Mumia’s attorney, Professor Judith Ritter of Widener University in Delaware, argued brilliantly on Mumia’s behalf on November 9th, in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. For a full report, see journalist Dave Lindorff’s recent essay at CounterPunch.
Hi Everyone. Please check out the trailer for the new documentary film, at its WEB SITE HERE, entitled JUSTICE ON TRIAL – The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We are very excited about the quality production, intellectual rigor and potential for broad public appeal and debate that this film displays. One of our EMAJ coordinators, Johanna Fernandez (Baruch College/CUNY, in History) is the producer of the film, Kouross Esmaeli is the director, and Aljernon Tunsil, the editor, also worked as co-editor of the award-winning documentary, Freedom Riders. This new film, Justice on Trial, will premier this month. Mark your calendars to be in downtown old Philadelphia at the RITZ EAST cinema, located at 125 South Second Street, at 8:00 p.m. on September 21. Stay tuned for important press releases, and more information about some other striking ways this new film will be shown in the city of Philadelphia and across college campuses. All three of us EMAJ coordinators are available to handle questions relating to this important event: Johanna Fernandez (Baruch College, email@example.com ), Mark Lewis Taylor (Princeton Theological Seminary, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Tameka L. Cage (independent scholar/writer, Pittsburgh, email@example.com ).
After the upcoming new film on Mumia’s case (premiering in Philly on Sept. 21), please mark in your calendars OCTOBER 9th for being in Philadelphia. That is the best way to observe the WORLD DAY AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY. As you know, some in the anti-death penalty movement have tried to exclude Mumia from the list of those who need vigorous advocacy and defense. This special day is a chance to call for 100 percent abolition of the death penalty, for everyone, including Mumia Abu-Jamal. You can find further information, complete with flyers and dates, at The Free Mumia Coalition (NYC). Also, read at this our own EMAJ site, two boxes below, the EMAJ statement on the importance of the Mumia movement for the entire abolitionist movement. See you in Philadelphia on October 9!
Actually there are two new movies, a slick, propagandistic hatchet job supported by the FOP, called “The Barrel of a Gun,” and a new one that is a fresh powerful statement about Mumia’s struggle for justice, the cogency of his case, all the while allowing police and prosecutors also to talk on camera. It will be an educational and powerful alternative to the Hollywood-type entertainment drama served up by the FOP film on the same day. This new movie will be shown at 8:00 p.m. at the Ritz East in Philadelphia. Look for EMAJ to host later showings of the film on college campuses in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Progress on this new movie is running on schedule. Those who have screened portions of it are excited. BUT HERE’S HOW YOU CAN MAKE AN ENORMOUS DIFFERENCE RIGHT NOW. Please consider donating to this very important film’s production. One of the EMAJ coordinators, Johanna Fernandez of Baruch College, is serving as Producer of the film, Kouross Esmaeli as Director, and Aljernon Tunsil (of the Freedom Riders documentary) as Editor. Read here, the LETTER OF APPEAL FOR FUNDS which EMAJ has posted. Weigh the issues in this letter carefully. Mumia’s life, and justice for him, are hanging in the balance. Thanks everyone! . . . from Tameka Cage, Johanna Fernandez, and Mark Taylor, the EMAJ Coordinators.
Reports have leaked of a secret memo in which some US anti-death penalty activists showed reluctance to advocate on behalf of Pennsylvania’s death row journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal. The memo was entitled, “Involvement of Mumia Abu-Jamal Endangers the US Coalition for Abolition of the Death Penalty.” It reveals what has been called the “throw Mumia under the bus” tendency of the larger effort to abolish the death penalty. We have seen this before.
Every once in awhile someone on the allegedly liberal left tries to drive a wedge between abolitionists of the death penalty generally, and those struggling for Abu-Jamal. One of the more memorable instances was in 1998 when Marc Cooper, a Nation magazine writer, wrote in The New York Press about how the movement for Mumia Abu-Jamal is “a bane” on the more solid committed folk trying to end the US death penalty.
This year’s memo is a special affront, presuming that there is some virtue in abolitionist movements “cultivating” relations with the Fraternal Order of Police [FOP], which long has been a vigorous advocate for Mumia’s execution and which keeps a “list” of individuals and organizations that support Mumia’s struggle. EMAJ condemns any such planning between abolitionist movements and the FOP. For anti-death penalty movements to cultivate relations to a police union like the FOP, which is unabashedly lobbying for Mumia’s execution, is at best ineffective, at worst a collusion with the forces that keep state-sanctioned killing in place in this country. Moreover, it overlooks the long history of egregious violence and violation, which law enforcement in the U.S. has visited upon communities of color in the U.S.
To be sure, police, prosecutors and others of the criminal justice establishment have spoken out for Mumia and against the death penalty. Ronald Hampton’s advocacy for Mumia, as Executive Director of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), is a clear example. As an organization the NBPA protests the death penalty in all circumstances, even when a police officer has been murdered. These are the only kinds of voices from members of law enforcement that a truly anti-death penalty movement should welcome. State-sanctioned murder of anyone is an affront to an authentic abolitionist movement. Abolitionist movements must resist the temptations of big money and stand strong against the powerful pressures by which law enforcement officials today try to co-opt elements of the abolitionist movement, seeking to preserve the death penalty for its purposes.
Generally, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) opposes any division that is created between the Mumia movement and the broader effort to abolish capital punishment. The struggle for Mumia is one with the struggle of the broader abolitionist movement. EMAJ published in 1998 an essay by Mark Taylor, one of the signers of this statement, under the title, “Mumia and the 3400: Why Stopping Mumia’s Execution Helps End all Executions in the US.” In this new 2010 statement, EMAJ vigorously reaffirms the unity of the movement for Mumia and of the broader abolitionist movement.
1. Every one of the some 3200 men and women presently on US death row, whatever we think of their guilt or innocence, or of the nature of their alleged crimes, warrants advocacy and our best efforts to prevent their execution. Even though various ones of us may need to concentrate our advocacy in ways that highlight different figures (say, Mumia, or Troy Davis, or Reggie Clemons, or any of the many others), this concentration of effort on one should not be seen as a disparagement of any other death row prisoner’s struggle for life and justice.
2. Mumia’s struggle and his writings (rarely about his own case and usually about broader political issues) have dramatically personalized the issue of the death penalty for especially youth in urban communities of color, but also in other regions of the U.S. and internationally. His story of resistance and political struggle has caught the imagination of many and so brought new voices into the struggle against the death penalty. This was dramatically evident in the April 2010 gathering at the EMAJ event at Barnard College (Columbia University), where a lecture hall was packed out with more than 500 people, mostly young people of all backgrounds, to hear not only a “phone-in” from Mumia, but also discussions by Cornel West, Vijay Prashad, and film-maker Jamal Joseph about the importance of Mumia’s case and struggle.
3. Mumia’s arrest, conviction, and continual denial of appeals crystallizes and distills – thus makes more readily apparent – the plagues at work in maintaining our broken death penalty system: racial bias in judges and juror selection, inadequate legal counsel, lack of funds for investigations for defendants, police corruption and prosecutorial misconduct. Thus, Mumia’s case can be seen as a kind of primer of how the death penalty fails to work justice, and on how the larger systems of U.S. mass incarceration, policing and prosecutorial procedures are broken, dysfunctional, and unjust.
4. Mumia’s struggle dramatically exhibits the agency of death row prisoners themselves in waging their struggle. Mumia’s death row cell in the prison system is an organizing site within the system. However necessary our efforts are from “the outside,” Mumia’s trenchant voice inside death row confirms that the abolitionist movement is not just a condescending or paternalistic act of concern of outsiders “for,” or “for the sake of,” those on death row. Recognizing Mumia is one way to recognize the agency of those in struggle on death row. His voice, as a voice within, is crucial to our abolitionist movement’s authenticity.
5. Mumia’s mode of struggle enables those in the abolitionist movement to keep the struggle against the US death penalty as part of a larger political struggle, in which other issues are always at play in our struggle to end capital punishment. We will not abolish the death penalty, and keep it abolished, if we cannot articulate the broader issues of power – class domination, environmental destruction, white racism, transnational globalization, torture at home and abroad, militarist imperialism, and neocolonialism – all being issues that Abu-Jamal has addressed in relation to capital punishment and mass incarceration.
6. Although there is a temptation in some quarters to make of Mumia an icon, just a “cool guy” mentioned in the Boondocks cartoon strip, Hip Hop magazines, rock concerts, and in films of different sorts – the lifting of Mumia’s struggle to the level of a media spectacle can be an advantage to the abolitionist movement. It enables us to engage the media, not only with Mumia’s struggle but also with broader efforts to end the death penalty, block police brutality, and expose the corruptions of racialized power at every level. One of the reasons political officials of the establishment are so keenly opposed to Mumia is precisely because he has this capacity to ignite media attention, nationally and internationally. We should welcome this and use it.
7. Finally, the Mumia movement positions resistance to the death penalty around the U.S. national shrine center in Philadelphia. This places debate about capital punishment (the state-sanctioned murder of citizens) in a city that is the very symbolic heart of Americans’ self-understanding of their nation and its history. The Mumia movement – those of us in it as well as Mumia’s recordings and writings – is not silent about the general problem of state-sanctioned killing as part of the very meaning of “America” and its history. The persistence of the death penalty is, at least in part, due to the nation’s dependence on policies of war and killing, policies that date from the devastation of Indian peoples and slave populations, to the colonization of, and war against, Asian, Arab, African and Latin American countries, up to the often deadly and disheartening discrimination meted out against immigrants from these lands in our midst today.
The focus of Mumia’s struggle in Philadelphia, then, dramatizes how central the commitment to state-sanctioned killing is to the forging and maintenance of this nation. It has always been appropriate, then, that the festivals of July 4th celebration in Philadelphia are routinely matched by a smaller and fledgling, but vigorous, counter-march for Mumia and as critique of every death-dealing policy of the U.S. – whether applied in the killing fields of indigenous peoples lands, in the desserts of Iraq, or the mountainous ravines of the Afghan/Pakistani border.
Let there be no more division between the advocates of a general abolition of the death penalty, and the advocates in the movement for Abu-Jamal. As Educators, in Pennsylvania, across the U.S. and the world, we reassert our firm opposition to the death penalty in the U.S., and thus especially to the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. [Signed: Coordinators of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal – Tameka Cage, Johanna Fernandez, Mark Lewis Taylor]
-New York City. April 4, 2010. Over 500 people packed out the Event Oval at the Diana Center at Barnard College campus at Columbia University on Saturday night, April 3. Headliner speaders featured Cornel West of Princeton University’s Religion Department, Vijay Prashad of Trinity College’s International Studeis Department, and Jamal Joseph of the Columbia University.
The three-hour event was attended by many students, and attendees of all ages. The organizers for the event, EMAJ, were supported by other veterans of the movement who also were on hand, Pam Africa, Suzanne Ross, and others. The evening speakers were asked to address the conference theme, “Live from Death Row: Mumia at the Crossroads in the Age of Obama.” Essential administrative work was done for EMAJ by Anjeanette M. Allen, and at Columbia by Zoe Willmott.
The conference was co-sponsored by a wide array of other groups from Columbia University: Lucha, Black Students Organization, Muslim Students Association, Intercultural House, Arab Student Association at SIPA, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, African Diaspora Literary Society, and Black and Latino Student Caucus at the School of Public Health.
In speaking to the packed auditorium at Barnard, Cornel West situated Abu-Jamal in a host of fore-runners, a “cloud of witnesses,” a “black tradition,” he said, that has always been about the task of “emancipating democracy.” West emphasized, “this is not just democracy for blacks or for any few groups, it is for all. It spills over to free the many peoples from the chains upon them.” He reiterated, during a conference call that came in from Mumia himself, that he could feel in Mumia’s struggle that fusion of justice with love, the latter giving us our special power to resist.
“Love, that’s it,” repled Mumia. “After all, what did Che remind us all at his UN speech?” Jamal Joseph, also in front of the conference speaker phone, then recited Chi’s remearks verbatim. “That’s it,” said Mumia, “love as political force for long-distance running in the way of justice.”
Another speaker stirred the crowd with an international perspective on Mumia’s struggle. Vijay Prashad likened Mumia’s voice, often hailed as the “voice of the voiceless” to a “voice in the wound.” The wound of which he spoke was one afflicted by power today and which consigns ever larger groups to the category of “disposable peoples.” Mumia on death row, and in the US mass incarceration system, is rendered as one of those disposable ones. And yet, stressed Prashad, Mumia and those like him refuse to be disposed of. They assert their humanity. “That’s why they inspire us,” Prashad said driving home his point, because we all are at risk of being made disposable.” Prashad could also say, then, “Mumia is Gaza,” “Mumia is the Congo.” He concluded with a two line poem from Akbar Illahabadi: “We were people, with great difficulty we became human.”
Jamal Joseph, in his opening remarks, drew the links between his previous years of Black Panther organizing, and the practice of love. Joseph showed up also with to youth, whose spoken word performance lad bare the agony, the resistance and the hope of the young and their hopes for the future.
EMAJ plans to take this kind of event on the road. Watch for announcements of similar events at another university this Fall.
* VIJAY PRASHAD * CORNEL WEST * * JAMAL JOSEPH *
Main speakers for the upcoming conference at Columbia University on the theme, “LIVE FROM DEATH ROW – MUMIA AT THE CROSSROADS IN THE AGE OF OBAMA.”
ADMISSION IS FREE, BUT YOU NEED TO GET YOUR TICKETS HERE, FOR THESE SPECIAL PLENARY SPEAKERS. THEY SPEAK WITH MUMIA PHONING IN AT 7:00 P.M.
The evening plenary speakers will be speaking in the new Diana Center, in the Oval Event Room, on the Barnard College campus, 3009 Broadway at 117th Street (off the 116th Street on the 1 train). But don’t forget to get your tickets as soon as you arrive.
IF YOU ARE DOING THE WORKSHOPS, YOU NEED TO SIGN UP FOR AFTERNOON WORKSHOPS HERE, AND TAKE PLACE FROM 1:00 TO 5:00 P.M.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR APRIL 3, 2010, SATURDAY.
**FOR ALL NECESSARY INFORMATION AND SIGN-UP GO TO THE CRUCIAL EVENT WEB SITE: MumiaCrossroadsEvent.tumbler.com **
NOTE ON WORKSHOPS. All Workshops are in Kent Hall on the Columbia campus, at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and College Walk (“College Walk” is a major campus walkway between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. See the map that is on the above Event Website).
1 – “Mumia 101 – Introducing Mumia’s Case” – Kent Hall Room 411
2- “Mumia in the Classroom” – Kent Hall 423
3. “The Campaign for a Civil Rights Investigation into Mumia’s Case” Kent Hall Room 424
4. “Campus Organizing for Mumia” Kent Hall Room 411
5. “Mumia’s Battle in the Courts” – Kent Hall Room 423
6. “Media-Building a Viral Campaign for Mumia” – Kent Hall Room 424
Again for all details and information on this event, and for Facebook and Twitter connections, go to the MumiaCrossroads event shown above. See you there!
Over 200 people packed out the Labyrinth Bookstore in downtown Princeton on Wednesday, March 3, 2010, to hear Mumia phone in for a brief dialogue with Princeton University Professors Cornel West and Patricia Fernandez-Kelley from the Sociology Department. The event was video recorded by BOOK TV and by DEMOCRACY NOW!. Lively exchange erupted especially between Mumia and Dr. West, as West has been an outspoken advocate for Mumia and of his innocence as far back as his arrest and trial in 1981/1982. Mumia also read aloud a passage from the introduction of his latest book, Jailhouse Lawers. EMAJ coordinators had prepared a new “Fact Sheet and FAQs on Mumia Abu-Jamal.”, EMAJ was present with its banner by labor muralist Mike Alewitz, and coordinators Mark Taylor and Johanna Fernandez addressed the audience about EMAJ’s work and upcoming conference on April 3rd at Columbia University. Present at the Princeton event also were Pam Africa, who also spoke, Linn Washington, Jr., who was introduced and highlighted, and numerous activists in New Jersey prisons and anti-death penalty work.
Kudos out to the Labyrinth Bookstore for hosting this event, and to store owner, Dorothea von Moltke and general manager Virginia Harabin. The bookstore also featured a large window display of the writings of Howard Zinn, the radical historian and author of The People’s History of the United States, along with texts by other well-known progressive historians. Watch for the complete event on BOOK TV and/or DEMOCRACY NOW!
Dave Lindorff’s essay considers some of the various processes that may be awaiting Mumia. Lindorff writes: “The Supreme Court order sending Abu-Jamal’s case back down to the Third Circuit, right or wrong, hardly means Abu-Jamal’s battle is over, much less lost, depite his already having spent an astonishing 28 years in solitary confinement on PA’s hellish death row.” See “Mumia Abu-Jamal Case is Stuck in Hellish Limbo.”