How I Celebrated International Women's Day

Sunday, March 9, 2014

  • Courtesy Canadian Federation of Students

    Courtesy Canadian Federation of Students

Written by Peter Miller

International women’s day is celebrated on March 8 every year.  The idea for the day came from two socialist women, Luise Zietz and Clara Zetkin in August 1910 at a Women’s Conference that preceded the meeting of the Second Socialist International in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I ended up celebrating International Women’s Day appropriately by accident. For a movie night I organized along with a few of my friends I chose to watch the documentary, “Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners,” without realizing at first that the movie night fell on March 8.

Angela Davis came to Guelph on Thursday, February 2, 2012. She spoke to students and community members about her work around prison abolition. Prisons in the USA and Canada are growing. With 80 000 US citizens in solitary confinement at any given time and 2.9 percent of the US adult population in jail, probation, or parole, as of stats in 2011, one can see the importance of Davis’s help with campaigns to reform and abolish prisons.

Angela Davis was a member of the Communist Party USA and a Philosophy Professor at UCLA in 1969. California Governor Ronald Regan caused the firing of Davis because of her membership in the Communist Party in 1969. After a judge ruled that Davis could not be fired because of her affiliations with the Communist Party, Davis was fired again in 1970 for using “inflammatory language.”

Anti-communism resulted in the firing of Angela Davis, and Davis would also be arrested in 1970 because of her work in social movements. On October 13, 1970 police in New York City captured Davis after being put on the FBI’s ten most wanted list.

Davis was falsely accused of knowingly buying the guns that were later used to kill Judge Harold Haley in 1970.

It was no wonder that Davis had guns. During her time as a professor she received countless death threats for being a communist. Amazingly, Davis was charged with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley” when she was no where near the scene of the crime. As Davis’ lawyer would argue during the trial, Angela Davis was too smart to buy guns in her name that she knew would be used to commit a crime.

Davis faced capital punishment, but from public pressure she was allowed to go on bail in February 1972. Finally, an all white jury would return a verdict of not guilty.

Protests called for the freedom of Angela Davis and all political prisoners from Paris to New York City to California during Davis’ time in jail. Children from East Germany even wrote letters to Davis, telling her she should be free, and will be free.

When the court system was and is as unjust as it is in the United States, mass movements can still force people to be free. People in power pay attention to common folk especially when we are on the street.

Angela Davis went on to have a great career as a professor and activist, writing several books. She still identifies herself as a communist.

Heroes like Angela Davis should help remind us to celebrate women, their struggle for full equality, and their achievements more than just once a year.

A friend of mine has challenged me to make sure that half of the biographies or autobiographies I read are about women. I will take up this challenge. The only autobiography I have read so far about a woman is about Dolores Ibárruri, the famous communist women who was a Spanish Republican leader during the Spanish Civil War, when the Republicans of Spain who represented democracy fought fascists, organized by General Franco and backed by Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

It was a heart wrenching yet inspiring autobiography about the fight against fascism. The next autobiography I plan to read will be by Angela Davis. There is no doubt it will be an inspiring biography about a heroic African American activist who continues to stand up for the working class, African Americans, and women. 

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