(CNSNews.com) – Former Communist Party member and long-time radical left activist Angela Davis is the subject of a new documentary partly financed by Hollywood mogul Jada Pinkett Smith (wife of actor Will Smith), who praised the Lenin Peace Prize winner as a “figure that embodied justice and freedom.”
Davis was a member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) from 1969 to 1991. She traveled to East Germany in 1979 to personally accept the International Lenin Peace Prize. She ran as a vice presidential candidate on the CPUSA ticket in 1980 and 1984, and today she is on the advisory board of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.
Davis also owned the shotgun that was used to kidnap and kill Marin County Judge Harold Haley on Aug. 7, 1970 in a scheme involving one of Davis’s acquaintances, a crime that led to Davis fleeing from authorities, being placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, and facing a trial and acquittal in 1972 on murder, kidnapping, and criminal conspiracy charges. She was found not guilty on all counts.
The new documentary, released on Apr. 5, is entitled Free Angela and All Political Prisoners and Jada Pinkett Smith is the executive producer of the film. “For me, Angela Davis was a very important political figure and what she represented, even for me as a woman,” Smith told HuffPost Live in an Apr. 4 interview to promote the movie.
Neither Smith nor HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill mentioned that Davis had been a long-time Communist and that she had accepted the Lenin Peace Prize from a Soviet regime responsible for the death of 35 million people for political reasons.
Smith went on to say that Davis was “an important part of American history” and “world history” because “the world rallied around Angela Davis and what she represented for people who were in a struggle. And so I thought it was very important that we tell her story.”
Smith explained that Davis was a hero to her children, daughter Willow and son Jaden. “We’re reaping the benefits of the building blocks of that particular era, which is another reason why I thought it was important [to help finance the film],” said Smith.
“You know, when I took Willow and Jaden to see this movie, they couldn’t imagine the America before we had President Barack Obama -- right?" said Smith. "And they got to meet Angela Davis and got to speak with her, and I remember Willow looking to me and going, ‘Mommy, I actually got to meet a super hero today without a cape.’ That’s how impactful her seeing this movie was for her. … I’m very proud and honored to be able to deliver this story, not only for the world, for our nation, but for her.”
“Miss Davis at this time became the political icon that she became because she became, she embodied a representation of the right for all to have justice and freedom, no matter the color, no matter your gender, no matter your political views,” said Smith. “This particular movie illuminates how the consciousness of America began to shift and we start to see the building blocks of an America that we all reap the benefits for today, of today, so it’s quite intriguing.”
In an earlier interview that day on NPR, Smith had praised Davis but never mentioned her connections to the Communist Party or her long-held and ongoing support for radical left-wing causes.
“You know what was most surprising to me is that the idea of what she [Davis] inspired, not just nationally, but throughout the world, that she became this figure that embodied justice and freedom, and that people all over the world that were fighting for justice and freedom, you know, used her as the symbol in which to forge ahead,” said Smith.
“I look at Angela Davis now as being a figure that was really in the middle of the building blocks of the America that we have today, and that she was really part of a time where America was shifting its consciousness, and she was a big part of that,” said Smith. “And I look at this story as being one of the reasons and parts of the path of how we've gotten to have an African-American president, or even for myself or my husband or, you know, my kids to exist in the way that we do.”
When NPR host Michel Martin asked, “Is there any part of her story that particularly resonates with you?” Jada Pinkett Smith said, “I just think the idea of her having the courage to not back down from what she believes, and then when she got into more difficulty, how her value system strengthened even more. … There's not a human being that I don't think that could look at Angela Davis and have respect for the courage to stick to her values and stay strong in her convictions through all of the turmoil that she encountered. And that is something to respect, because I -- you don't see that a lot these days.”
In addition to her activity with the Communist Party USA, Angela Davis had close associations with the Black Panther Party. After her acquittal in 1972, Davis traveled to Communist Cuba. She was a professor in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department at the University of California-Santa Cruz from 1991 to 2008. She currently is distinguished professor emerita at UCal-Santa Cruz.Davis also frequently speaks at college campuses around the country. She is the author of at least 10 books, and much of her writing focuses on race and U.S. prisons, or what she terms the “prison-industrial complex.”