From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was set to award civil and human rights activist Dr. Angela Davis, who was raised in Birmingham, the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award at its gala on Feb. 16. On Friday, amid objections from the Birmingham Jewish Community to Davis’ previous comments on Israel, BCRI rescinded the award and canceled the gala.
“Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis’ statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based,” the BCRI stated in a letter posted on social media. “Therefore, on January 4, BCRI’s Board voted to rescind its invitation to Ms. Davis to honor her with the Shuttlesworth Award. While we recognize Ms. Davis’ stature as a scholar and prominent figure in civil rights history, we believe this decision is consistent with the ideals of the award’s namesake, Rev. Shuttlesworth.”
The statement went on to apologize to the community and Davis for any confusion and said tickets would be refunded in full.
The choice of Davis came under fire due to some of her earlier statements on Israel, including a call for an academic boycott of the predominantly Jewish nation. Many in the local Jewish community, long seen as staunch supporters of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, objected to the choice of Davis.
Responding to the decision with a statement on the city website, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin disagreed with the BCRI board’s handling of the matter.
“As I consider the controversy over the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s decision to honor Dr. Angela Davis with the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award and its subsequent decision to rescind that honor after protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies, my overriding feeling is one of dismay,” according to the statement from Woodfin.
Woodfin said his concern was that “this controversy might have been avoided entirely, had it been handled differently,” and the BCRI board “behaved reflexively” rather than seeking common ground.
“I am dismayed because this controversy is playing out in a way that harks backward, rather than forward — that portrays us as the same Birmingham we always have been, rather than the one we want to be,” according to Woodfin’s statement. “I am dismayed because I believe that we should be able to expect better, from ourselves and from one another.”