Recently Mumia visited in prison with Stephen Vittoria, the Director of the riveting new documentary, Mumia: The Long Distance Revolutionary (The Journey of Mumia Abu-Jamal). Going with him were educators Cornel West and James H. Cone, and also journalist Chris Hedges, who had written earlier about a previous visit to Mumia. West a prolific author and speaker has among his most recent books, Democracy Matters. Equally productive, and the early pioneer of Black Liberation Theology, is James Cone, still turning out prominent texts, such as his recent The Cross and the Lynching Tree.
The account below by Vittoria is a moving documentation of a great meeting among leaders of liberating struggle. Vittoria’s essay is entitled “Imagine.”
(Written by Stephen Vittoria, May 15, 2013, Los Angeles. Original post with photos)
An educator, an activist, and a photojournalist, Mev Puleo died in 1996. She passed way too soon at 32 years old. But her passion lives on in her writing and her spirit. Two years before her death she published “The Struggle is One: Voices and Visions of Liberation” – an amazing reflection and compassionate work on the force of liberation theology. Puleo opens her book on an early life journey: “I was fourteen years old, touring Rio de Janeiro with my family, when I first rode that bus to the statue on the hill. That day, as images of opulence and misery rocked my world, a crisis of conscience took root in me.”
Too few of us, when we ride that bus to the statue on the hill, even notice the chasm between opulence and misery, even fewer have a crisis of conscience. If you know anything about Mumia Abu-Jamal, you already know this: when he rode the bus to the statue on the hill, the images of opulence and misery rocked his world and a crisis of conscience took deep root in his soul.
Liberation theology – the political and spiritual movement that understands the teachings of Jesus Christ as an emancipation from the repressive reality of unjust political, economic, and social tyranny – has come under attack from the sadistic gatekeepers of Christendom and their armed forces employed by the American Empire. Liberation theologians and those who become naturally aligned with the justice they offer are attacked as being Marxist and communist and because these movements have dared to challenge the status quo, also known as predatory capitalism. Liberation theology, and those who subscribe to its compassionate tenets, see injustice through the eyes of the poor and then struggle to demolish the ties that bind. For a crash course, check out the murderous U.S. actions that have wrecked havoc throughout Latin America over the past countless decades, especially at the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency (read “Masters of War” by Clara Nieto, experience your government and tax dollars at work).
So this past week, three giants of liberation theology rolled into the Keystone State: Cornel West, James Cone, and Chris Hedges. Prophetic every time they utter a word, these three dudes visited Mumia this past week at SCI Mahanoy – one of America’s franchised gulags, this one in rural eastern Pennsylvania on land once bursting with high luster anthracite coal. “It was like four nerds just kickin’ it,” Mumia told me. “Man, you would have been the fifth.” Flattering, but just call me Pete Best.
Chris Hedges and I visited Mumia back in December and we decided this visit needed to happen. Dr. West and Dr. Cone needed to finally meet Mumia… and Mumia needed to finally meet these two vanguards of revolutionary thought, men who have influenced Mumia greatly, and of course vice versa… men who have both written forwards to Mumia’s books yet never entered the bowels of hell from where this wrongly convicted journalist has worked and lived for the past 30-plus years.
But this past week they did. Chris told me, “Steve, it was, as you might expect, very moving. Watching Mumia being affirmed with such enthusiasm and passion by two of the greatest African-American intellectuals in the country was, for me, a powerful and special moment. Mumia was crying when we left.” Then today (Wednesday, May 15), Chris Hedges was a guest on Pacifica’s DemocracyNow and Amy Goodman asked Hedges about his recent visits with Julian Assange and then his visit with Mumia. Chris said:
“I think the courage of a Manning, the courage of an Assange, the courage of a Mumia – I mean, how that man remains unbroken. I was there with Cornel West and the theologian James Cone. I mean it was a privilege for me. I mean, three of probably the greatest African-American intellectuals in the country, and certainly radicals. It’s those people who hold fast to the kind of moral imperative, or hold fast to the capacity for dissent, whether that’s Manning, who exhibited—I was in the courtroom when he read his statement—tremendous courage, poise, whether that’s Assange, whether that’s Mumia, let’s look at where all those three people are, because for all of us who speak out, that’s where they want us to be, as well. And that gets back to this AP story, because that is exactly the process that we are undergoing and where—if they win, where we’re headed.”
Imagine Mumia interacting with the likes of Cornel West, James Cone, and Chris Hedges on a regular basis – free and unencumbered. Imagine that happening all the time, as a matter of course. Imagine if that was happening over the last thirty some-odd years, those stolen years that these sadistic bastards have taken from Mumia, from us, thirty some-odd years that they’ve railroaded him into their so-called justice system.
Well, I do. It’s why I made “Long Distance Revolutionary.” It’s why Mev Puleo lived her life the way she did. It’s why Cone and West, now both at Union Theological Seminary, undertake a life of compassionate and revolutionary action. It’s why Mumia does the exact same… it’s because when we first rode that bus to the statue on the hill, images of opulence and misery rocked our world, and then a crisis of conscience took root in our lives.
Imagine. It’s easy if you try.