Choreography Inspired by Radical UCLA Professor

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On March 5, after a long two years, CAP UCLA will return to presenting at Royce Hall with Ronald K. Brown’s newest work, The Equality of Night and Day: First Glimpse. Along with the score by jazz pianist Jason Moran, an important element of the piece is recorded words from speeches by activist Angela Davis, who, coincidentally, also has a long connection with Royce Hall.

Born in deeply segregated Alabama, when Davis was hired as a philosophy professor by UCLA in 1969 she already had a reputation as a radical focused on oppressions at the intersections of class, race and gender. The UC Board of Regents, under pressure from then-Governor Ronald Reagan, tried to fire her even before she taught a class, on the basis of her politics. When a judge struck down her firing as unconstitutional and she returned to campus, her first lecture back had to be held in Royce Hall due to the overflowing crowd.

The Regents fired Davis again in 1970 for “inflammatory language.” Shortly after being dismissed from UCLA, Davis was hunted down and arrested on charges of accessory to murder and conspiracy. Denounced by President Nixon as a “dangerous terrorist,” Davis was tried and found not guilty, with the case drawing international attention. She is likely the only former UCLA professor ever to be placed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list, or to have inspired a song by the Rolling Stones.

In 2014, Davis was at last welcomed back to Royce Hall to lecture on feminism and prison abolition. Davis’ life and work are an inspiration to those fighting for civil rights, gender equality and academic freedom, so it is unsurprising that she was a muse for Brown in the creation of The Equality of Night and Day: First Glimpse, which grapples with current events and issues of balance and fairness in modern society. At a time of heated debates over social justice and with increasing political pressures on educational institutions to not confront difficult truths, Angela Davis still has much to teach us.

As part of our presentation of Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, we’ll be highlighting the legacy of Angela Davis before the performance and during intermission. Join the conversation and check out our pop-up library, spoken word performances, and a special exhibit with music, books, photos, speeches and archival materials from our partners at UCLA Library Special Collections.