Angela Davis is a true American hero. The activist, scholar and one-time Black Panther continues the fight for freedom, particularly as it relates to the abuses of the prison industrial system. Her relationship with Black Panther and author George Jackson, who’s “Soledad Brother” is a classic book of the Black power struggle, led to her becoming the third woman ever on the FBI’s most wanted list. Her arrest and trial in 1970 on aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in conjunction with a courthouse raid led by Jackson’s brother Jonathan, led to a worldwide support movement to free her from jail and fight against her conviction. Davis was ultimately acquitted of all charges and became a professor in the California state university system.
Now filmmaker Shola Lynch, who’s also made a documentary about Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm the first African-American woman to run for President, has made a documentary about Davis’ life called “Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners.” The story of Davis’ life and activism is told through archival footage and the voices of those who were involved in the movement. The film has drawn the support of prominent backers including Jada Pinkett Smith and Overbrook Entertainment, Jay-Z and BET Networks. It opens in limited release this Frida in AMC theaters. Pinkett Smith joined The Tom Joyner Morning Show to talk about why she was so passionate about this project.
TOM JOYNER: So Will Smith called a family meeting and said Jada, you haven’t brought in any family money lately…
(in fake Jada voice) Jada said Will, Will Will I got the Angela Davis documentary coming out soon
(in fake Will voice)When’s it coming out?
(in fake Jada voice)This Friday
(in fake Will voice) Aight
SYBIL WILKES: That’s how it went at the dinner table
Tom: That’s how Big Willie run it. Is that right, Jada?
JADA PINKETT SMITH: Nawwww. Not quite. How you guys doing this morning?
Tom: We’re doing good, Jada. “Free Angels Davis and All Political Prisoners” comes out this Friday and it’s in AMC theaters.
Jada: It’s in AMC theaters in select cities, though. We’re doing a small rollout; actually a pretty big rollout for a documentary and I must say I’m pretty proud of this particular project.
Tom: I saw it, I loved it.
Jada: Thank you.
Tom: How did you get involved?
Jada: My girlfriend Sidra Smith, brought me this project. She brought it to me because our director Shola Lynch still needed money and of course she needed distribution. I watched it and I was like “Let’s find this money, let’s get this distribution and that’s exactly what we did.
Sybil: How much did you know about Angela Davis before you started this project?
Jada: You know it’s funny. Through my family and also once I became really good friends with Tupac Shakur, that’s really when I got pretty educated about the Black Panther movement. Of course, Angela Davis being a very prominent figure during that particular era. So that’s when I became a really big fan.
Tom: There’s probably like two, three generations that have no clue of the name Angela Davis, the Black Panther Party, Power to the People. They don’t know the story.
Jada: No, they don’t know the story.
Tom: The only Soledad they know is O’Brien.
Jada: Ha, that’s true. That’s one of the reasons why I felt this particular documentary was so important. It’s such a powerful aspect of not just Black history but American history and world history. I mean, Angela Davis become the figure of freedom and justice not only in our country but around the world. The world rallied around this woman during the trial. Many people in our nation, not just African-Americans – you’ll see in this movie – but Latinos, white people, everybody that believed in the ideals in this country rallied around Angela Davis during her trial. It’s really the illumination of the building blocks that we know today. When I took my kids they only know the America that voted in and African-American president, President Barack Obama. That’s the only world they know. It kind of brough them to a new reality of what America was and how far we’ve come.
Tom: Angela Davis was known for her iconic Afro.
Sybil: This is Tom’s takeaway from this, Jada.
Tom: Jada I watched the movie. Having had an Afro in the past and to have neat Afro is a lot of work, her Afro was always in place. Always.
Sybil: There was never a flat side.
Tom: No. Even when she entered a courtroom –
Jada: When she entered a courtroom, in all of her interviews –
Even in prison, her hair was on point!
Tom: She never had flat-top or side-top, it was always blown out and perfect. In every scene in that movie and I watched the whole movie…there was one scene when the police raided the Black Panther Party at 4:30 in the morning and she was down there talking to the press at 7:30 in the morning, she had just woke up. And she looked like she had just got out the chair!
Jada: It was on point. You’re right. She did not miss a beat. Not one beat.
Tom: it starts in selected AMC theaters on Friday. Check your local listings.
Sybil: And your partner, Sidra Smith, is also the twin sister of Tasha Smith.
Jada: Yeah, she is.
Sybil: Pretty dynamic family there, too.
Tom: Good work, Jada, good work. I like this.