Birmingham Institute Reverses Davis Decision

Angela Davis has been reoffered the Shuttlesworth award from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Angela Davis has been reoffered the Shuttlesworth award from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

By Free Radical

In an apparent about face, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) re-invited lifelong freedom fighter Angela Davis to accept its Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. The award recognizes “individuals for their service to civil and human rights causes around the world. It is the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.”

Angela Davis was originally chosen for the award in September. However, it was ironically Angela Davis’s support for human rights, particularly for the people of Palestine that caught the ire of members of Birmingham’s Jewish community which applied enough pressure on the BCRI to force the organization to rescind the award. According to national reports, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center sent the BCRI a letter urging them to disinvite Davis because of her support for the divestment of Israel and its apartheid style polices on the people of Palestine. In a statement, the BCRI announced that it “began receiving messages of concern from various segments in the Birmingham Community” which persuaded their January decision to no longer honor Davis.

This decision was met with instantaneous derision. Birmingham’s mayor Randall Woodfin, who is also a member of the BCRI board,was dismayed about the undemocratic process in which the decision was made. In a statement, he expressed, “The crisis of leadership at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute represents a clash of values, wherein the institution responsible for stewarding powerful, poignant and respectful dialogue, has demonstrated that they do not value dialogue with residents of Birmingham and the public at large.”

Even Jewish organizations, such as the Jewish Voice for Peace came to Davis’s defense and created a petition urging the BCRI to reverse the decision.

Davis had also stated that she still planned on coming to Birmingham to attend an “alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us.”

Yet in a reverse of course, the BCRI announced it would reoffer the Shuttlesworth award to Davis. In a prepared statement, the BCRI expressed “in keeping with its commitment to learning from its mistakes and in order to stay true to the BCRI’s founding mission, the board voted to reaffirm Dr. Davis as the recipient. Dr. Davis was immediately thereafter personally invited to reaccept the award.”

Davis has not announced if she planned to attend the event which honors Fred Shuttlesworth, who headed the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, and for many years was the face of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement.

In related news, on Saturday, it was announced that Black filmmaker Julie Dash will direct a biopic of Angela Davis. It will be produced by Lionsgate and Sidra Smith. The screenplay will be written by Brian Tucker. Davis will be involved in the project which is set to begin filming in June.

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