BALTIMORE, MD - The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) keeps the focus on the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States with a showing Nov. 14 of the film "Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners."
Jointly sponsored by MICA's Humanistic Studies Department and Maryland Friends of the People's World, the film will be shown at the MICA Graduate Studio Center, 131 West North Ave. at 7PM, Thursday Nov. 14. Tickets are $10 for the general public, free for those with a student ID at http://freeangela.eventbrite.com or at the door.
The film will be introduced by Jarvis Tyner, Executive Vice Chair of the Communist Party USA who helped organize rallies and picket lines demanding freedom for Angela Davis when she was on trial for murder in California 31 years ago. She was acquitted by an all-white jury in Santa Clara County June 4, 1972.
The film showing is one of a series of programs by MICA focusing on the crisis of 2.3 million men, women, and youth, disproportionately people of color, locked away in the nation's jails and prisons at a cost of about $60.3 billion annually.
"I think it is important for everyone to pay attention to this," said Dr. Robert Merrill, a Humanistic Studies professor at MICA who helped organize the event. "Mass incarceration has been around for a long time but people are just now beginning to pay attention to it. We had Angela Davis here in person three years ago to talk about the prison-industrial complex as part of our Constitution Day program."
He told the PW in a phone interview that MICA established the Constitution Day program when the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.VA) was challenging people to learn about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to help avert illegal and unconstitutional wars like the war in Iraq.
"We took it seriously," Merrill continued. "Our program has been going on ten years now.
Merrill pointed out that interest in the prison crisis and action to alleviate it has mushroomed in recent years. "I think Michelle Alexander and her book, 'The New Jim Crow' really brought the issue into focus. It is a new Jim Crow when so many young Black men are in jail. It is devastating to their lives, devastating to their communities, devastating to our nation as a whole." He assailed the criminalization of millions for crimes as minor as possession of an ounce or two of marijuana. "Angela Davis has written three books about the prison industrial complex. She has been a worker against these false imprisonments her whole life."
Tyner too praised Angela Davis who is the narrator of the film featuring never-before seen footage and interviews on the struggle to free her and to abolish the prison-industrial complex.
"When Angela won her freedom it was really an unprecedented victory," Tyner told the People's World. That momentous victory, he said, will be the topic of an African American History observance at Winston Unity Center in New York next Feb. 26 with Davis, herself, as the featured speaker.
"Many innocent people were being locked up at the time of Angela's trial," Tyner continued, pointing out that Richard Nixon was president and Ronald Reagan was the Governnor of California determined to smash the movement for racial equality.
"Angela's acquittal was won through the skill of the legal team that defended her, through the skill of the political team that mobilized a nationwide and worldwide movement to free her." Tyner continued. "But that verdict was also a testament to Angela herself, her integrity, her courage. She continues that struggle today more than thirty years later."
The showing is also a fundraiser for the People's World. The People's World and Daily World campaigned in every edition to free Angela Davis and all political prisoners. It continues that role now in its daily online edition. Red Emma's a left-progressive book store in Baltimore offer for sale books by and about Angela Davis and other political prisoners at their table.
Photo: "Free Angela" official Facebook page