220px-NM_State_Pen_Unit_4[1]” . . . I’ve been punished by the United States government for my writings since I was fifteen years of age – but I’ve kept on writing.  You keep right on reading!”

Mumia Abu-Jamal

 

                                                           WHO IS MUMIA ABU-JAMAL?                     ABOUT EMAJ

­­­­­­­WHY MUMIA MATTERS

 

One Among the Many.

Although distinctive and dramatic, Mumia’s case should not be isolated from the broader political challenges of our time. His case is a primer for analyzing and exposing  the state-instigated repression and trauma suffered by growing numbers in the United States, especially African-American and Latino/a communities, but increasingly Asian-Americans, Indigenous, Arab-Americans and the poor of any background.

Political and moral dissent, when focused in powerful and effective movement, is increasingly met by state surveillance and repression.  The corridors of U.S. mass incarceration are long and many. Detention centers and prisons – public and private – haunt our urban centers and rural landscapes. With analyses both succinct and inspirational, Mumia, from within U.S. “Prison Nation,” challenges his listeners on web and radio, and his readers in classrooms and neighborhoods, to name and resist state violence in all its forms. In so doing, his analyses make for hope, and he thus contributes profoundly to the stirrings of the people organizing for change.

The Mumia Exception.

Although he suffers this regime along with many others, Mumia has been so effective in exposing it that state power metes out exceptional repression and censorship upon him. With what journalist and Temple Professor Linn Washington, Jr., termed “the Mumia exception,” U.S. court and police officials have a long established tradition of reserving exceptional treatment for Mumia. Court officials deny him redress for violations of constitutional rights while granting redress to others for similar violations. Of the 3,000+ on death row over the last three decades, the Fraternal Order of Police also single out Mumia for exceptional treatment, with its national campaigns to have him executed, and so silenced.

Why Mumia? The Short Answer.

So let’s get specific. Why Mumia? Why the focus on his case and struggle?

Our short answer is that analysis of Mumia’s case, and solidarity with social movements in struggle for him, are productive ways to focus the larger struggle of many others. Mumia, a writer within “Prison Nation,” continually foregrounds the problems of mass incarceration, and has wielded his pen and voice to challenge the state’s substitution of punishment systems for quality schools, thus challenging the already rich whose policies continually dispossess the poor. Mumia exposes a corporate war economy that services a transnational empire, destroying people and nature, and that drives workers into ever more precarious lives. He’s named the white racism pervading the apparatus of dominant regimes in the U.S., and also the repression of women in patriarchal religion and society.

We organize, just as Mumia has continually organized from his prison cell – bridging from critique to hope.

Mumia's Political Lens of Analysis.

Those organizing around Mumia  bring a political lens to analysis of mass incarceration and U.S. power in society. As a political prisoner himself, Mumia speaks from the circle of political prisoners in the U.S. – former Black Panthers, anti-war activists, the MOVE 9, The Cuban 5, Puerto Rican Independentistas, labor leaders, social justice activists everywhere – and calls for ever more political analyses of U.S. governance and imprisonment.

As educators who value writing and thought that supports social justice, we at EMAJ stand with Mumia against a state that has sought to silence him. His political analyses and critical voice, through writings and radio, are routinely repressed. EMAJ takes a stand against this censorship, this repression that would silence Mumia’s voice and those of other political prisoners in the U.S.

Mumia, Jacques Derrida, and Repression of Journalists

When French philosopher Jacques Derrida took a stand for Mumia, just days away from an execution date set for him in 1995, he spoke on behalf of hundreds of writers and educators everywhere:

“The death threat that weighs on Abu-Jamal is analogous to the one that, everywhere in the world today to some extent, tries to silence (by murder, prison, exile, censorship in all of its forms) so many intellectuals or writers, so many journalists, so many men and women who demand their right to free and public speech.”-Jacques Derrida, “For Mumia Abu-Jamal,” in Negotiations (2002).

Mumia himself has been a popular educator and journalist since his mid-teens. EMAJ, as a collective of writers and teachers, resonates with Mumia’s commitment to education. A repressive state targets effective, popular teaching skills. Because of the power of his voice and pen he was marked for surveillance and harassment without ever having committed a crime, evidenced by the 600+ pages of FBI COINTELPRO file on the young Mumia. The state has sought to quash his voice by surveillance, and also by execution and long-term imprisonment. Both have failed.

Mumia - Writer, Activist, Teacher.

For over 40 years, Mumia has persevered as activist and writer. He has been a journalist-at-risk, a communicator and teacher under duress, one who nevertheless exposes the broad social and political issues of our day. He is an exemplar in his fusing education with the struggle for justice. EMAJ supports Mumia in his political pedagogy, seeking to cultivate and deepen it in our own teaching contexts, making it more prominent in campus and public life.

Why Mumia? Again, to be sure, there are many other political prisoners who share his angle of vision and political analyses. Yet, Mumia’s journalistic skills, and his acumen developed as journalist under pressure for over 40 years, have made him a special colleague and comrade for teachers today.

In collaboration with Mumia, we of EMAJ join with him and with others in prison, to teach the struggle, to expose the deep sources of massive suffering in our time – all this, toward a politics of liberating change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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