The fact that Angela Davis is the winner of this year´s ethecon Blue Planet Award gives me a feeling of great satisfaction. It is above all a recognition of her decade-long self-sacrificing commitment to promote the human rights of millions - most of them non-white inmates and victims of the prison industries in the USA, which are owned by the most brutal exploiters in this capital of imperialism.
The name of Angela Davis is connected with half of my life. I met her again last year, when she was in Berlin, Leipzig and Magdeburg on the occasion of the reprinting of my article about the show trial in San Jose. About 40 years ago I first heard about the discrimination dealt to Angela by the then governor of California and later US president, Ronald Reagan. That was about two years before the manhunt ending in her arrest, imprisonment and threat of death in the gas chamber of the San Quentin prison. After a long confinement and a month-long trial, Angela was finally acquitted of all three charges - murder, kidnapping and conspiracy - by the 12 white jury members. Thus Angela‚s acquittal proved to be a victory over the class and race justice prevalent in the USA. As is well known, the battles for Sacco and Vanzetti, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg as well as many other innocent convicts did not end so successfully. They were all executed.
But back to the year 1970. The young assistant professor of philosophy, Angela Davis, was to be barred from the faculty of the University of Los Angeles / Los Angeles Campus (UCLA) after her membership in the communist party of the USA became known. Shortly afterward, I learned about this in an article in a left-wing New York paper. I published an extensive article with the headline „The Case of Angela Davis“ in „Neues Deutschland“ (New Germany), a newspaper which at that time had a circulation of 1.3 million copies. I was responsible for the coverage of capitalistic countries.
When his scheme to dismiss Angela resonated neither with the UCLA faculty nor with the competent California court, Governor Reagan saddled the unflinching communist with the responsibility for a kidnapping in San Rafael (located near San Francisco), which had actually been done for personal reasons. In the course of this incident, the judge, the two young kidnappers and two black witnesses were killed in police fire. The policemen had set an ambush and opened fire on the advancing getaway car.
Within just a few hours Angela Davis, who had had nothing at all to do with the case, was put on the FBI list of the ten most highly wanted criminals.
My paper, the leading organ of the GDR and its state-supporting party, immediately sounded the alarm for the Afro-American UCLA professor, whose special field is classical German philosophy. The ND („New Germany“) was without doubt one of the initiators of the ensuing world-wide solidarity campaign.
Shortly after Angela‘s arrest in New York, I wrote at the request of the National Assembly of the National Front the text for a richly illustrated brochure entitled „Freedom for Angela Davis!“ Published in a very high print-run of a half million copies, the little red book reached all schools, day care centers, factories and public facilities in every corner of the GDR. Inspired by the motto „A Million Roses for Angela!“, children drew and painted flowers which were then sent to the California prison where Ms Davis was being held. About two-thirds of the international solidarity greetings came from GDR children. This I was able to see for myself on the premises. The roses - which were not delivered by Fleurop - are still kept in a state archive in the USA.
As the trial came closer, I once again applied for a visa at the US Mission in West Berlin, where earlier requests for entry had been strictly denied. After a nine month waiting period interrupted only by several interrogations by employees of the CIA-controlled „Eastern Affairs Office“, I finally received permission from USA authorities as the first GDR journalist to report on events outside the UNO area in New York.
Thus, along with hundreds of sensation-seeking reporters from the capitalistic media, I was able to attend the trial as a newspaperman experienced in legal matters (in the late 50's I had been a public prosecutor in Güstrow in Mecklenburg) for two months until my arbitrary deportation from the USA. Incidentally, six weeks before the acquittal, I wrote an article entitled, „The Truth about San Rafael - fourfold Bloody Deed by the California Police“. The short book about the trial which I wrote for GDR readers sold 150,000 copies.
In 2005 I was able to renew contact with Angela when she came to Berlin to accept the human rights award presented by the East German Association for Civil Rights and Human Dignity and to speak at the Rosa Luxemburg Conference organized by the daily newspaper „junge Welt“ (young World). My earlier decade-long contact with Angela had been high-lighted by her triumphant tour through the GDR in 1972 and by her participation in the 10th Youth and Student Festival the following year as well as by a private dinner within my own family circle.
In my opinion, this newest tribute to Angela, the ethecon Blue Planet Award, is to be given to an activist who highly deserves this recognition. Thus I congratulate my longtime friend and comrade from my whole heart!