Alabama-based Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has changed its mind about honoring civil rights activist Angela Davis, without much of an explanation. Critics are pointing to Davis’s positions on Israel and Palestine for clues.
Davis, 74, was supposed to receive the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award from BCRI in mid-February, but the institute announced that this will not happen.
Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis’ statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based.
The BCRI cited complaints by “supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community.”
Though the BCRI did not point to any specific reason, many African-American and Jewish activists quickly pointed to the most likely cause: Davis’s support for the Palestinian cause, and in particular the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) movement.
To argue that Angela Davis is unworthy of a civil rights award is beyond shameful. And to dance around the fact that it’s due to her outspoken support of Palestinian rights makes it outrageous. https://t.co/dC2yplrFYE
— JewishVoiceForPeace (@jvplive) January 7, 2019
Birmingham Mayor Mayor Randall Woodfin was specific, however, saying the decision followed “protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies.” He called the BCRI and its critics to engage “each other constructively, rather than retreating to their respective corners and continuing to behave in a reactive manner.”
Activists in Birmingham have called for resignations of BCRI officials and announced protests.
“This is the ultimate insult to deny Angela Davis her inheritance,” activist Frank Matthews told AP. He compared the Birmingham-born Davis to Rosa Parks, leader of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.
BCRI alum Ahmad Ward took personal offense at the institute’s claim the decision to rescind Davis’s honor was “consistent with the ideals of the award’s namesake, Rev. Shuttlesworth.”
“I spent an inordinate amount of time with Fred L. Shuttleworth,” Ward wrote on his Facebook page. “He WOULD NOT agree with this. I am personally offended at that statement.”
“I knew that man. Whoever crafted that sentence clearly did not,” Ward added.
Davis is a former member of the Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Communist Party USA, well known for being a champion of prison reform and an outspoken critic of Israel in recent years.
A number of US states have enacted legal measures punishing support for the BDS movement, which advocates treating Israel the same way as apartheid-era South Africa over its treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
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