Angela Davis helps kick off refounding of organization born from her 1970 arrest

By Justin Anderson, Photojournalist

More than 40 years after the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression was first founded in Chicago, activists have called for a refounding amid growing racism and repression of marginalized communities.

The Chicago Teachers Union hosted the Rally on Human Rights as part of the NAARPR’s refounding conference in the CTU Center, 1901 W. Carroll Ave., on Friday, Nov. 22.

Angela Davis—the 75-year-old former member of the Communist Party and associate of the Black Panther Party who has been an activist and educator since the civil rights movement—was featured at the rally and gave a keynote speech on democracy and policing in America.

“Since that period of the late ’60s and early ’70s,” Davis said, in reference to the original founding of the NAARPR in 1973, “we have developed new approaches, more elucidating vocabularies, more revealing analysis. And thanks to feminist scholars and organizers, we’ve begun to understand more clearly connections and relationalities and intersectionalities.”

Davis became a well-known activist following her arrest in 1970, which took place after firearms registered in her name were used by Jonathan Jackson to hold a courtroom hostage in order to demand the freedom of the Soledad Brothers, a group of black prisoners who were on trial for killing a guard, resulting in four deaths. Davis, who was not present in the courtroom, became one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives following the incident until she was caught. However, she was later acquitted in 1972.

Those who fought to free Davis then founded the NAARPR three years after her arrest to fight the “unjust treatment of individuals because of race or political beliefs,” according to the organization’s website.

“A 21st century defense organization cannot simply replicate the 20th century version,” Davis said. “Of course, today we have to continue to get people out of jail and to call for decarceration, but at the same time, we have to make very explicit calls for the abolition of the prison entirely.”

Other speakers included CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, who started the rally with a speech on justice and identity, as well as Aislinn Pulley, founder of Chicago’s Black Lives Matter chapter, whose address centered around Chicago issues and activism.

“While we have these historic victories, we need to defend them,” Pulley said, while touching on achievements made by Chicago activists over the past few years. “Because they can easily be taken away.”