On the heels of the news that broke over the weekend that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute rescinded an award that was to be presented to Dr. Angela Davis, the Birmingham City Council unanimously passed a resolution of support for the civil rights icon.
The BCRI issued a statement saying “supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision,” and claimed Davis did not meet the criteria for the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award.
It has since been reported that Davis’s long-time support of Palestine and calls for a boycott of Israel was seen as an issue for the BCRI board.
Councilor Steven Hoyt issued this statement during today’s City Council meeting regarding the matter (he later called for a resolution of support that was unanimously approved):
I want to say something about what we’ve experienced in the last couple of days since we learned on Saturday that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute decided to withdraw an award that was to be given to Dr. Angela Davis.
It is absolutely embarrassing to withdraw an award and it’s disingenuous that we would be selective in our measure of one’s humanity without considering the totality of their lives. We are products of our experiences, so where is the grace in this matter? She didn’t nominate herself. The nominating committee deemed her worthy and now she’s not. All money isn’t good money, especially if it’s contingent on a partial view akin to “don’t shout until I tell you to shout.”
Where is the inclusivity? The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was founded principally to embrace all cultures and all people from all walks of life. In the academic community, professors like Dr. Davis have freedom. Colleges like UAB don’t agree with everything that every professor says. But we are to respect their opinions because sometimes their teachings can provoke new thoughts. So to judge someone by a portion of their work and not the body of their work is just not right.
Here we are in a society where banks owned slaves. Do we stop using those banks? We have former presidents who owned slaves and yet do we not honor them as founding fathers of the United States of America? So where is the grace? It’s disheartening and embarrassing that you would judge a person by a segment of their life.
This woman lived it. A bomb couldn’t have gone off at Center Street and she not experience it and yet we’ve forgotten about that part. We let a few people decide how we celebrate the black community. That’s an indictment. We all should be outraged because this was the epicenter of civil rights. Her influence is international and this makes it look like everyone respects her but us. She’s a champion for women’s rights, race relations and here she has an opportunity to be honored by her hometown and this is how it get’s handled. I’m embarrassed to serve in a city that would support this.
George Wallace said “Segregation now, segregation forever,” but he said he changed his heart. We accepted that and there were a whole lot of black folks that voted for him to be governor.
But now we have this woman — I want to emphasize, this woman, because they wouldn’t treat a man like that — and you treat her wrong. It’s not right. You can’t mischaracterize a person for one part of their life when their work is so broad and their heart is inclusive.
There are some things that are in the works where the city still plans to honor her. She’s one of our daughters. It’s important that young people know the body of her work. Not just a piece of it. Sometimes it takes an outside voice. She’s gone into communities around the world to bring awareness to humanitarian issues. Her entire life has been about bringing civil rights to all people. And for that we must honor her and celebrate the life of one of our own.