Freedom for Angela Davis! Black Power in the Records of the State Security on Happenings in Hungary in the 1970s @ CUNY, New York, 13 Oct 2017

Erich Honecker, the General Secretary of the German Democratic Republic was posing next to Angela Davis on her visit to the GDR, where a mass-performance was staged to celebrate solidarity with Davis after she has been released from prison in the USA. At the same time, one of the most radical Hungarian happening artists, Tamas St.Auby solidarized with Angela Davis in a happening in Budapest during a solidarity event with two other artists. Honecker staged himself with Angela Davis, Tamas St. Auby in solidarity to Angela Davis.

This shows the controversial and highly complex reception of Angela Davis as a projection surface for a state-driven propaganda fostered by the Moscow Communist Party and the State Security: Davis as a heroine of resistance to US-imperialism. But at the same time Davis` figure functioned also as a projection surface for underground artists openly and radically opposing (not only) the communist system: Davis as a heroine of freedom and resistance against state-driven-oppression.

The proposed paper analyzes how the records of the State Security Archive in Budapest are reflecting on one of the most stunning controversies in the Cold War era: the reception of the Civil Rights Movement in Eastern Europe: by artists opposing the socialist system and by the Moscow-driven state propaganda of socialist states.

How far did this identification go? Leading socialist party members from Eastern European countries identified themselves as “blood relatives“ with Davis and talked about her as „one of us“ . Medially she was named our „sister“ – a notion that was a global identification term after James Baldwins open letter to Davis, which was the text-base of St.Auby`s happening as well. But: where does relationship end? In terms of the Black Panther Movement there is not a hint of solidarity with Bobby Seale or other members in state socialist propaganda in Eastern Europe any more. Especially sit-ins and mass demonstrations of the Black Panther Party (BBP) where highly suspiscious to Moscow and his allies. Paradoxically, the BBP was seen in opposition to Angela Davis – who was herself part of the BBP and openly solidarized with them. So it is by no chance, that after St.Auby staged himself in front of a hotel in Budapest in the famous gagged-Bobby-Seale-pose during his trial in Chicago – the police was immediately interrupting the happening.

Furthermore I will analyse how blackness and black performance theory is present in Eastern European performaces juxtaposing theories of Achille Mbembe, Fred Moten or Anita Gonzales with Eastern European happening and performance concepts in order to shed new light on identity-questions in terms of political, gender and national identities in Eastern Europe caught between the Soviet Union and the African-American Civil Rights Movement.