was for his younger brother Jonathan. George poured out everything that he has ever learned about how to survive as a black man in a hostile and degrading society.
My involvement in the Soledad Brothers’ case increased. I traveled throughout California speaking on their behalf. The pressure at the University mounted. They wanted to fire me for being a communist and for my outspokenness.
On the day I delivered one of my more moving speeches in which I included Ronald Reagan himself with participating in and condoning a conspiracy to suppress all radical political activists, particularly those in prison did the Board of Regents make their final decision to fire me.
Tension mounted. People needed a way to shake off the cruelty of the jail and prison systems. For once they wanted something with which to fight the harsh system that had deceived, mistreated, jailed and imprisoned their brothers and sisters.
We organized a campaign to free the Soledad Brothers. All over the black community buttons were passed out, silk-screen posters made, wherever there were rallies, meetings, concerts or gatherings in the community, a committee of activist passed out literature.
Scene Three: Not My Education Monologue: Speech by A. Davis
The education is an instrument for entrenching Amerikan domination. It prepares the African child for the role of an underdog, a supplier of chief labor who will not identify himself/herself with the aspirations of the oppressed masses for national liberation of all black people.
It is a role of ensuring the privileged position of the Amerikans, insulating the African child from world events and confining him to lies and distortions that are prepared by the Amerikans to retard the intellectual ability of blacks.
The education he/she is given glorifies tribalism. The child is made to except the Amerikan as savior whose divine mission is to dominate the lives of black people and determine how, where and how long each one should live. Indeed, it is and education for servitude.*(Speech from Angela Y. Davis, Women Culture Politics; pp 189-190)
Scene Four: My Education Monologue:
A loud noise interrupted my sleep. I looked out the window, our neighbors the Deyaberts house was in flames. Bombings occurred so frequently we named our neighborhood Dynamite Hill. The whites lived on one side and us blacks on the other. More blacks moved in and the whites moved out. The Deyaberts dared to cross the color line. If we stayed on our side they said we’d be fine.
We moved into the neighborhood when I was about four. I knew something was different about the people across the street. I just didn’t know what. I’d speak to them they would just glare back. My environment became so violent. It filled me with hate. Mother and father wanted their eldest daughter to not be so consumed. They’d ease my distaste by telling me white people had an unnatural disgust towards the black race.
As more children moved into the neighborhood we would nourish our bruised egos by standing and shouting racial slurs at white people passing in cars. We would take off running and laugh at the expressions on their faces. We were the not so poor. Up until going to school. I thought everyone lived the way we did. Mother and a father both worked. Mother was a teacher and dad owned a service station. We moved into a mixed neighborhood. We had to rent the upstairs to help pay the mortgage.
Mother taught me to read and write before first grade, but what I learned in that first year impressed upon me the need to take care of my fellow human. I learned that just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you’re going to get a good meal. And if you’re cold doesn’t mean you’ll get warm clothing, if sick is you guaranteed good medical care.
Us children attended Tuggle Elementary, the neighborhood school. An old cluster of wooden dilapidated houses that stood on the side of a grass-less hill. At the bottom was the playground covered with red clay. The school for white children was new, sitting on plush green ferns.
Tuggle was an all-black school, headed up by an all-white board. Their visits always set the teachers scrambling to be at their best. However the teachers commanded little respect from the board. Sometimes the board leader would flaunt his authority by looking us over like a herd of grazing cattle enclosed in the field.
At school, many children couldn’t afford a bag of chips for lunch. For days, I watched my classmates go hungry. I couldn’t be silent any longer. Dad usually brought home a bag of coins every night and lay them out on the kitchen shelf. Secretly one night I crept into the kitchen and took a few coins, I’m sure dad wouldn’t miss. I weighed my guilt over the need to help feed. I gave those children coins so they could buy a sack lunch.
Teachers would teach us about Negroes that the School Board did not see as a danger to their way of life. A favorite time was Negro history week. Special events were planned for assembly. Each child would be responsible for a project to present. This gave us a strong positive identification with our people and the history we grew to know.
We never learned about Nat Turner or Malcolm X those whom weren’t accepted by the Amerikan. A definite pattern of submission and silence set the stage for us to overlook the racist and oppressive ways we experienced growing up. Teachers taught us to live with this misery and to pull ourselves up using our own bootstraps. Be a doctor, be a teacher, it must be your individual effort.
Once a Black teacher fought back. A white man called him “Jessie” in front of his class. He replied, “in case you’ve forgotten, my name is Mr. Champion”. Days later he was fired for his act of refusal. Nothing in the world made me angrier than inaction and silent acceptance of the distressing ways whites treated blacks.
Scene Five: Heroes Emerge – Monologue:
Jonathan, George’s younger brother spent all is time and energy in the campaign to free his brothers. It had been 10 long years since Jonathan had seen his brother as a free man. George was proud of Jonathan and respected his loyalty. In George’s letters to Jonathan, he described the brutal treatment he and other prisoners received. Those letters heighten Jonathan’s involvemen to work more diligently to set the Soledad Brothers free.
August 7, 1970, our heroes emerged. Years of frustrations and decades of frame-ups had left Jonathan helpless and impotent. Jonathan decided to act. He single-handedly, with a satchel full of handguns, an assault rifle and a shotgun hidden in his raincoat entered the courtroom of judge Haley. Jonathan armed three convicts then shouted, “Free the Soledad Brothers, “free all political prisoner”. A gun was taped to the judge’s neck. The jurors, District Attorney and prosecutor were led out of the courtroom into an awaiting van.
Outside a guard fired the first shot, and then a barrage of gunshots tore into the van. When the smoke cleared all except one person had been killed or wounded. Judge Haley was dead. Jonathan at seventeen lay lifeless on the cold pavement. I couldn’t believe he was dead. The news made me angry. He was so full of life.I was charged with murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. The guns used in the killings were traced back to me. The charges are all false, waged against me because of my revolutionary political views.
Scene six: Jail Life
Everything around me was unfamiliar. My cell had become the only thing recognizable in the darkness. Loud screams continued throughout the night. The cries so close I could feel the tears. Lying helpless, darkness lay on me like the bars that now imprison me.
I lived in this wasteland, housed with the sick, drugged and a woman who screamed into the night. She had lost all contact with reality. Her vile language filled the air. She used the most vulgar language and graphic description of some imagined black figure that she says was raping her. I am sure the guards placed her beside me to provoke me.
I would spend sixteen months in jail awaiting my trial alongside women in prison. They tried to isolate me, said my life would be in danger. But what I found were women who embraced and supported my cause.
The prosecutor tried to paint a picture of my case as a crime of passion, sighting women as emotional, overlooking the fact that George and myself were political prisoners put on trial because of our political view. August 21, 1971. I awoke with emptiness from behind bars in this thoughtless and disconnected place. A darkness that filled my every waking moment. I thought about George in San Quentin.
Margaret and Howard walked in. They had been instrumental in helping with my case. By the look on Margaret’s face I knew something was wrong. I had witnessed that look once before when bad news came of Jonathan’s death. Tears welled in the corner of Margaret’s eyes. She reached out for me. We held on. I was numb and unable to speak. Howard shouted, “They killed him, Angela, they shot George in the back.
Angela Yvonne Davis was acquitted of all charges. A year and a half later she formed the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which has chapters in twenty-one state including Louisville, Kentucky which is the only one still active.