update deskBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Civil-rights organization rescinds award from pro-BDS activist Angela Davis

A prominent award was rescinded from former Black Panther member and anti-Israel activist Angela Davis after a backlash from the Alabama Jewish community.

Civil-rights activist Angela Davis. Credit: Columbia GSAPP/Wikimedia Commons.
Civil-rights activist Angela Davis. Credit: Columbia GSAPP/Wikimedia Commons.

A prominent civil-rights award was rescinded from former Black Panther member and anti-Israel activist Angela Davis after a backlash from the Alabama Jewish community.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute decided last September it would to honor Davis, who was part of the civil-rights movement, with its Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award to commemorate the civil-rights leader’s legacy and fundraise at its annual gala next month.

According to the Institute, “Through her activism and scholarship over many decades, Angela Davis has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world. Her work as an educator—both at the university level and in the larger public sphere—has always emphasized the importance of building communities united in the struggle for economic, racial and gender justice.”

However, “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,” according to a statement from the organization.

“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,” continued the organization. “Therefore, on January 4, BCRI’s Board voted to rescind its invitation to Ms. Davis to honor her with the Shuttlesworth Award.”

They added that 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.”

A piece in Southern Jewish Life chronicling Davis’s extensive history of left-wing activism may have contributed to the decision. That includes supporting BDS and Palestinian terrorists such as Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted by an Israeli court for her role in the 1969 Jerusalem supermarket bombing by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, killing two students in their 20s. Odeh was later released in a prisoner swap between Israel and the PFLP in 1980 for an Israeli hostage held in Lebanon.

The Jewish community applauded the decision with Richard Friedman, of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, stating in a now-deleted Facebook post an appreciation towards Retired Gen. Charles Krulak, a former local college president who was disappointed with the initial selection, for his “continued leadership and unhesitating willingness to always stand up for what’s right.”

On Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council unanimously passed a resolution saluting Davis’s life’s work.

“It’s disheartening. It’s embarrassing to judge a person by a segment of their life. We let a few folk decide how we celebrate the black community,” said Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt, reported National Public Radio. “We all should be outraged. She’s a premier person when it comes to women’s rights, race relations. Here she has an opportunity to be honored.”

Davis expressed disappointment at the rescission in a statement: “I have devoted much of my own activism to international solidarity and, specifically, to linking struggles in other parts of the world to U.S. grassroots campaigns against police violence, the prison industrial complex and racism more broadly.”

“I support Palestinian political prisoners just as I support current political prisoners in the Basque County, in Catalunya, in India and in other parts of the world,” she added. “I have indeed expressed opposition to policies and practices of the State of Israel, as I express similar opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other discriminatory U.S. policies.”

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