Renowned activist and scholar Angela Davis comes to UVM

Being charged with murder, facing the death penalty three times and working with the Black Panthers are only a few of the things that Dr. Angela Davis can say she has done. Now, speaking in Ira Allen Chapel can be added to that list.”Tonight it is fitting that we kick off with someone who exemplifies the strength and courage of women across the world,” President Daniel Mark Fogel said.Davis’ speech marks the start of the Blackboard Jungle 3 Symposium, Fogel said. “The Blackboard Jungle Symposium aids to complement the key tenets of our six-credit diversity requirement,” Fogel said.The symposium is designed to help educators address the challenges of approaching issues like equality, social justice and cultural competence, according to a statement from the Office of the Associate Provost for Multicultural Affairs and Academic Initiatives. Davis spoke to a diverse crowd at Ira Allen Chapel on March 25.”I was your age in the ‘60s and [Davis] was a real firebrand,” Marilyn Gillis, a Shelbourne resident, said.  “She’s someone I’ve admired for a long time.”Before the event even started, there was a buzz of anticipation in the room that freshman Jamie Jackson said she noticed.”I’m excited to sit in the second row and hear her speak,” she said. “Not a lot of people get that opportunity.”UVM Professor Rashad Shabazz brought Davis to the University.Davis served as his dissertation advisor for six years, Shabazz said. “Angela means a lot to me as a scholar and as a mentor,” he said. “We read Angela in my classes.”Davis discussed many subjects during her speech, including women’s rights, ethnic studies, her time spent in prison, the state of the public education system today and gender equality.”People in some places — not Burlington — have problems thinking about transgender or gender non-conformity,” Davis said. “It is logical to assume that decades from now, transgender issues will be common sense.”Freshman Jen Gustafson said that she had a very positive reaction to Davis’ speech.”Last semester, my women and gender studies class focused a lot on Dr. Davis and her work, so seeing her speak in person was an amazing experience for me,” Gustafson said.The faculty members in attendance said they had high hopes for what students will take from this event.”I hope they recognize the important scholarly activist contributions that Angela Davis has made to how we think about and conceptualize freedom,” Shabazz said.President Fogel said he felt similarly.”I hope that students develop a passionate commitment to make a difference, and persistence in the face of adversity,” he said.