I remember a conversation from many years ago. My friend Bill Saxon and I were talking and he said he wanted to become an activist. About what, he didn’t say. But I remember thinking that he must be thinking of only the attention an activist receives from some college kids who were too young to have been able to participate in the social upheavals of the 1960s. I was in college, in Los Angeles, during the mid-1970s.
I think Bill only heard the applause at rallies and conferences, causing the crowd to rise to its feet with each new “revolutionary” revelation espoused from the stage. That does not an activist make.
The impetus behind the life and the work of a true activist is not the search for celebrity, but rather the search and the end goal of societal change.
In 1969 I finished grammar school and began High School. That was the year everything seemed to have changed. My first heroes, The Beatles announced their break-up. Diana Ross announced she was leaving The Supremes, my other heroes. Simon and Garfunkel broke up; they sang a song about Frank Lloyd Wright, my favorite architect, on their farewell album. An American astronaut landed on the moon; my paternal grandfather never believed it. Judy Garland died during that summer; drag queens, gays and lesbians in New York City said NO to police harassment the following weekend.
It was during this time that Angela Davis was fired from her teaching position at the University of California Los Angeles for being a Communist. I wasn’t a Communist, but I knew that our nation allowed all of us to believe – or not believe – any way we wished.
By October of 1969 Angela Davis was hired back. Her continued journey into my consciousness would continue into the tumultuous few years ahead.
By the time I took these photographs in 1978, I realized that a true activist works. It is we – the “fans”, the media – who build up the images and then quickly abandon “the cause” that becomes no longer au courant.
Much work in her struggle for making the world a better place for all continued for Angela Davis whether followed by the masses or not.