"We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society."
These words are from Angela Davis, an iconic activist from the Civil Rights Movement who will speak Tuesday in the Cox Auditorium at 7 p.m.
A counter-cultural radical, Davis will discuss ideas beyond race, including feminism and the prison-industrial complex – ideas also intertwined with racial inequality.
Hannah Bailey, senior in political science and Issues Committee chair, said she views Davis' talk as an opportunity for students to reach beyond her iconic look and delve into lessons from her activism.
"We wanted to give students and community members the opportunity to learn about prison reform – an idea which is not often addressed in the media – from a woman who has not only studied prisons but has spent time inside of one as well," Bailey said. "She grew up in an era which students today need to hear more about.
"By learning about our own history, we can better identify the flaws in our current society and work to improve upon them."
Davis was born in 1940s Alabama when the Civil Rights Movement was just catching on. She attended segregated schools and witnessed violence against the black community while her mother worked with the NAACP.
"She grew up in an environment which inspired her to rebel against an unjust system," Bailey said.
Davis, a scholar, author and Communist, arose as an ally for the Black Panther Party and vocal activist for not only racial equality but gender equality and prison reform. Beyond her ability to speak on social issues, Davis' passion and perseverance are key reasons Brianna Rader, senior in College Scholars, proposed bringing Davis to campus.
"Angela Davis, regardless of your personal political views, is a perfect example of what it means to put everything on the line for a cause," Rader said. "Her protests were very powerful, and we could all learn from her passion for equality for all.
"Davis is a historical icon, and I think it's important to hear her perspective on issues that are not often discussed, even in academia such as: racial politics, feminism and radical beliefs on overturning capitalism."
A founding member of Critical Resistance, an organization that works to abolish the prison-industrial complex, Davis will discuss her work with prisons and their reform. Calling herself an abolitionist, Davis believes she is working to abolish the current system instead of reforming it.
Jodi Rightler-McDaniels, a Ph.D. candidate and graduate teaching associate in journalism and electronic media, is a critical, cultural media scholar who researches the social constructs of race and gender as constructed in and depicted by media. Rightler-McDaniels said she sees benefits in a younger audience being given access to Davis' views.
"Most students are somewhat knowledgeable about the peaceful attempts at equality by MLK and others, but fewer probably know about the more aggressive plights of others like the Black Panther Party."
While Davis' most famous activism occurred nearly 60 years ago, many consider civil rights and gender equality still to be highly debated topics.
Michelle Alexander, a 2013 UT guest speaker, wrote in her book, "The New Jim Crow," that one in three black men will go to prison in their lifetime, and black female servers are paid 60 percent of what their white male co-workers earn.
"We are only about 50 years removed from the Civil Rights Movement," Rightler-McDaniels said. "However, racism and sexism abound in our society.
"As a nation, we live under the facade of equality and continue to have a long road ahead if we are to ever achieve 'equality,' if at all."
Rader said she hopes that Davis' talk will highlight issues within our society to empower minorities and start a conversation about the problems she sees as still present today.
"I hope Angela Davis' talk will convince people that we can't afford to continue taking the path of least resistance," Rader said. "We need to be aware of our implicit biases against people of color and women.
"Stand up against your friend who thinks we shouldn't raise the minimum wage; stand up against your friend who doesn't support reproductive justice; stand up against your friend who wants to get rid of affirmative action because racism is real."