On Nov. 12, 1969, Angela Davis, political icon and future member of the FBI's most wanted list, stood in Bobby Hutton Memorial Park (aka DeFremery Park), her afro like a giant F-You to the system she set out to defy.
The woman wasn't afraid to speak her mind. But what did she say?
That's a question that is hard to answer because finding a transcript is like finding a hidden treasure.
Davis has become more famous for her revolutionary chic than for her politics.
On Saturday, however, her words and spirit will fill DeFremery Park for the re-enactment of her 1969 speech, which called for connecting the anti-Vietnam War movement with protest against inequality in the United States because they were two sides of the same coin.
Mark Tribe, who is behind the re-enactment of key "New Left" protest speeches from the 1960s and '70s, dug up the Pacifica Radio recording of Davis in the UC Berkeley digital library.
"We are facing a common enemy, and that enemy is Yankee Imperialism, which is killing us both here and abroad," Davis said that November day, the cadence of her words drawn out.
The restaging — Port Huron Project 5: The Liberation of Our People — is phase two of what could be called a revolutionary politics weekend. So pull out the leather jackets, black berets and political consciousness.
At 6:30 tonight, the Oakland Museum will set the stage for the re-enactment with a condensed version of the experimental documentary "Chicago 10," which recounts the Chicago conspiracy trial after the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The film re-creates Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale being gagged and bound to his chair during the first part of the trial, which has gone down in history as a mockery of justice. In her speech, Davis used Seale's treatment as an example of repression that people should unite to resist.
Then at 7:30 p.m., Tribe, Black Panther Minister of Culture Emory Douglas and the museum's curator, Rene de Guzman, will be on hand to discuss the performances, art and politics — past and present.
There's plenty to talk about.
When Tribe, 41, began teaching in the modern culture and media department at Brown University in 2005, he said he was struck by how little protest existed two years into the Iraq war, especially compared to his student days 20 years earlier when protests against Apartheid-era South Africa and CIA recruiting on campus erupted regularly.
What he discovered from his students, who were at or around voting age during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, both of which were marked by accusations of voter fraud, was resignation and a sense of futility except for action on a local micro level. In other words, protest seemed futile.
The streets of U.S. cities had filled with people protesting the 2000 election, then the war in Iraq. But George Bush was inaugurated, and the lead-up to the war quickly became the war and is still the war.
And Bush was re-elected, but his poll ratings would drop even lower than President Nixon's, even though the disgraced Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment.
What political action, Tribe began to wonder, can be effective in the 21st century?
And what would it feel like to be part of a movement that could change history and create revolutionary change?
Tribe said it is important to understand where the United States is today compared to 40 years ago because there are so many parallels. (War, unpopular president. Then, Mad magazine was a reality check. Today people turn to Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" for news. What, me worry?)
Tribe said he chose speeches — six in all — by Davis, Cesar Chavez, Howard Zinn, Coretta Scott King, Paul Potter and Stokely Carmichael because they penetrated deep into our social, cultural and political roots to plant the radical idea that society is responsible for all its citizens. (Did someone just say, "Radical for whom?")
The performances by actors will be posted online (http://nothing.org/porthuronproject).
They are not meant to be the end product. They are thought-provoking performance art. Art as resistance. Speeches, Tribe said, can encapsulate the highest ideas and catalyze participation in history.
"It's about working on consciousness."
If you have a cool shindig, e-mail me at email@example.com or visit the Night Owl blog www.ibabuzz.com/nightowl for more events and oddities. Also 7:30 p.m. Friday in the outside garden, "Paperback Dreams" director Alex Beckstead will be on hand to discuss the story of two local bookstores — Cody's and Kepler's — and their struggle to survive, followed by a screening of the film. Birth of the Cool and Cool Remixed gallery shows are also ongoing the Oakland Museum.
If you go