Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (Part I)

Image is a black and white picture of a young Angela Davis speaking to a crowd. To her left is a text box with the quote “This appalling treatment of undocumented immigrants in the US and the UK compels us to make connections to Palestinians who have been transformed into immigrants against their will, indeed into undocumented immigrants on their own ancestral lands. I repeat - on their own land.” with the words Angela Davis underneath. The red POC logo is at the bottom of the image.

Image is a black and white picture of a young Angela Davis speaking to a crowd. To her left is a text box with the quote “This appalling treatment of undocumented immigrants in the US and the UK compels us to make connections to Palestinians who have been transformed into immigrants against their will, indeed into undocumented immigrants on their own ancestral lands. I repeat - on their own land.” with the words Angela Davis underneath. The red POC logo is at the bottom of the image.

by Abaki Beck

This is part one of a two-part series reviewing Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Part One will provide a general overview of the book, while Part Two will focus specifically on the relationship between militarization against Palestinians and the militarization of U.S. police against people of color.

by Abaki Beck

Our reading of the week is Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Palestine, Ferguson, and the Building of a Movement, the most recent book by Angela Y. Davis. This book is a combination of essays, interviews, and speeches she made between 2012 and 2015. Though ranging in specifics, all the pieces center around the questions of how to build successful, powerful grassroots movements for justice and how to create true solidarity across intersectional identities. A main theme in many of her pieces is state violence: from the relationship to how black struggles in the United States relate to Palestinian struggles to political prisoners and the development of the word “terrorist.” (More details on the intersectionality of police violence in the United States and and military occupation in Palestine will be discussed in next week’s post!)

One topic she focuses on is how we tend to recognize past movements by their iconic leaders - like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela - as opposed to recognizing the many “unnamed” activists without whom change would not have been possible. For example, she notes that during the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1955-56, a large portion of those protesting were black women working as domestics. In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. was a relatively unknown leader at that point. Despite the organizing of black women, their work remains unrecognized, instead focusing on a few Civil Rights leaders. She argues similarly with the Emancipation Proclamation - it was not Lincoln who freed the slaves, she argued, but slaves themselves, who worked tirelessly for their freedom.

This book struck me not only for Davis’ candid and practical discussions of movement building - historically and now - but for her vigilance in including Palestinian justice in her discussions of state violence. Though she is supportive of the work of Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow), she critiques it’s lack of an international lens. Throughout her texts, she connects how police violence in the U.S. and state violence against Palestinians are interconnected - from the security company building our border walls and prisons, to the tear gas company whose product is used against protestors in the U.S. and Palestine. She also argues that the fight for a free Palestine has not been taken up by many progressive activists and movements - like the fight for an apartheid free South Africa had been. She thinks this is in part because of the incredibly strong Zionist and pro-Israel lobbies in the U.S., but also because even those who support Palestinian justice are hesitant to speak up as they’re afraid they don’t know enough about the issue.

Freedom is a Constant Struggle is an easy read, and each chapter is on a different topic, so a reader can either read it straight through or pick the chapters they are most interested in. It is a powerful book to remind us of the strength of the collective. This is a point she really tries to drive home: we must be in solidarity with one another and we must continue to build movements. This book was published before the election of Trump, and based on their content, most of the interviews seem to have taken place before the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. She discussed a lack of massive movements today, and I was left wondering how she reacted to Black Lives Matter, #noDAPL, or mobilization since the Trump election.

You can find this book at your local library or independent bookstore (other texts by Angela Davis can be found in our State Violence section):

Davis, Angela Y. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Haymarket Books, February 2016.

POC Online Classroom strives to make readings and resources that celebrate the intellectual tradition and knowledge production of marginalized communities more accessible. Rad Reading is our series that highlight texts to read and writers to support! We will post every Tuesday.