Students overflowed Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre on Wednesday at the 40th annual Black Power Rally to see Angela Davis, a famous and controversial activist, speak to the campus community.
Davis gained iconic status during the 1970s through the Black Power Movement and her ties to the Black Panther Party, a radical social movement.
Davis became one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives in 1970, when she was suspected as an accomplice in a California court room shooting that left four people dead.
She was acquitted of the charges after she was captured and put on trial.
Hundreds of students packed the Pasant Theatre anticipating her speech, many of whom were forced to wait in the hallway outside and watch it on monitors.
Wharton Center employees stopped letting people in the theatre after it was filled to capacity, House manager Barbara Schmidt said.
“Let us not forget these young men who lost their lives for our freedom,” Davis told the crowd, before transitioning into talking about the Trayvon Martin case. “I want to ask you how the arrest of one perpetrator … one person, how can that compensate for the history of decades … of violence.”
A diverse audience waited more than two hours to see her speak, cheering with excitement.
Some spectators even stood, sat on the floor and brought chairs in from the lobby to watch.
“Angela Davis will be a big influence,” said journalism sophomore and rally coordinator Tyler Clifford as the crowd waited for her to take the stage.
Three MSU police officers were dispatched to the Wharton Center when an attendee began harassing one of the ushers, Schmidt said.
But the crowed remained peaceful when Davis took the stage.
Aside from Davis’s speech, many showed up to see other speakers, poetry, dance and skits influenced by black culture and produced by students.
Seeing that this is a monumental anniversary for the rally, the students of the Black Student Alliance, or BSA, said they were overjoyed to have Davis speak at their event.
“Seeing as we are currently reading a book called (‘Assata: An Autobiography’), my professor mentioned the event to our class,” arts and humanities freshman Emma McGinn said. “It sounded really cool, so I decided to come.”
The event not only was promoted by staff and students, but through social networking.
“I first heard of the event on Facebook,” computer science freshman Abigael Onchiri said.
“I asked a few people and they told me about the hype from last year, so I decided to give it a try.”
Staff writers Derek Blalock and Rebecca Ryan contributed to this report.