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EMAJ Statement on the Riverside Church Cornel West/Bob Avakian “Dialogue”

WHAT REVOLUTION LOOKS LIKE                      IN THE USA

Perfect Mumia AngelaA Response from Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) to the Riverside Church Dialogue between Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party-USA and Professor Cornel West of Union Theological Seminary, NYC.

 

On November 15, 2014, at the Riverside Church, the White left Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Bob Avakian, entered into dialogue with Black public left, intellectual, professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary, Cornel West. The theme was: “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion.”

This statement is a critique of the event’s singular focus on one predominating voice, of its disrespect for black radical leadership and all leaders of color, and of its failure to uphold the radical democratic values needed in revolutionary movements.

EMAJ supported the event beforehand, and celebrates the fact that the dialogue took place. In fact one of its coordinators served on its Host Committee and brought the program’s opening greetings to an overflow audience, upwards of 1900 who came to hear both Avakian and West. Both of the EMAJ Coordinators were in attendance. We were impressed with Avakian’s organic approach to the presentation of socialist arguments and use of vivid examples to paint a picture of what’s politically possible. He was well received by the audience, often deservedly applauded. We stress this positive affirmation, in spite of the more critical point we feel compelled to make with this statement.

The EMAJ Coordinators, along with many of its members, share a commitment to a revolutionary socialist future, as embodied in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s and Angela Y. Davis’s recent co-writing on “Alternatives to Capitalist Injustice.” They presented their view of a socialist future with the idea of “abolition democracy,” a concept used by W. E. B. Du Bois in his Black Reconstruction. Davis and Abu-Jamal define it as,

       “. . . the abolition of institutions that advance the dominance of any one group over any other. It is the democracy that is possible if we continue the legacy of the great abolition movements in American history, those that opposed slavery, lynching, and segregation.”

Abolitionist democracy demands a comprehensive refusal of domination by any group, especially when facing the imperial and class wars of today, white racism against any of the nonwhite communities, police violence, and gender and sexual domination of anyone.

Abolition democracy’s comprehensive refusal of domination also requires a revolutionary way of deliberating and strategizing on the ground in our emerging movements. As Abu-Jamal and Davis stress, “what we decide to do will be open to the decisions of popular, democratic groupings in the future to seek greater humanistic and socialistic expressions.” Abu-Jamal and Davis modeled this future not only by writing as co-authors, but also by drawing from Black, indigenous and other traditions.

From this perspective, we are compelled to say that the best of revolutionary socialist futures was not on display at the Riverside dialogue. We place primary responsibility for this not on Professor West but on Chairman Avakian and program planners.

The fact that Avakian spoke for upwards of 2 hours and 10 minutes made his speech didactic in the end. Above all, his utter usurpation of the time allotted for the presentations was disrespectful of Dr. West and his views. It also meant that neither real debate nor illuminating dialogue were finally possible. The absence of a democratic culture and conscientious ethic on that stage is a deal breaker for us –their absence will destroy our movements for a socialist future. Their absence also speaks of the sense of entitlement and lack of critical self-awareness of the American Left.

We also sensed an opportunism in the meeting’s proceedings during which an audience that was anxious to listen to Dr. West, one of the most important black public figures on the left, was held hostage to Mr. Avakian’s interminable speech. In their totality, these actions speak to an implicit racism and disrespect for an important Christian revolutionary, and by extension of everyone in the audience. The manner in which the voice of a stalwart fighter for black folk was diminished at the event bespeaks an arrogance – even a white privilege and white supremacy – that should not reside in the American Left. In the end, West displayed grace and patience beyond words, more so than might be expected of anyone else.

Those of us associated with EMAJ can hardly claim the “revolutionarily correct” posture. Placed as we are in US colleges and universities, we recognize that the marginalization of communities of color and the entrenchment of white elite hierarchies in higher education often subvert our own principles of abolitionist democracy. As part of our struggle, though, we know that none of us on the left dare stand forth to present what we witnessed at Riverside: one white revolutionary lecturing for more than two hours while a Black revolutionary sat on the stage. This is not what revolution looks like in the U.S.

 It is no wonder that as the 2-hour mark neared in Avakian’s lecture, segments of the audience clamored for Dr. West to speak. The people’s clamor was truth spoken, and unfortunately truth unheeded.

We look to a future built of many voices and revolutionary collectives. We especially foreground our emergent/insurgent leaders of color, young and old, male, female, lgbtq, Black, Latino/a, Asian- and Arab-American and more, with revolutionary whites as part of a collective leadership. The legacy of class exploitation rooted in racial oppression in the US – with a history characterized by indigenous genocide, slavery and immigrant repression – means that radical collectives today cannot compromise the central role of leaders of color. This is more what revolution in the U.S. looks like. This is certainly the way to best catalyze “abolition democracy.” We must lift our lament: the Riverside event undermined that kind of future. We hope to go forward, along another path of deliberation, debate and dialogue, as part of our collective planning of the people’s socialist future.

Drafted by:
Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College, CUNY
Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary

Supported by:

Heidi Boghosian, Law and Disorder Radio
Peter Bohmer, Evergreen State College
Akili Buchanan, Newark Teachers Union
Frederica Clare, CAMPHEAL, South Africa
James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary
Alfred Duckett, Jackson State University
Farah Jasmine Griffin, Columbia University
Joy A. James, Williams College
Elizabeth Liberty, International P.E.N. (former Board Member)
Anthony Monteiro, Temple University
David Roediger, University of Illinois/Champagne-Urbana
Michael M. Schiffmann, University of Heidelberg
Johnny Eric Williams, Trinity College

All institutions listed for identification purposes only.

(to add your name to this list, please email  mark.taylor@ptsem.edu )

MEDIA RELEASE

CONTACTS:

Prof. Johanna Fernandez (917 930-0804 johanna.fernandez@baruch.cuny.edu), and

Prof. Mark Lewis Taylor (847 708-2479, mark.taylor@ptsem.edu)

EDUCATORS FOR MUMIA ABU-JAMAL (EMAJ)

JOINS LAWSUIT AGAINST PA OFFICIALS

________________________________________________

EMAJ is 1 of 6 Plaintiffs to Charge Unconstitutionality

of New PA Law Silencing Prisoners

 

            New York and Princeton. On Monday November 10, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) joined a group of 6 total plaintiffs whose attorneys filed, on their behalf, an injunctive challenge to Pennsylvania’s new law, the “Revictimization Relief Act” (RRA), which would seek to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal and other prisoners’ voices.

Defendants in the suit are Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams and PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane. The injunction sought is based on the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and on Article 1 of the PA Constitution.

The RRA law was drafted in response to a commencement speech that Mumia Abu-Jamal recorded for Goddard College students to hear on October 5. Beginning the very next day, the law was fast tracked through the PA legislature and quickly signed on October 22 by Pennsylvania’s outgoing governor, Tom Corbett. EMAJ promptly joined with other groups with its “Call to Action,” protesting the law’s targeting of Mumia’s and other prisoners’ free speech.

In the lawsuit, the basic argument of EMAJ and the other plaintiffs is that the RRA “statute was enacted principally to silence Plaintiff Mumia Abu-Jamal. It chills his ability–and the ability of the other Plaintiffs and other current and former prisoners—to engage in speech protected by the First Amendment.”

Plaintiffs other than Mumia and EMAJ, are Prison Radio (a production company that records the voices of prisoners and broadcasts them via radio, television, Internet, and film), the Human Rights Coalition-HRC (a nonprofit corporation from Philadelphia whose mission is to protect the human rights of prisoners and criminal defendants while advocating change in legal and prison systems), and also two other imprisoned activists and writer/commentators, members of the HRC, Richard L. Holbrook and Kerry Shakaboona Marshall.

EMAJ coordinators, Dr. Johanna Fernandez (Baruch College, CUNY) and Mark Lewis Taylor (Princeton Theological Seminary) report that EMAJ’s Plaintiff status is supported by 33 scholars from around the nation. These have engaged prisoner voices from PA or other states for their teaching and writing. The current list of scholars, below, includes several Goddard College faculty, two law professors, as well as teachers from multiple disciplines and areas of education.

  1. Bob Buchanan, Goddard College

  2. Neema Caughran, Goddard College

  3. Jan Clausen, Goddard College

  4. James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary

  5. Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz

  6. David G. Embrick, Loyola University (IL)

  7. Robert A. Ferguson, Columbia University Law School

  8. Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College, City University of New York

  9. Maike Garland, Goddard College

  10. Craig Gordon, Oakland Unified School District (CA)

  11. Lisa Noelle Guenther, Vanderbilt University

  12. Tom Hansen, Autonomous University of Social Movements (Chicago)

  13. Marc Lamont Hill, Morehouse College

  14. Joy A. James, Williams College

  15. Jamal Joseph, Columbia University

  16. Wonhee Anne Joh, Garrett Seminary, (IL)

  17. Robin D. G. Kelley, University of California, Los Angeles

  18. Ibram X. Kendi, State University of New York, Albany

  19. Ju-Pong Lin, Goddard College

  20. Bob Mandel, West Contra Costa Unified School District (CA)

  21. Anthony Monteiro, Temple University

  22. Mary Phillips, Lehman College, City University of New York

  23. Peter J. Paris, Princeton Theological Seminary

  24. Vijay Prashad, Trinity College (CT)

  25. Dylan Rodriguez, University of California, Riverside

  26. Jonathan Simon, University of California Law School, Berkeley

  27. Robyn Spencer, Lehman College, City University of New York

  28. Eva-Maria Swidler, Goddard College

  29. Karen Stupski, Goddard College,

  30. Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary

  31. Christopher Tinson, Hampshire College

  32. Victor Wallis, Berklee College of Music

  33.  Robert Wells, Oakland Unified School District (CA)

  34. Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary

 

EMAJ JOINS LAWSUIT AGAINST PENNSYLVANIA OFFICIALS

MEDIA RELEASE

CONTACTS: Prof. Johanna Fernandez (917 930-0804 johanna.fernandez@baruch.cuny.edu), and Prof. Mark Lewis Taylor (847 708-2479, mark.taylor@ptsem.edu)

EDUCATORS FOR MUMIA ABU-JAMAL (EMAJ)

JOINS LAWSUIT AGAINST PA OFFICIALS

____________________________________

EMAJ is 1 of 6 Plaintiffs to Charge Unconstitutionality

of New PA Law Silencing Prisoners 

            New York and Princeton. On Monday November 10, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) joined a group of 6 total plaintiffs whose attorneys filed, on their behalf, an injunctive challenge to Pennsylvania’s new law, the “Revictimization Relief Act” (RRA), which would seek to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal and other prisoners’ voices.

Defendants in the suit are Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams and PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane. The injunction sought is based on the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and on Article 1 of the PA Constitution.

The RRA law was drafted in response to a commencement speech that Mumia Abu-Jamal recorded for Goddard College students to hear on October 5. Beginning the very next day, the law was fast tracked through the PA legislature and quickly signed on October 22 by Pennsylvania’s outgoing governor, Tom Corbett. EMAJ promptly joined with other groups with its “Call to Action,” protesting the law’s targeting of Mumia’s and other prisoners’ free speech.

In the lawsuit, the basic argument of EMAJ and the other plaintiffs is that the RRA “statute was enacted principally to silence Plaintiff Mumia Abu-Jamal. It chills his ability–and the ability of the other Plaintiffs and other current and former prisoners—to engage in speech protected by the First Amendment.”

Plaintiffs other than Mumia and EMAJ, are Prison Radio (a production company that records the voices of prisoners and broadcasts them via radio, television, Internet, and film), the Human Rights Coalition-HRC (a nonprofit corporation from Philadelphia whose mission is to protect the human rights of prisoners and criminal defendants while advocating change in legal and prison systems), and also two other imprisoned activists and writer/commentators, members of the HRC, Richard L. Holbrook and Kerry Shakaboona Marshall.

EMAJ coordinators, Dr. Johanna Fernandez (Baruch College, CUNY) and Mark Lewis Taylor (Princeton Theological Seminary) report that EMAJ’s Plaintiff status is supported by 33 scholars from around the nation. These have engaged prisoner voices from PA or other states for their teaching and writing. The current list of scholars, below, includes several Goddard College faculty, two law professors, as well as teachers from multiple disciplines and areas of education.

  1. Jennifer Black, Ohio State University

  2. Bob Buchanan, Goddard College

  3. Neema Caughran, Goddard College

  4. Jan Clausen, Goddard College

  5. James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary

  6. Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz

  7. David G. Embrick, Loyola University (IL)

  8. Robert A. Ferguson, Columbia University Law School

  9. Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College, City University of New York

  10. Maike Garland, Goddard College

  11. Craig Gordon, Oakland Unified School District (CA)

  12. Lisa Noelle Guenther, Vanderbilt University

  13. Tom Hansen, Autonomous University of Social Movements (Chicago)

  14. Marc Lamont Hill, Morehouse College

  15. Joy A. James, Williams College

  16. Jamal Joseph, Columbia University

  17. Wonhee Anne Joh, Garrett Seminary, (IL)

  18. Robin D. G. Kelley, University of California, Los Angeles

  19. Ibram X. Kendi, State University of New York, Albany

  20. Ju-Pong Lin, Goddard College

  21. Bob Mandel, West Contra Costa Unified School District (CA)

  22. Anthony Monteiro, Temple University

  23. Mary Phillips, Lehman College, City University of New York

  24. Peter J. Paris, Princeton Theological Seminary

  25. Vijay Prashad, Trinity College (CT)

  26. Dylan Rodriguez, University of California, Riverside

  27. Jonathan Simon, University of California Law School, Berkeley

  28. Robyn Spencer, Lehman College, City University of New York

  29. Eva-Maria Swidler, Goddard College

  30. Karen Stupski, Goddard College,

  31. Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary

  32. Christopher Tinson, Hampshire College

  33. Victor Wallis, Berklee College of Music

  34.  Robert Wells, Oakland Unified School District (CA)

  35. Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary

“Greetings” at Riverside Church-NYC, at Cornel West & Bob Avakian Dialogue

Statement of “Greetings” by Mark Lewis Taylor from the Host Committee for the dialogue on “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion,” between Bob Avakian, Chair of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, and Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice, Union Theological Seminary. Taylor was introduced as professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, and founder and co-coordinator of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Riverside Church, New York City, November 15, 2014.

___________________

As a political theologian I cannot speak a greeting as would each member of the Host Committee for tonight’s dialogue. But I do express to you the warmth of revolutionary greetings that I am sure does come from them all.

This Host Committee is made up of scholars, theologians, scientists, musicians, actors, filmmakers, parents of children murdered by the police – all of us somehow fighting for justice, sharing commitments to revolution through collective struggle.

I am joined on the Host Committee by other religion scholars and Christian activists, so let me begin with a brief word from Christians.

 Welcome from those of us who know Christianity has sanctioned or instigated many of the most inhuman, planet-devastating, capitalist and colonialist dominations – and also white supremacy and slavery, repressions of women and the sexually different . . . indeed . . .but. . .

 . . . welcome, too, in the name of followers of Jesus who have contested the ways of colonialism, empire and capitalism, who have fought back –in spite of executions, lynchings, torture, mass incarceration, police violence, immigrant repression, and the slow violence of poverty and invisibility. We greet you in the name of these Christian fighters, too.

But the Host Committee is more than such Christians, certainly more than the one white male Christian you hear now. So, more significantly, I dare greet you as one part of a greater group on our committee – revolutionaries from many other religious and spiritual traditions, and from multiple secular movements.

We are part of a world revolutionary people, from Gaza to Ferguson and all points more and elsewhere! We are led in this land by emergent/insurgent leaders of color – Black, Latino, American Indian, Asian- and Arab-American, as well as revolutionary whites.

We as Host Committee believe today is not just an acceptable event, but in fact a great one, with communist revolutionary Bob Avakian engaging publicly the Christian revolutionary Cornel West.

So, we greet you and the revolutionary world being born, a world that is on the way and on the move, a world that is not just possible, but makeable. Welcome!

DEMONSTRATORS DROWN OUT PA GOV. CORBETT

By Betsey Piette

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 Lots of media were on hand Oct. 21 to record the moment whenPennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett put his signature on the “Revictimization Relief Act” – dubbed the “Silence Mumia Law” by civil rights activists.  The problem was that none of media could hear Corbett speak.  Nearly 50 protesters standing a short distance away from Corbett’s press conference at 13th and Locust Sts in Philadelphia drowned him out with constant chants of “Our brother Mumia is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and “One term Tom!” (photo above, from Philadelphia Magazine online, Oct. 21, 2014)

 In what would seem to be a Hail Mary effort to revive his failing reelection bid, Corbett, his political business allies and the Fraternal Order of Police cynically set up shop on a sheltered portable stage at the location where Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed in Dec. 1981.  Political activist and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who happened upon the scene, was framed by police for the shooting and subsequently served over 30 years on death row before being released into general prison population in 2011. Abu-Jamal maintains his innocence.

 The same movement that has steadfastly fought to free Abu-Jamal responded with less than 24-hours notice to turn out on a weekday to confront the state’s latest effort to silence him.  They were joined by prisoner rights groups and civil liberties forces that see the anti-Abu-Jamal law as a blanket attack on the constitutional rights of all prisoners, and a dangerous precedent at a time when more attention is focused on mass incarceration.

 Several protesters wore orange prison-style jumpsuits and carried signs depicting the activities that would be banned under the legislation intended to muffle Mumia.  One read “I spoke out against abuse in prison, now Corbett & FOP want to silence me.”

 Demonstrators also linked the efforts to silence Abu-Jamal with the government’s militarized response to those protesting police brutality in Ferguson, Mo. since the police murder of unarmed African-American youth Michael Brown.  One chant today was “From Ferguson to Philly, we say NO! Killer cops have got to go!”

 A large hand lettered sign carried a statement given by Abu-Jamal to prison radio in response to the bill.  It read “I welcome Gov. Corbett’s signature on an unconstitutional bill that proves that the PA executive and the legislature don’t give one whit about the constitutions of the Commonwealth or the U.S. It proves that they are the outlaws,” signed Mumia Abu-Jamal.

 “Having failed to kill Mumia in the street in 1981, and having failed to execute him during his over 30 years on death row, the FOP and the government of Pennsylvania continues to try to silence him, this time by extinguishing his speech,” said Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.

 The demonstrators who turned out today made it clear that the state’s efforts are in vain.  They stayed in the street for an impromptu rally that went on some time after the Corbett forces abandoned the area.  A day of activities is also planned for Oct. 22 to broaden the movement to free Abu-Jamal and in observation of the national day against police brutality and mass incarceration.

EMAJ Notes also this, from years-long Philadelphia activist for Mumia, Lee James:

“We did so well.  Listening and watching I felt we do have a movement here and it gets stronger everytime they come at us.  New people, new determination – it was truly power to the people. They had to come out in such force and it truly meant nothing. They have nothing.  We spoke of Ferguson, Palestine, prisoners, MOVE.  .  It was our people all over the world.  Thank you all – and to the future,  Lee.”

. . . and FROM PROFESSOR JOHANNA FERNANDEZ OF EMAJ AND THE CAMPAIGN TO BRING MUMIA HOME: 

“Simple words can’t really capture what happened today. In the face of their antiseptic, proto-fascist ceremony, our side resounded with spirit, volume, color and poetry. People who were walking by wanted to hear more from our side, than from the white-man-march of 20 put on display by the cops and their followers.

It was truly a moment of the people and there were so many beautiful moments: our group trickled-in, a few at a time; but right at the start of the proceedings, when I looked back I saw that we had grown strong and I could see an abundance of colorful signs and banners with the beautiful Free Mumia NOW banner in front, which was photographed quite a bit by the media. And then there was that moment of fear at the beginning of the proceedings right before we broke the orchestrated ceremonial silence of the event and started chanting, strong, Brick By Brick, Wall by Wall, We’re Gonna Free Mumia Abu Jamal.  The chants kept rolling throughout the proceedings and at some point Bro. Kamau decided to lift up our voices by pulling out the bull-horn (great idea!), which he used for a bit before the cops ask us to put it away. And then half way through the ceremony, Ramona couldn’t take it anymore and she broke out in speech and started exposing the contradiction of the term “victim relief,” in a city that dropped a bomb on the MOVE house. There was also a moment when a passerby said something about her son being in prison; at some point when we realized that the Bill was being signed we booed the Governor and before long Pam emerged from the back of the crowd with a liberated bull horn to tell us that this charade of a bill was a sign of weakness on the part of these fools in power and that they just went ahead a dragged themselves into a fight that they are most certainly going to lose. We got a kick-ass lecture from Tony, about the special role played by the people at the bottom of society during Philadelphia’s constitutional debates at the birth of the nation and we heard from a Brother whose imprisoned nephew was framed by the courts. We were so bad-ass that they didn’t quite know what to do with us as we bum-rushed their parade.

There were so many other classic moments; but above all this was another one of those moments of truth when the Mumia movement did what it had to do: confront power head-on in the streets — and it was beautiful.

I’m proud to be in this struggle with all of you.

Love,

Johanna

 

CALL TO ACTION AGAINST PA LAWS TO SILENCE PRISONERS


prisonThis “Call to Action” is also a summons to all persons 
of conscience to protest in Philadelphia, October 22, 2014.
To add your name to this call as an organization or individual, email sophia.williams@baruchmail.cuny.edu.
For details see www.bringmumiahome.com, www.prisonradio.org and www.freemumia.com.

Also – sign the 3,000 plus, and growing, PETITION AT ROOTS-ACTION on this issue.

________________________________________________________________________________

We the undersigned stand unequivocally against the passage, in Pennsylvania, of House Bill HB2533 on October 15, 2014 and PA Senate Bill SB508 on October 16, 2014. Because the bill was fast-tracked in the legislature, the Governor of Pennsylvania is already poised to sign the bill into law.

Known collectively as the “Revictimization Relief Act,” the laws affords virtually unlimited discretion to District Attorneys and the Attorney General to silence prisoner speech, by claiming that such speech causes victims’ families “mental anguish.” This law targets both prisoners’ speech and supporters who sponsor that speech. Thus, under the guise of victim relief, politicians are claiming a power that if granted to them will be difficult if not impossible for citizens to check.

In seeking to silence the legally protected speech of prisoners the law establishes a precedent for the further erosion of First Amendment rights. In so violating prisoners’ speech, the state also damages citizens’ right and freedom to know —in this case, to consider the speech of the imprisoned to better understand an area of U.S. life physically removed from public scrutiny. The courts have consistently upheld the right of prisoners to constitutionally protected speech; with little success government and prison officials have sought to curtail that speech for political reasons, often claiming safety concerns.

“Victim relief,” while a worthy goal in itself, is only to be achieved by just verdict and the extension of due process to all parties involved. Victim relief is not served by denying fundamental rights to those convicted, especially because prisoner freedom of speech is crucial for redressing wrongful convictions and the current crisis of harsh sentencing that is often disproportionate to alleged crimes.

Our society is currently engaged in a full-scale debate on the problems of mass incarceration. This debate could not have grown without the articulation, by prisoners themselves in the press, exposing systemic violations of their rights in the courts and the dehumanizing conditions of prison life.

This legislation emerged as a politically-charged response, on the part of the Fraternal Order of Police and its political allies, because they failed to stop Pennsylvania prisoner and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from delivering his October 5, 2014 commencement address at Goddard College in Vermont, from where Abu-Jamal earned his BA in 1996 while on death row. Students at Goddard collectively chose Abu-Jamal as their commencement speaker and the administration supported the invitation. In this case, this law would deny the school the right to hear from its alum, Abu-Jamal.

To block Abu-Jamal’s free speech at Goddard College would have been a violation in itself. But this law goes further and sacrifices the rights of all prisoners in Pennsylvania in order to silence Abu-Jamal. This is an unethical deployment of collective punishment by those in power.

At stake in this legislation is the very premise on which U.S. democracy was erected — the notion that in order to achieve a robust engagement with and understanding of society and its problems, the state cannot be allowed to silence unpopular or dissenting voices. Instead of defending constitutional rights, Pennsylvania politicians appear to be far more interested in promoting their own interests and political vendettas. The Bill was debated in an atmosphere that reflected an unethical process riddled with political maneuverings, rather than fair and informed deliberation.

As PA Senator Daylin Leach confirmed in his vote against the legislation: This is the most extreme violation of the First Amendment imaginable.” This law has a chilling effect that prevents any prisoner from speaking out on any issue for fear of a retaliatory civil suit.

This law, therefore, violates the public trust we expect from legislators. It is an attack on our freedom, a freedom that must be guarded — especially when and if officials do not agree with the content of speech they hear.

We oppose and protest Pennsylvania’s abuse of state power and its trampling of the fundamental human rights of all — of students to hear Abu-Jamal, of teachers and journalists to access perspectives of the imprisoned and, by extension, of everyone who deserves the free flow of information in society.

With the growing number of executions by the police across the country and the passage of flagrantly unconstitutional laws as seen in Pennsylvania, we the people have to organize collectively in our neighborhoods and in the streets to oppose the increasingly ominous display of rogue state power in Pennsylvania.

Join us in Philadelphia for a day of action on October 22, 2014. Press Conference at 12PM. Honk against the Bill at 4PM and Town Hall Meeting at 6:00PM.

For information:

www.bringmumiahome.com * www.prisonradio.org * www.freemumia.com

 Signatories:
(institutions after names given for identification purposes only)

International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ)

National Lawyers Guild

Decarcerate-PA

Center for Constitutional Rights

Prison Radio

Cornel West

Frantz Fanon Foundation, France

MOVE

Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ)

Campaign to Bring Mumia Home

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)

Keith D. Cook, the Cook Family & Friends

International Action Center/IAC

Campaign to End the New Jim Crow

Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI)

National Jericho Movement

Netfa Freeman, Voices With Vision on WPFW 89.3 FM, Washington DC

Noam Chomsky

German Network Against the Death Penalty and to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

Committee to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal

Sankofa Community Empowerment

Mobilization to Free Abu-Jamal/Northern California

Le Collectif Français “Libérons Mumia”

Amig@s de Mumia de México

Resistance in Brooklyn

Megan Gabriel, The DC Childcare Collective

Workers World

Freedom Archives

Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Komitee Free Mumia Wien, Austria

Iyaluua Ferguson

New Jim Crow Movement, Florida

Free Marissa Now (FMN) Mobilizing Campaign

Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series, Burlington, VT

Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD)

Samuel Légitimus, Collectif James Baldwin de Paris

Talib Kweli

Frances Goldin

Laura Whitehorn

Dave Lindorff, Journalist, Founding Editor of ThisCantBeHappening.net

National Jericho Movement

Prison Action Network

Family & Friends of Incarcerated People (FFOIP)

Campaign to End the New Jim Crow

Blue Carreker, Citizen Action of New York Campaign Manager

Askia Coalition Against Police Brutality

Human Rights Coalition-Philadelphia Chapter

Tracy Frisch

Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary

Alice Sturm Sutter, North Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice

Pinky Stanseski & Sophie Stanseski

Daniel Vila, Green Party Candidate

Kemah C. Washington

David Swanson, Campaign Coordiantor of RootsAction.org

Didier Paillard, Maire (Mayor) de Saint-Denis (France)

Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of Correctional Association of New York

Linda Guillebeaux, Sekou Odinga Defense

International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5

Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI)

Didier Paillard, Maire (Mayor) de Saint-Denis (France)

David Swanson, Campaign Coordinator of rootsaction.org

Daniel Vila, Green Party Candidate

Mark Lewis Taylor

New York State Prisoner Justice Network

Organizing for Black Struggle

Rebecca B. Wilk

Michael Schiffman

Riverside Church Prison Ministry

Alice Sturm Sutter, North Manhattan Neighbors for Peace & Justice

Leila Forouhi

Tracy Frisch

Saint-Denis Mumia Committee

Attorney Michael Warren

Human Rights Coalition-Philadelphia

Pinky Stanseski & Sophie Stanseski

Kemah C. Washington

Women of Color in Global Women’s Strike

Payday Men’s Network

TO POLICE & POLITICIANS – HANDS OFF GODDARD COLLEGE!

Mumia-Abu-Jamal-2013-web

by Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College (CUNY) and
Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary
Coordinators, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ)

Students at Goddard College in Vermont will hear Pennsylvania imprisoned journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal, give their commencement address this Sunday, October 5, 2014. (Abu-Jamal photo, 2013, above left)

Police and supporting conservative politicians are up in arms, denouncing Goddard College, even pressing for cancellation of Abu-Jamal’s address.

Abu-Jamal’s speech will have to be a pre-recorded speech, a genre the veteran journalist has honed to award-winning form, in local Philadelphia radio and for National Public Radio. His skills and awards came prior to being convicted in 1982 for the killing of Officer Daniel Faulkner, and before he served over 29 years on death row. His death sentence was ruled unconstitutional in 2001, and finally vacated in 2011. He now serves a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison.

From death row and prison, Abu-Jamal’s renown only grew. He has authored thousands of audio and print essays, and eight books. He also earned a Bachelors degree (Goddard College) and a Masters degree (California State University/Dominguez Hills) while in prison. He has become “the voice of the voiceless” for many repressed voices in the nation and world. While he is, himself, a life-long critic of racist brutal cops, he wrote in defense of LA police whose federal retrial for the 1992 Rodney King beating he saw as “clear violation” of their freedom from “double-jeopardy.”

His humanity, courage, power of pen and mind, as well as the flagrant injustice of his own treatment during trial and appeals, have drawn human rights activists’ attention. Amnesty International declared his 1982 trial “in violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures.” South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu demands he “be released immediately.”

The conservative media, the Fraternal Order of Police, their political cronies like Pennsylvania’s Senator Pat Toomey and its Governor Thomas Corbett, along with the state’s head of the Department of Corrections – all find Goddard’s invitation an outrage, an affront to law enforcement, to all society.

We beg to differ. In many ways, Abu-Jamal, imprisoned for decades, is this nation’s Nelson Mandela. He’s a life-long fighter against entrenched white racism. He is part of a generation of political activists, who during the 1960s and 1970s felt the full force of state repression. Armed state agents murdered Black radicals, unleashed illegal operations like COINTELPRO against them, attacked activists and their families, and destroyed programs led by organizers from Black, Latino, and Indian communities. Having committed no crime, the FBI still compiled a 600-page file on Abu-Jamal, beginning when he was a 15-year old writer for the Black Panther Party, which continued even after he left the Party after two years. Abu-Jamal received death threats from police on the streets. He was nearly beaten to death by the police who wrongfully apprehended him for Officer Faulkner’s shooting death. Abu-Jamal and many other US political prisoners should be honored, and Abu-Jamal especially for his fortitude, and for his role in galvanizing movements of conscience the world over. We need his voice more than ever, as we face today’s violence of brutal policing and entrenched mass incarceration.

We can admit rights to free speech for police and conservative politicians, but Mumia has that right, too. His freedom to address Goddard College students is further reinforced by the Pennsylvania Corrections Department’s own policies. The head of Corrections himself has said he cannot – in spite of his desire to do so – “pull the plug” on Abu-Jamal’s address.

But Mumia’s free speech right is even more important for an additional reason: his voice as a US political prisoner is often marginalized, demonized, repressed and silenced. Hearing from that kind of voice is not just a matter of fairness, it is also an act of justice necessary to the hearing of truth. It is a way to rectify the flagrant injustice of the state against the leaders of poor and racially targeted communities of the 1960s and 1970s.

As educators we know that truth demands hearing voices beyond those that are typically respected and securely lodged at the centers and upper echelons of power. No, as many scholars emphasize, the crucial role in society is played by the unexpected voices, indeed often by the disrespected voices among the marginalized, excluded and repressed. As a political prisoner, who was framed in the courts for his political beliefs and affiliations, Abu-Jamal brings these voices, and in ways unrivaled speaks and writes eloquently with fairness, humanity, humor, inspiration, and intellectual cogency. He is a seasoned public intellectual, and students know this.

Mumia’s voice is unwanted and feared by intimidating police and politicians, and their conservative media consorts. They are guardians of the center. In spite of their own rights to free speech, when they become a center that quashes the right to speak of needed voices from among the marginalized and politically repressed, they cease being a center worthy of public respect.

And so we say to those who would silence political prisoner Abu-Jamal again: “Hands off Goddard College students! Cease and desist from disparaging their choice to hear Abu-Jamal’s voice from prison on their graduation day.” The students occupy the moral and intellectual high ground. Let them proceed without intimidation by officials who command guns and prisons. The youth of today, those who must forge tomorrow’s freedom and real democracy, should be neither chained nor intimidated by guardians of the old center.

So, to Mumia Abu-Jamal and Goddard College – we say, “let the address begin!”

Johanna Fernandez, Ph.D.
Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, Coordinator
Department of History & Department of Black and Latino Studies
Baruch College, CUNY

Mark Lewis Taylor, Ph.D.
Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, Coordinator
Princeton Theological Seminary

LATEST UPDATE on Mumia, MLK and the Oakland School District (Aug 2014)

Protest Now! No To Police Censorship of Mumia, and Teachers! 

Reinstate the Urban Dreams Website!

Action Still Needed! Please send messages to the School Board!

– Scroll down for School Board addresses –

Here’s what happened: Under pressure from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)—operating through a friendly publicity agent called Fox News—the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) earlier this year shut down an entire website composed of teacher-drafted curriculum material called Urban Dreams.  Why?  Because this site included course guidelines on the censorship of innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal!  The course material compared the censorship of Mumia’s extensive radio commentaries and writings, with that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s later writings, which focused on class exploitation and his opposition to the US’ imperialist War against Vietnam. Both were effectively silenced by the big media, including in Mumia’s case, by National Public Radio (NPR).

Mumia Is Innocent! But He’s Still a Top Target of FOP

Abu-Jamal has long been a top-row target for the FOP, which tried to get him legally killed for decades.  Mumia was framed by the Philadelphia police and falsely convicted of murdering a Philadelphia policeman in 1982, with the extensive collaboration of lying prosecutors, corrupt courts, the US Justice Department, and key political figures.

Mumia’s death sentence was dropped only when a federal appeals court judge set it aside because of blatantly illegal jury instructions by the original highly racist trial judge.  (The same federal judge upheld every bogus detail of Mumia’s conviction.)  The local Philadelphia prosecutor and politicians chickened out of trying to get Mumia’s original death sentence reinstated due to the fact that all their evidence of his guilt had long been exposed as totally fraudulent!

FOP: Can’t Kill Him? Silence Him!

The FOP had to swallow the fact that the local mucky-mucks had dropped the ball on executing Mumia, but they were rewarded with a substitute sentence of life without the possibility of parole, imposed by a local court acting in secret.  Mumia is now serving this new and equally unjust sentence of “slow death.”

This gets us back to the FOP’s main point here, which is to silence Mumia. They can’t stop Mumia from writing and recording his world-renownd commentaries (which are available at Prison Radio, www.prisonradio.org). But they look for any opportunity to smear and discredit Mumia, and keep him out of the public eye; and these snakes have found a morsel on the Urban Dreams web site to go after!

Urban Dreams Was Well Used by Teachers

Urban Dreams was initially set up under a grant from the federal Dept. of Education in 1999-2004 and contains teacher-written material on a wide variety of issues.  It is (was) used extensively in California and beyond. The OUSD’s knee-jerk reaction to shut the whole site down because of a complaint from police, broadcast on the all-powerful Fox News network, shows the rapid decline of the US into police-state status.  Why should we let a bunch of lying, vicious cops, whose only real job is to protect the wealthy and powerful from all of us, get away with this?

Fresh from defeating Obama’s nominee to head the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department because he served for a period as Mumia’s attorney, the FOP is attacking a school lesson plan that asks students to think outside the box of system propaganda. But the grave-diggers of capitalist oppression are stirring.

Labor Says No To Police Persecution of Mumia!

In 1999, the Oakland teachers union, Oakland Education Association (OEA), held an unauthorized teach-in on Mumia and the death penalty.  Later the same year, longshore workers in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) shut down all West-Coast ports to Free Mumia.  Other teacher actions happened around the country and internationally.  And now the Alameda County Labor Council, acting on a resolution submitted by an OEA member, has denounced the FOP-inspired shutdown of Urban Dreams, and called for the site’s complete restoration (ie no deletions).

Labor Says No To Censorship of Mumia, and Teachers!

We are asking union members particularly, and everyone else as well, if you abhor police-sponsored censorship of school curricula, and want to see justice and freedom for the wrongfully convicted such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, send your message of protest now to the Oakland School Board, at the three addresses below.

Union members: take the resolution below to your local union or labor council, and get it passed!

Whatever you do, send a copy of your protest letter or resolution, or a report of your actions, to Oakland Teachers for Mumia, at communard2@juno.com.

Here is the Alameda County Labor Council resolution: 

_   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _

Labor Speaks: Urban Dreams Censorship Resolution

Alameda County Labor Council

Whereas Mumia Abu-Jamal, an award winning journalist, defender of the rights of the working class, people of color, and oppressed people has been imprisoned since 1982 without parole for a crime he didn’t commit after his death sentence was finally overturned;

Whereas the Oakland Unified School District’s censorship of the Urban Dreams website was in reaction to a Fox News and Fraternal Order of Police attack on a lesson plan asking students to consider a parallel between censorship of Martin Luther King’s radical ideas and censorship of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and;

Whereas it is dangerous and unacceptable to allow the police to determine the curriculum of a major school district like Oakland, or any school district;

Whereas removal of the Urban Dreams OUSD website denies educators and student access to invaluable curriculum resources by Oakland teachers with social justice themes promoting critical thinking, and;

Whereas in 1999, the Oakland Education Association led the teach-in on Mumia Abu-Jamal and the death penalty which helped deepen the debate in the U.S. on the death penalty itself, and greatly intensified the spotlight on the widespread issue of wrongful conviction and demanded justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and;

Whereas OEA and Alameda Contra Costa County Service Center of CTA cited the Mumia teach-in and the censored unit on Martin Luther King Jr. in its Human Rights WHO AWARD for 2013;

Be it resolved that the Alameda Labor Council condemns OUSD’s censorship of the Urban Dreams website and demands that it immediately restore access to all materials on the website, reaffirms its demand for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and issues a press release to seek the widest possible support from defenders of free speech and those who seek justice for Mumia.

– Submitted by Keith Brown, OEA

– Passed, Alameda County Labor Council, 14 July 2014

_   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _

Now It’s your turn!

Join with Ed Asner, and with the Alameda County Labor Council, in protesting the 

Oakland School Board’s censorship of the Urban Dreams web site!

• Ask your local union, labor council or other organization to endorse the resolution by the Alameda County Labor Council.

• Demand the School Board reinstate the Urban Dreams website without any deletions!

• Send your union resolutions or letters of protest to the following;

1. Oakland Board of Education: boe@ousd.k12.ca.us

2. Board President Davd Kakishiba: David.Kakishiba@ousd.k12.ca.us

3. Superintendent Antwan Wilson: Antwan.Wilson@ousd.k12.ca.us

Important: Send a copy of your resolution or email to: 

Bob Mandel/Teachers for Mumia at: communard2@juno.com.

Thank you for your support!

-This message is from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Oakland Teachers for Mumia.

 

UPDATE ON THE STRUGGLE FOR DR. MONTEIRO (Sept. 1, 2014)

September 1, 2014

To Donors and Signers of the Call for Monteiro:

You are receiving this because you are a signer or a donor to the struggle for Dr. Anthony Monteiro. We send out a hearty thank you to all, especially to those of you who have contributed financially. All of you played a crucial role in Dr. Monteiro’s struggle and the contributions you made are still having impact.

We have two purposes in writing you now: first, to announce a change in the Monteiro coalition’s way of deploying the funds raised on his behalf through the Indiegogo campaign, in the amount of $1045 (far short of our needed $17,000 for a summer time ad in the Chronicle of Higher Education), and second, to provide you important information on the current state of the struggle for Dr. Monteiro.

This has always been about more than Dr. Monteiro; it is about the health of a vigorous and needed and historic African American Studies program at Temple, and about university relations to gentrifying dynamics in urban communities. Consequently, Dr. Monteiro, student activists, community leaders, and politicians at the highest levels of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania politics are still in vigorous struggle to pressure TU to reinstate Dr. Monteiro. This struggle is far from over, and because of Dr. Monteiro’s organic connection to his community and to Pennsylvania politics, this is a long-term political effort. It will take time to play out. It will certainly continue into the next academic year.

Dr. Monteiro’s contract has now expired, but even as he looks for alternative employment, he and his supporters in Philadelphia have been planning both summer and Fall activities on his behalf.

On Redeploying the Funds

It is clear now that the fundamental need for funding is at the local Philadelphia and Pennsylvania levels. The Chronicle ad would have been nice, but a summer ad does not have the greatest impact. Moreover, we feel that national and world scholars have already weighed in with significant influence with the “Call for Monteiro.” The primary need now is to deploy funds in an aggressive local and state effort on behalf of Dr. Monteiro and the issues of scholarship and social justice he represents.

The bulk of the Indiegogo funds will be re-deployed locally for hiring artists to work up a logo for the Coalition to Reinstate Dr. Monteiro. The company, Reclaim, will also be paid for producing T-shirts for the movement which, again, will highlight Dr. Monteiro’s struggle for reinstatement at Temple but as related to the broad campaign in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania legislature for community justice against gentrification and amid Temple University’s often blatant disregard for Black Philadelphians and their community needs. As a sign of how vibrant the local campaign is, a Philadelphia jazz event sponsored by the Coalition brought in additional funds that community members will use to augment the Indiegogo funds. So know that our funds are being put to first-rate use, as community social movements continue to put legs on the national campaign that we have built for Dr. Monteiro. 

The Monteiro Struggle Today 
at Temple, and in Philadelphia & Pennsylvania

Perhaps the dramatic nature and complexity of the struggle for Dr. Monteiro is best exemplified by remarks offered on the floor of the Pennsylvania legislature by State Representative W. Curtis Thomas.  Rep. Thomas is the Pennsylvania legislator for the Philadelphia District in which lies the majority of the campus of Temple University and for communities strongly affected by Temple University policies. The remarks by Rep. Thomas suggested putting a hold on some funds for Temple University (TU), which the University normally receives, if TU administrators do not respond positively to the following four conditions:

(1)Reinstate Dr. Anthony Monteiro to his post in TU’s African American Studies Department, not only because of his excellence as teacher and scholar, but also as a voucher of good faith commitment to high quality relationships between the North Philadelphia black community and the University.

(2)Reinforce Temple’s commitment to educational opportunities afforded North Philadelphia. These were significantly undermined when Temple seemed to proceed with an illegal purchase of William Penn High School, in order to build at its location its own university stadium and athletic facilities for TU students. (Under pressure from Rep. Curtis and the Monteiro movement, TU has now announced that it will work with the community to establish an educational center for the neighborhood at the former high school site, complete with a new Career Educational Technical Center.)

(3)Redress the increasing problem of a severe “lack of diversity” at Temple University, both in the ranks of its faculty and also in the upper level of its administrators.

(4)Reverse TU’s ongoing neglect of the basic needs of North Philadelphia communities that border the University. Showing good faith, here, would mean admitting more of the graduating honors students from neighboring black Philadelphia high schools and redressing students’ needs in those neighborhoods.

At present, Rep. Thomas and others are working every possible political and community angle on behalf of Dr. Monteiro, together with these broader issues. The funding from the Pennsylvania legislature to TU is not automatic, and Rep. Thomas seems to have support from both Republicans and Democrats to hold up the dispersal of these funds.

Indeed, the power of the purse-strings has been evident, as Rep. Curtis has had personal meetings with the President of Temple University, Neil Theobald, on all these matters, and especially on the firing of Dr. Monteiro.

We are upbeat, and so is Dr. Monteiro. He has reports that TU administrators have had up to 3-hour meetings on his case, and that TU knows that its reputation on these matters is not strong, in the media or in the local urban community. Dr. Monteiro’s case is at the heart of the deep concerns over urban gentrification in the TU area, and has stimulated renewed organizing around whether black folk will be allowed to live in North Philly near to Temple University.

Moreover, since Dr. Molefi Kete Asante’s independently initiated role in the firing of Dr. Monteiro (and we now know that this is the case from the highest level of Temple administrators), the African American Studies Department remains in a state of seeming chaos. Dr. Asante is trying to have it renamed Department of “Africology,”organizing it around his own version of Afrocentrism. Significantly, though, one promising young scholar in the Department just submitted last week – unannounced and just weeks before start-up of classes – her resignation from the Department. Dr. Monteiro’s stabilizing influence is still needed in the Department – now more than ever – as is his commitment to principles of community justice that he combined with rigorous scholarship in the Black radical tradition of W. E. B. Du Bois and Angela Y. Davis.

It is for the purpose of supporting these powerful local and state efforts that we now are suggesting that the funds raised for the Chronicle ad, be released to activist in the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania organizing work

Thank you everyone for your support. We will continue to keep you updated.

Sincerely,

Dr. Mark Lewis Taylor, Religion and Society, Princeton Theological Seminary

Dr. Johanna Fernandez , Dept. of History and Black and Latino/a Studies

Jamila K Wilson, Campaign to Bring Mumia Home

Patrice K. Armstead, Coalition for the Reinstatement of Dr. Anthony Monteiro/Philadelphia

OPEN LETTER TO THE OAKLAND UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT (May 27, 2014)

EMAJ – EDUCATORS FOR MUMIA ABU-JAMAL
20 Years Educating and Organizing for Abu-Jamal and Social Justice
 website: http://www.emajonline.com

__________________________________________________

To Oakland School Board President David Kakishiba, Acting Superintendent Gary D. Yee, incoming Superintendent Antwan Wilson and the Board of Education

With this letter we register our protest of the decision by the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to shut down its Urban Dreams curriculum web site. The decision has every appearance of being a capitulation to elements of a police pressure group, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), whose strong-arm tactics of intimidation were recently projected at the OUSD through reactionary pundits on Fox News. Even though OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint enumerates several reasons for taking down the website, he also admits that the national Fox story is what precipitated its closing.

Closing the curriculum website denies faculty and student access to invaluable curriculum resources by Oakland teachers with social justice themes. In particular, this innovative Urban Dreams curriculum focused on media and educators’ censorship, asking students to consider parallels between the censoring of radical political speeches and writings of the post-1967 Martin Luther King and the censoring of today’s revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Closing the curriculum website denies faculty and student access to invaluable curriculum resources by Oakland teachers with social justice themes.

African American  Integration     Civil Rights Marchers    StateKing’s radical politics were evident in his last years of his growing collaboration with Black Power leaders, his leading of study sessions with SCLC leadership on socialism, his support of the movement against the Vietnam War and his challenge to U.S. militarism, declaring at Riverside Church that the U.S., “my own country,” was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

Abu-Jamal’s radical politics are expressed today in six books and hundreds of essays in audio and print formats. He produced them over 32 years of imprisonment, 29 of these on death row. He has continuously maintained his innocence against a 1982 death sentence (now, life without parole) for the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia policeman, Daniel Faulkner.

Abu-Jamal has become a skilled and inspiring analyst of a broad array of social justice themes: mass incarceration, police violence, economic exploitation, U.S. imperialism, the death penalty and systemic racism – also gender and sexual injustice. These essays have found their way into venues as diverse as National Public Radio, Yale Law Review, Street News for the homeless, Forbes Magazine and a host of others.

Mumia-Abu-Jamal-2013-webMumia Abu-Jamal, shown at left in a 2013 photo, a college educated professional journalist, has continued to write news and commentary throughout his 30 years of imprisonment – an excellent role model for the disciplined scholarship expected of students.

OUSD teacher Craig Gordon, in a lively and well-crafted educational course design, offered an impressive curriculum encouraging students to compare censorship of King’s and Abu-Jamal’s radical writings. His teaching unit, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” deftly exposes how King’s ideas have been whitewashed and distorted and Abu-Jamal’s subjected to ideological distortion.

Gordon creatively led students to consider questions like the following: Why is this radical King absent from our education and media? How does his censorship compare with the silencing of other radical voices today, like that of Abu-Jamal? This is an invaluable pedagogy.

Predictably, Gordon and the OUSD came under pressure from both the FOP and Fox News.

First came a March 24 article, posted at the website of the Education Action Group Foundation (EAG) entitled, “Police Union Leader: Teachers Who Present a Cop-Killer as Hero are Committing ‘Psychological Child Abuse’.” The EAG is a reactionary educators group that is virulently anti-union, an ideologically right-wing educational arm of the Republican “Tea Party” movement.

The essay’s referenced “police union leader” was Philadelphia FOP Grand Lodge “Political Coordinator” Richard Costello, blustering – against all the evidence and in full ideological tantrum – that the OUSD, along with our organization, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ), was “committing psychological child abuse.”

Then, appearing on April 10, a Fox News essay took the FOP-Fox News attack to the national level. This essay was entitled “Lesson Has School Kids Comparing Martin Luther King to Cop-Killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Fox here used a tactic refined over the years by the FOP, namely, show-casing the grief of Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the police officer whom Abu-Jamal is said to have killed.

She is quoted as declaring that the OUSD curriculum was an “absolute disgrace.” The Fox story adds, without quoting Faulkner, that the OUSD curriculum is “akin to teaching students violence.” The FOP and allied Fox News pundits’ strategy is to replace well-made arguments with a simple emotional appeal to this grieving widow’s declaration of outrage.

There is more operative here than personal grief. The story also shows the FOP and Fox News claiming alliance with Maureen Faulkner in their political hostility to academic freedom. The story holds that any mention of radical or militant people or their ideas should be purged from public schools “using our tax dollars.” The very day this national story broke – in fact, just hours later – the OUSD took down the Urban Dreams site.

We urge the OUSD to reopen the Urban Dreams website. It would find ready use again, as it had before. It would also be a continuing testimony to the courage and excellence of education emanating from Oakland teachers.

We want the OUSD to know just how far the FOP will go in exploiting news outlets for their vendetta against Abu-Jamal.

Consider the FOP’s role in the recent congressional debates about President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile as assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Department of Justice (DOJ). Adegbile had played a minor role as part of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund (LDF), when the LDF won a ruling that declared Abu-Jamal’s death sentence to be unconstitutional.

In a letter to President Obama and through their political and press allies, the FOP presented a distinguished and successful civil rights attorney, Adegbile, as undeserving of a post in the DOJ because he defended a “cop-killer.” This was a direct attack on LDF’s right to defend Abu-Jamal, whose claims of racial bias at his original trial were seen by a federal district court judge in 2001 as so strong that he “certified” Abu-Jamal’s racial bias claim as “appealable.”

By vilifying Adegbile for his connections to the LDF defense of Abu-Jamal, the FOP was attacking LDF’s right to represent a defendant with strong appealable claims.

Note, however, that neither the FOP nor its Fox News allies raised objections when present Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts went through his confirmation hearings, even though Roberts provided pro bono legal defense to John Ferguson, regarded often as Florida’s worst murderer. Ferguson had tricked his way into a woman’s home, shot eight people, then also, according to national news stories, “while under indictment for those crimes, shot two teenagers on their way to church.”

The FOP, again using the same Maureen Faulkner who denounced the OUSD curriculum, also often circulates proven falsehoods. One of the FOP’s most widely disseminated stories is that during his 1982 trial, Abu-Jamal “smiled” at Maureen Faulkner when her husband’s bloody shirt was held up for display as evidence in court.

Investigative reporter Dave Lindorff long ago had confirmed from trial transcripts that this event never happened. Abu-Jamal was not even in the courtroom that day (Lindorff, “Killing Time,” pages 319-20, 356 note 16). The FOP and political allies continue circulating the story as if was true.

The story was used yet again in the recent confirmation debates about the Adegbile appointment. As Lindorff wrote recently, “[Republican] Sen. Pat Toomey … made full use of the false story in a speech on the Senate floor condemning Obama’s nominee Debo Adegbile … even embellishing on it by saying Abu-Jamal had “smirked” at Faulkner, when her original newspaper account had her saying he had ‘smiled.’”

It is important – especially for educators in these times – to stand strong against such crass acts of misrepresentation and vilification. Nearly anyone remotely associated with Abu-Jamal – whether the OUSD, its teacher Craig Gordon, renowned national educators or Nobel Prize winners – can be targeted.

The FOP even maintains a list of those who have spoken out for Abu-Jamal. They are on a “black list” – some feel it a kind of “hit list” – on an FOP page at its website. It is a display worthy only of the ugly McCarthyite legacies of this country. In fact, it may be worse, because it is maintained by a group charged by the state with the use of violent force.

We cannot back down in the face of this intimidation. We urge the OUSD to reopen the Urban Dreams website. It would find ready use again, as it had before. It would also be a continuing testimony to the courage and excellence of education emanating from Oakland teachers.

Looking forward to the Urban Dreams site reopening, we are

Sincerely,

Mark Lewis Taylor and Johanna Fernandez, EMAJ coordinators

Dr. Mark Taylor, mark.taylor@ptsem.edu, who teaches at the Princeton Theological Seminary, Religion and Society, and Professor Johanna Fernandez, johanna.fernandez@baruch.cuny.edu, who teaches in the Department of History and Black and Latino/a Studies at Baruch College, City University of New York are coordinators for Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ), http://www.emajonline.com, which has been educating and organizing for Abu-Jamal and social justice for 20 years.

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