Abolitionist, professor, and author Angela Davis has long been one of my greatest influences since I became an abolitionist (here’s an essay I wrote about her for my Writing for Social Change class last year), so when I learned about Haymarket Books’ 40% off sale, her books were first in my basket! Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of A Movement is one of her most purchased books (obviously ‘Are Prisons Obsolete’ is the bestseller, especially right now) and as I’ve started to become more invested in organizing and expanding my beliefs on international revolutions, this text seemed like the best avenue to turn to.
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle is a collection of interviews with human rights activist Frank Barat, speeches, and essays in which Davis illuminates the connections between oppressed groups of people around the world and how abolition, intersectional Black feminism, and anti-capitalism (specifically Communism) are the most essential theories in the fight for liberation. While most of the chapters are focused on different movements and topics (ie: Progressive Struggles Against Insidious Capitalist Individualism; On Palestine, G4S, and the Prison-Industrial Complex; From Michael Brown to Assata Shakur, the Racist State of America Persists), much of what Davis writes is consistent throughout the book. For example, she repeatedly ties the state-sanctioned violence Black people in America experience with the same oppressive institutions Palestinians are forced to live in under Israeli occupation. She also mentions how Palestinians were the first ones to teach Black people in Ferguson how to properly care for tear gas burns and pain after Michael Brown was murdered and the citizens were terrorized and brutalized by cops and the National Guard.
One of the most enlightening parts of Freedom Is A Constant Struggle is when Davis discussed how closely tied the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is with American police departments. On page 15, she writes “And also it might be important to point out that the Israeli police have been involved in the training of US police. So there is this connection between the US military and the Israeli military. And therefore it means that when we try to organize campaigns in solidarity with Palestine, when we try to challenge the Israeli state, it’s not simply focusing our struggles elsewhere, in another place. It also has to do with what happens in US communities.” I didn’t know that American police departments often send their recruits to Israel to train with the literal Israeli military, so the similarities in brutality and mass violence between the two groups is recognizable. Of course, a large part of the book concentrates on the state of American policing and incarceration and how both only work to disappear and kill primarily Black Americans.
Davis never strays from her lifelong position for Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) abolition, which is evident when she writes “When we are told that we simply need better police and better prisons, we counter with what we really need. We need to reimagine security, which will involve the abolition of policing and imprisonment as we know them. We will say demilitarize the police, disarm the police, abolish the institution of the police as we know it, and abolish imprisonment as the dominant mode of punishment. But we will have only just begun to tell the truth about violence in America,” (Davis 90).
The entirety of Freedom Is A Constant Struggle is full of wisdom and tools useful especially in a mass moment of uprisings like we’re seeing today. Although I was already familiar with much of what Davis wrote—specifically that of abolitionist reasoning—I still learned from her discussions on Palestine and international allied groups. I would highly recommend this book with 5/5 stars and hope that everyone—even those who aren’t abolitionists—will read and absorb all that Davis has to offer.