Sponsored by the University of California Riverside’s Center for Ideas and Society’s “Decolonizing Humanities (?)” initiative and UCR Faculty for Justice in Palestine


A roundtable with Angela Y. Davis, Jess Ghannam, and Robin D.G. Kelley.


Through the 1980s, campuses throughout the United States and internationally were the sites of a student-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid regime, a campaign called for by South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC). In many cases, anti-apartheid campaigns conjoined with demands for an end to “apartheid on campus” as students contested racial and gender discrimination and the rollback of affirmative action in their own institutions. Administration buildings were occupied, shanty-towns constructed on campus, and the meetings of Regents or Trustees disrupted. This was a campus movement that also coordinated with trades unions, religious communities, and a broad spectrum of social movements. And over the course of several years or organizing and protests, and despite obdurate administrative resistance, it succeeded in bringing many universities to divest and contributed greatly to the mainstreaming of the anti-apartheid movement as a moral and political cause for civil society as a whole. Notably, this campaign succeeded despite the Reagan and Bush administration’s deep support for the apartheid regime as a significant Cold War ally and source of raw materials.


Now the campaign for divestment from Israeli and from corporations that support its genocidal war and apartheid regime is spreading across US campuses in response to Palestinian civil society’s call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). This round table is intended to offer insights for the present from the history of the previous anti-apartheid movement. How was it organized? What were its overall strategies? What varieties of practice were used to advance the campaign? What tactics succeeded most effectively? How did campus organizations succeed in growing and drawing support? How were coalitions built with other civil society movements? In what ways did university administrations and police seek to repress or contain the divestment movement? And how does the present conjuncture differ from the 1980s in ways that demand new thinking and strategies? What has changed since the Reagan era, both in terms of the experience of social movement activism in neoliberal America and in terms of the strengthening of the state’s forces of repression? How specifically must the campaign against Israeli apartheid differ in its language, analysis, and strategies from the campaign against South Africa?


Zoom Registrationhttps://ucr.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAod-qgpzIrHNeoUA337buBDaYV6yZaarst


Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is known internationally for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and abroad. Over the years she has been active as a student, teacher, writer, scholar, and activist/organizer. She is the author of nine books, including Angela Davis: An Autobiography; Women, Race, and Class; Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday; Are Prisons Obsolete?; and The Meaning of Freedom. She is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia that works in solidarity with women in prison.


Dr. Jess Ghannam is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine at UCSF. His research areas include evaluating the long-term health consequences of war on displaced communities and the psychological and psychiatric effects of armed conflict on children. Dr. Ghannam also does research in the area of Global Health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has developed community health clinics in the Middle East that focus on developing community-based treatment programs for families in crisis. Past president of the Arab Cultural and Community Center and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in San Francisco, Dr. Ghannam is also a consultant with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve and other international NGO's that work with torture survivors. He has been a frequent visitor to Gaza over the past several decades.


Robin D. G. Kelley is Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Professor of History at UCLA. His research has explored the history of social movements in the U.S., the African Diaspora, and Africa; Black intellectuals; music and visual culture; Surrealism, Marxism, among many other things. His many books include Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012); Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original  (The Free Press, 2009); and the classic Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Beacon Press, 2002, reprinted in 2023). Professor Kelley is a long-time Palestine solidarity activist and has written about the Ferguson/Gaza convergence that catalyzed the current wave of Black-Palestinian transnational solidarity.   

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