An ethereal voice wailed violently to the tune of a tortured, melancholy jazz as the Marin County courthouse in San Rafael, California filled the projector screen.
Old photos depicting the bloodied bodies of Black men who had been gunned down after attempting to free political prisoners and kidnapping a judge and three jurors in the middle of trial proceedings flashed by in black and white.
This is how “Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners” begins. The film depicts the fight for Davis’ freedom from prison after she was implicated in kidnapping, conspiracy and murder because, even though she wasn’t there, the guns were registered in her name.
The film played from 2-4 p.m. at California State University, Long Beach’s Karl Anatol Conference Center and was the first sociology department Metropolitan and Policy Studies Network event this academic year.
Davis, a counterculture activist involved with the Black Panthers, worked as a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles until she was fired for being a member of the Communist Party.
“Although, obviously the climate has changed a great deal since then, on some level, you always have to be cognizant of the politics you come with [as a professor],” cohost and CSULB sociology professor Jan Haldipur said. Professor of sociology Jake Wilson also hosted the event.
MAPS’ mission is to link “cutting-edge, applied scholarship with local on-the-ground community organizations, students and social activists in order to encourage dialogue and solutions to an array of pressing urban social problems,” according to the sociology department page on the CSULB website.
Nearly filling the room, 119 students turned out to watch the film directed by Shola Lynch. Most came from the various departments across the college of liberal arts.
“I lived that time,” senior sociology major Solange Rutledge said after the screening. “I just remember it being a long passionate struggle to free her.”
Rutledge also said that she was living in Berkeley during the fight for Davis’ freedom.
“We were very politically involved at Berkeley,” Rutledge said. “We walked on the Vietnam War and they took us seriously.”
The film is important for students to see because people don’t think about academic freedom, taking it for granted, Haldipur said, but the Angela Davis case demonstrates how academic freedom and social equality are won.
For those who missed the film, it is available on various online streaming services.