BAR Book Forum delves into Conversations with Angela Davis.
In this series, we ask acclaimed authors to answer five questions about their book. This week’s featured author is Sharon Lynette Jones. Jones is professor in the Department of English Language and Literatures at Wright State University. Her book is Conversations with Angela Davis.
Roberto Sirvent: How can your book help BAR readers understand the current political and social climate?
Sharon Lynette Jones: Conversations with Angela Davis contains multiple interviews in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In this way, the readership will be gaining exposure to numerous viewpoints and perspectives from Angela Davis. A benefit of Conversations with Angela Davis is that people have an opportunity to read about Davis’s observations as events occur retrospectively and in reflection. They will be better able to consider the evolution of Angela Davis’s ideas over an extended period of time, which is highly beneficial, enriching, and constructive. Angela Davis expounds on activism, class, civil rights, education, gender, health care, law enforcement, incarceration, literature, music, philosophy, politics, policing, race, and numerous additional topics within the interviews. The commentary by Angela Davis offers contexts for understanding contemporary events. The readership will have an opportunity to gain an understanding about Angela Davis’s relationship with civil rights struggles. They will gain the benefit of Angela Davis’s nuanced, astute, and thoughtful analysis of issues while also gaining an understanding of the historical and cultural implication of societal changes. Conversations with Angela Davis undoubtedly enables and facilitates a way for people to deeply and intensely explore the people, places, and events that have shaped Angela Davis consciousness nationally as well as globally in very meaningful ways.
What do you hope activists and community organizers will take away from reading your book?
I think Conversations with Angela Davis will be a great resource for people engaged in activism as well as organizing within and outside the United States of America. The first-hand insights from Angela Davis in Conversations with Angela Davis about activism in the past and in more recent times will provide current and emerging activists with historical and cultural frameworks for their activities. The opportunity for reading numerous interviews with Angela Davis in many sources aimed at a variety of audiences will provide new or experienced activists with ways of understanding the causes and the effects of issues revolving around social justice within and outside the United States of America. I believe the interviews in Conversations with Angela Davis can provide them with knowledge that will help to foster strategies and methods for looking at civil rights struggles in system and structural contexts. It is useful additionally because of the insight the readership can gain into Angela Davis’s longstanding activism over several decades. Through examining interviews in Conversations with Angela Davis, people engaged in a variety of organizations, coalitions, and communities will be able to glean information that will be useful, helpful, and integral to their continued work. Conversations with Angela Davis has much to offer and provide in relationship to activism and civil rights.
We know readers will learn a lot from your book, but what do you hope readers will un-learn? In other words, is there a particular ideology you’re hoping to dismantle?
I do think that Conversations with Angela Davis has the potential for contributing to discourse pertinent to economics, history, literature, music, philosophy, politics, religion, and other areas of critical inquiry in a significant way. I think one of the attributes of this book is that it does not present a monolithic or one-dimensional view of the topics addressed in Conversations with Angela Davis. It is important to “un-learn” the idea that complex problems have simple solutions and that civil rights struggles in the past bear no connection to civil rights struggles in recent times. It is important to resist superficial or simplistic approaches to problems and challenges. Unlearning the idea that there are no correlations between now and previous years expands the possibility of understanding and comprehending in a well-rounded, deep, and informed manner. In other words, through reading Conversations with Angela Davis, people will gain or develop an understanding that cultural and societal issues have complex causes, effects, consequences, and far-reaching implications. In turn, it is important to interrogate, investigate, and explore ideas in a multi-layered approach. I think one of the many vital and necessary takeaways from Conversations with Angela Davis is the continuity in relation to Angela Davis’s engagement and activities.
Who are the intellectual heroes that inspire your work?
Certainly. I have appreciated the writing, speaking, and activism of Angela Davis for many decades. I find that Angela Davis has perspectives and ideas that are pertinent to many disciplines. I admire the intellectualism and complexities of thought exhibited by Angela Davis. I appreciate the ways in which Angela Davis has and continues to engage with people through publishing, speaking, and interviews. The commitment to analysis, exploration, and research shown by Angela Davis is truly impressive. I know that I have greatly benefitted and increased my understanding about many topics through my exposure to the ideas of Angela Davis. I would also describe Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes as intellectuals, and I think they both profoundly contributed to a better understanding of the importance of African-American literary and cultural traditions. I admire the perseverance exhibited by people such as Angela Davis, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes.
In what way does your book help us imagine new worlds?
I would like for Conversations with Angela Davis to enter into the crucial conversation and necessary discourse about the life and contributions of Angela Davis. I do think very strongly that Conversations with Angela Davis will have appeal to people from a variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and perspectives, academic disciplines, and geographical areas. I consider it vital that when people read Conversations with Angela Davis that they will consider it to be a significant, invaluable, and accessible resource for thinking about historical and contemporary events, ideas, and phenomenon. In addition, I consider it imperative that the readership think about how the interviews in Conversations with Angela Davis will make them consider the applicability and the importance of the ideas expressed now and in the future to issues that are of concern to them and other people. For example, they can consider what lessons can be derived from the experiences, observations , and commentary of Angela Davis . I think that Conversations with Angela Davis has a very strong potentiality through the content to both continue and/or facilitate dialogue relevant to the readership by expanding their conception and awareness. I think that Conversations with Angela Davis reveals the possibilities for long-term transformations.
Roberto Sirvent is editor of the Black Agenda Report Book Forum.