Angela Davis spoke at Johns Hopkins University on the war on drugs, race, gender and the prison population. (Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins University)

Angela Davis, noted activist and scholar, took the stage at Johns Hopkins University on Feb. 2 to deliver a lecture that touched on the war on drugs, race, gender and the prison population.

Davis, who currently teaches humanities at the University of California, Santa Cruz and has lectured across American and internationally, was a staunch advocate for the oppressed.

Junior and neuroscience major, Kinaya Hardie was excited to attend the event and hear Davis speak.

“I just believe that Angela Davis is such an impactful activist through Black history and I just love her,” said Hardie. “I believe strongly in very powerful activism and radicalism and her influence on women and Black women specifically.”

The second Davis walked on the stage a roar of applause filled the room and she was met with a standing ovation.

Davis opened with speaking about Baltimore’s influence on justice.

“Of course throughout the world today, the mere mention of the city of Baltimore evokes the police killing of Freddie Gray and the protests that were unleashed by his death,” said Davis. “As well as the continuing efforts to achieve justice for Freddie Gray and to persuade the world that Black lives do indeed matter.”

The main focuses of David’s speech were both prison and race. The main question she wanted to address was “how can individuals be held accountable without concealing the deep structural racism that is embedded in the very systems of policing and imprisonment?”

“There’s now a popular public discourse on the continuing connection between over incarceration and policing on the one hand and the persistence of racism on the other,” said Davis.

“Racism continues to play a determining role in who gets stopped by police and who doesn’t; who gets arrested and who goes free; who gets longer sentences, who gets shorter sentences. Racism is a factor from the beginning of the beginning to the end from what was called the justice process… the justice process that does appear to be criminal.”

Davis took time to answer questions from the audience. On Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan taking money from higher education institutions to rebuild a prison in Baltimore Davis said:

“The millions of dollars that are being spent on the jail here in Baltimore could be better used by re-envisioning education. How much would it take to rebuild a new school? And not just a new school but a new school with teachers that are not schooled in the notion that discipline is the main activity that teachers should engage in. The board of supervisors in San Francisco California refused to agree to the construction of a new jail and in announcing their decision they made it very clear that they wanted those millions of dollars to be used in a way that would be more productive for the San Francisco community.”

The more Davis spoke, the more of an effect she had on her audience. Melissa “Queen Earth” Smith was clapping and cheering in agreement with Davis as she spoke.

“I liked when she said when a problem is so big and overwhelming you have to ask yourself ‘Where do you start?’ and she said ‘Everybody can start somewhere,’ that’s beautiful,” said Smith “People feel like ‘oh, what can I do?’ or you have to pick apart everything you do all day and what did I do to contribute to the revolution. You can start anywhere.”

If there is anything that Davis made clear speaking at JHU it’s that there needs to be a change and the answer to that change does not involve prison.

“We need new conceptions of security that do not reside on police and prisons as the anchors of a notion of security that includes more oppression and more violence,” said Davis at the end of her lecture.