A civil rights institute in Alabama on Monday withdrew an award set to be presented to activist Angela Davis next month.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute issued a statement announcing it had rescinded its invitation to recognize Davis with its Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award after receiving requests to reconsider granting her the award.
“In late December, supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision,” the institute’s board said. “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 board voted to rescind its invitation Friday and also canceled the associated gala event scheduled for Feb. 16, while offering full refunds to those who purchased tickets.
“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 board wrote.
Davis, who was born in Birmingham, has been a member of the Black Panther Party and the Communist Party USA, and her calls for divestment and boycotts against Israel on behalf of Palestinians were cited by the Jewish community as a reason for the board’s decision to reconsider its decision to present her with the award.
The board also offered an apology to “supporters, the community and Ms. Davis for the confusion we have caused.”
“We will move forward with a keen focus on our mission: to enlighten each generation about civil and human rights by exploring our common past and working together in the present to build a better future,” said the board.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin issued a statement saying his “overriding feeling is one of dismay,” after the board made the decision to “honor after protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies.”
“I am dismayed because this controversy might have been avoided entirely, had it been handled differently. I am dismayed because, as has been the case throughout Birmingham’s history, people of good will behaved reflexively, rather than engaging in meaningful discourse over their differences and seeking common ground,” Woodfin said.
A group of activists gathered outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to protest the board’s decision, al.com reported.
Frank Matthews, founder of the Outcast Voters League, called the decision to rescind the award “recognition assassination.”
“Her name has been tainted,” Matthews said. “There shouldn’t be one penny given to the Civil Rights Institute.”
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