New York artist and curator Mark Tribe got the idea shortly after he arrived at Brown University three years ago. It was two years into the war in Iraq, Bush's approval ratings were finally starting to decline, The New Yorker was running edgier articles that criticized the invasion. But Brown's campus remained eerily quiet. "I was really surprised by how little activism there was," said 41-year-old Tribe, noting that he'd seen a lot more student-led protests when he was in college twenty years prior, and that twenty years before that, the antiwar movement would have probably dwarfed any other campus activity. "The question in my mind was what is it about these times that makes us feel that resistance is futile?" Tribe recalled. "And what would it feel like to believe you were part of a movement that could change history? What would it feel like to believe you had the power to join together with your peers and change the political future of your country?"
With these questions in mind, Tribe came up with a project that was would draw parallels between Vietnam and the current occupation of Iraq, while showing the power of oratory as a form of political protest. Named for the Port Huron Statement — a 1962 book-length manifesto by Tom Hayden (then field secretary of Students for a Democratic Society) that became one of the founding documents of the New Left — the Port Huron Project comprised six reenactments of protest speeches from the '60s and '70s, made by such movement leaders as César Chávez, Stokely Carmichael, Paul Potter, Howard Zinn, Coretta Scott King, and, in Saturday, August 2's installment at DeFremery Park (1651 Adeline St., Oakland), Angela Davis. Tribe chose these speeches because of their staying power and their way of linking domestic movements (i.e., labor and civil rights) to foreign policy.
If all goes as planned, Saturday's Angela Davis reenactment — of the trenchant 1969 speech "The Liberation of Our People" — should be a haunting performance. DeFremery Park, after all, is pregnant with Black Panther history. It's an iconic site where Bobby Seale and Huey Newton organized rallies four decades ago. Actress Aleta Hayes — an instructor in Stanford University's dance department — will play the part of Davis at Saturday's event. She will stand on the porch of the old park building, the same place where Davis stood in 1969, when she was just 25 years old. Said Tribe, "If this project goes forward, I'm struck by how powerful the experience is of standing in a park in the same place where a speech was given forty years ago and hearing how relevant it is." He added that if you just changed the proper nouns, it could have been made yesterday. 6 p.m., free. MySpace.com/porthuronproject
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