Activist Angela Davis speaks to East Bay high school students on decades of advocacy

Students from two high schools invited well-known Bay Area political activist Angela Davis to speak about her decades of experience fighting against racism and other causes.

The students, who learned about her in an African American history class, sought direct insight from her.

Davis said the challenges she faced shaped her life's work as an activist and educator.

"I am so happy to be here at Alameda High School," said Davis as she addressed the audience and joined a panel of students. Organizers estimated that 1,800 people attended the event.

Before the event started, Davis told KTVU, "As a longtime Oaklander, it's really important for me to do work in the community."


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That work included engaging with members of the Black student unions at Alameda High and Castro Valley High who organized the event.

Reflecting on her life's work, Davis said it was sparked by her time in jail.

Davis said the work that she's been doing for the last 50 years was sparked by her time in jail. 
In 1970, guns belonging to Davis were used in an armed takeover of a courtroom in Marin County in which 4 people were killed.

She was prosecuted for 3 felonies, including conspiracy to murder and the death penalty was a possibility before she was acquitted of all charges following over a year in jail.

"I don't think I would be who I am today had I not spent that time with other people in prison," said Davis.

One organizer said she saw a documentary about Davis and thought that her unapologetic stance on her beliefs was impressive. Students said they admired her strength and resiliency.

"In the face of adversity, especially when she was going to prison, she stood up for what she believed in," said Diego De La Rosa, a Castro Valley High student.  

"We talk about women's issues, and we talk about Black issues, but we don't really talk about how those align," said Naomi Abraham, an Alameda High student. .

Among the many topics Davis addressed was her passion for the abolition of prisons, a cause she hopes future generations will continue the work.

"The repressive and racist structures of jails, prisons and police, so I certainly hope that we're able to engage those issues," said Davis.  

She said young people are always at the forefront for a better future.  She loves their enthusiasm and sense of urgency. Her message to them: It's okay to make mistakes.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.