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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

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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.

Educators’ Response to Dr. Asante’s Attacks on Dr. Monteiro

A Response to Dr. Molefi Kete Asante’s Charges against
Dr. Anthony Monteiro

By the Drafters of the Educators’ Call to Reinstate Monteiro

Monteiro and West at May 8 Rally 2014In recent radio and Facebook denunciations, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, descends to new levels of desperation in his attempt to defend Temple University’s “dismissal” of Dr. Anthony Monteiro after his ten years of distinguished service to its African American Studies Department.

Displaying an utter absence of ethical propriety, Asante publicly attacks Dr. Monteiro, his colleague of 10 years in the Department, with libelous caricatures of Dr. Monteiro as a “charlatan,” a “low-level purveyor of Marxism and anti-African ideas,” and more. Further, Dr. Asante flagrantly demeans distinguished national scholars Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, because they dared support Dr. Monteiro. Of their participation in a public gathering (see NPR coverage and photos at WHYY NewsWorks), Asante writes that they were merely “doing their Leftist duties” and, worse, he writes, “they were duped.” Dr. Asante then proceeds to excoriate white undergraduates involved in recent protests as a “cadre of white leftists,” who seek “to use the Monteiro issue to hijack the African American agenda.”

Dr. Asante’s brazen demonization of student protesters and his deployment of these racially divisive attacks are morally bankrupt and incompatible with his ethical responsibilities as chair of an African American Studies unit at a University. These claims have been effectively countered in a statement by leaders of the Philadelphia Monteiro movement (photo below, campus & communityfor Monteiro).

students_rally_for_monteiro_20140509_1102514185Further, Dr. Asante’s use of a naked and anachronistic anticommunism to justify baseless attacks on Dr. Monteiro’s integrity as a scholar and a teacher pose a dangerous threat to academic integrity and academic freedom. Dr. Asante’s statements against Dr. Monteiro are especially disconcerting because they reveal a deep seated, prejudicial contempt that has been longstanding. With his recent public statement, Dr. Asante inadvertently reveals that he used the power of his office as Department Chair to fire Dr. Monteiro for nothing other than political animus.

Together with previous, well-publicized charges of plagiarism and abuse of authority against him, Dr. Asante’s unethical conduct make him unfit to make decisions about faculty or lead an academic department. His pattern of unethical conduct brings disrespect upon his Department and Temple University.

Dr. Asante goes on to deride the entire national campaign’s “Call for Dr. Monteiro,” and its 250 signatories from across the nation, as having also been duped, and condemns Dr. Monteiro’s campaign as “slavishly selfish, self-indulgent and pathetic.” Will Dr. Asante next move to attack the Call’s headliners by name? These would be Angela Y. Davis, Gary Y. Okihiro, Gerald Horne, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Joy A. James, Joe Feagin, Howard Winant, Chris Hedges, Charles L. Blockson, James H. Cone, Lewis R. Gordon, Vijay Prashad, V. P. Franklin and Farah Jasmine Griffin.

Beyond name-calling, Dr. Asante gives no attention to the careful arguments made in the educators’ Call, which point to this dismissal as being a “retaliatory firing.” These are arguments that have not been seriously engaged by Dr. Asante.

The Call for Dr. Monteiro was publicized after carefully vetting it for accuracy with those who know the situation at Temple University, from both student and faculty perspectives. When drafting the Call, there were others who spoke with us only on condition that they remain anonymous, fearing retaliatory action from the Department Chair or other administrators.

Dr. Asante’s apparent role in the de facto firing of his colleague is especially offensive given that Dr. Monteiro helped support Dr. Asante’s appointment as Chair following a crisis of governance in the Department just last year.

Dr. Asante justifies the firing by repeatedly stating that it was simply time for Monteiro’s one-year contract to end. He downplays the fact that Monteiro’s contract was renewed multiple times over the course of 10 years, signaling the Department’s deep level of trust and respect for his teaching and scholarship over the years.

Dr. Asante also tries to justify the firing by waving away Dr. Monteiro’s status as a Du Bois scholar – even writing, “he is not a Du Boisian scholar.” He rages as if those of us who drafted and signed the Call for Dr. Monteiro have no basis for highlighting Dr. Monteiro’s distinguished record in Du Bois studies. We simply invite him to look at the record. Dr. Monteiro has multiple essays on Du Bois, in peer-reviewed journals, in academic books, and in other venues, too. He has a major manuscript in preparation on Du Bois. He has been the driving force for the annual symposia and lectures held at Temple University on Du Bois, drawing scholars of distinction to the lectures and symposia from Princeton, Drexel, UPENN, Brown and many other schools. His doctoral seminars on Du Bois are regularly attended by students of various fields of study. He was asked by UPENN to bestow upon Du Bois the Emeritus Professorship in Africana Studies and Sociology at UPENN.

Moreover, Dr. Asante seems not to know what it means for a scholar like Dr. Monteiro to work in the legacy of Du Bois. Du Bois wrote and organized against deadly mixes of racism and class repression, as these weigh heavily upon diverse groups (black and white, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Chinese, and more) and especially upon women of color. Contrastingly, the narrow Afrocentric traditions of scholarship which Dr. Asante represents have been less effective in displaying the integral relations between Du Bois’ blend of Pan-African, socialist and women’s concerns. Dr. Monteiro addresses these relations in his teaching and scholarship, advocating for all – in Du Bois’ language, for all the “darker nations” and for any who suffer the “anarchy of empire.”

It is time for Dr. Asante to cease posing as the deserving well-published scholar over and against Dr. Monteiro, whom he describes as the undeserving “elevated adjunct”/”charlatan.” Dr. Asante needs to remember that he, along with many of the tenured and celebrated university professors of this country, has been protected in his position, especially when he was most vulnerable. Even when three separate faculty committees at Temple University found sufficient evidence for a university tribunal to weigh Dr. Asante’s “grave misconduct” of plagiarism and misuse of a female colleague’s work in his publications – it was only a single Temple administrator, President Liacouras, in 1996, who protected him from the dire consequences of such a negative judgment by colleagues (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 14, 1996).

Dr. Monteiro deserves protection, but for something far better and more exemplary: his reputable and distinguished service for over a decade at Temple. Dr. Monteiro warrants that for which our Call has argued, what distinguished scholars world-wide have affirmed, and what scores of leading scholars recognize – namely, his reinstatement to the Department of African American studies.

Dr. Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College/CUNY, History Department and Black and Latino/a Studies*

Dr. Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary, Religion & Society Committee, and Theology Department*

*Institutions listed for identification purposes only.

Patrice Armstead Responds to Dr. Asante

Below is a response to Dr. Asante’s statement from coalition member Patrice K. Armstead.

Dr. Asante before you publicly attack a movement and a rally demanding simple justice, I suggest you get your facts straight. I was the lead organizer for the rally held on May 8th at Broad and Cecil B. Moore. I am not a white leftist, but I am an African American woman who believes in Black Liberation. The movement embraces our white leftist supporters because they believe in our struggle and the importance of Black Liberation and the fight for simple justice. As an activist and organizer I marched with Dr. Monteiro, students, and community members on behalf of you gaining chairmanship of the African American Studies Department. You have turned your back on your brother and the Black community. It is so easy to come on Facebook and write a long false statement. I publicly addressed you at William Penn Charter School for the panel discussion on “The Meeting.” I asked why you betrayed your colleague and you did not answer. You cowardly let someone take the microphone from you and answer for you. That was a move of a coward and a man that fears confrontation. I sat in a meeting with you and other community people such as Sacaree Rhodes and Pam Africa and you stated that Dr. Monteiro will always have a job in the department as long as he does not do anything to compromise the department. You also stated that in an email that I still have. You stabbed him in the back and asked Dean Soufas to not renew his contract. You are a liar and a fraud. The Black community despises you and sees you as an enemy.

I want to address the statement you made about Dr. Monteiro not being a DuBosian scholar. We have a National Call signed by 250 scholars and academics that refer to Dr. Monteiro as a DuBosian scholar. I encourage you to take a look at the website: http://www.emajonline.com/call-for-monteiro/. I also encourage you to take a look at this article that was written in the Philadelphia Tribune: http://www.phillytrib.com/…/cornel-west-calls-for…. There was a large crowd of Black community members. I organized the event so I know who was there. Students from your department were there in support of Monteiro’s reinstatement with tenure. The rally on May 8th was a huge success about 200 people was in attendance. The movement to reinstate Monteiro with tenure is a movement that will go down in history and will be talked about in the community and academia when you and I are long gone. Our movement is not just about the reinstatement of Dr. Monteiro our narrative have always included justice for Black North Central Philadelphia. The Black community that surrounds Temple has been victims of severe gentrification and poverty. We are also demanding justice for the poor and working poor in the community that surrounds Temple. Next time you hold and event or community gathering at your institute or Temple consider discussing gentrification and its impact on the Black community. As a professor, I am sure you are familiar with doing research. Next time you want to attack a person or a movement make sure you do your research. Until Monteiro is reinstated with tenure we will continue the fight. I am publicly inviting you to attend any rally/protest that we have.

“North Carolina Burning” by Mumia Abu-Jamal

raleighmarchers.2014They call it “Moral Mondays” and in North Carolina this means a movement of civil disobedience led by Rev. Dr. William Barber a local head of the NAACP.

Why protest? That’s because for the first time since 1870 – yes, that’s right, 1870 – the Republicans have their hands on all the levers of power there: the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature. And they are on a tear to keep it. above photo, thousands marching in Raleigh today, Feb 8, 2014 ]

One of their first efforts was to attack voting rights and similarly redistricting, thus to block voters from the polls and to redraw districts to isolate and weaken those who make it through to vote.

They slashed unemployment benefits to some 170,000 people; so much so, that they no longer qualify for federal unemployment programs – North Carolina, the eighth state to cut such benefits. Social programs have also been hit and that’s just the beginning.

And so demonstrations at the Capital have attracted hundreds of protesters. Nearly 1,000 people have been arrested in Raleigh, proving that we are not as far as we think from the civil rights days.

It is one of the ironies of history that a party built on black suffrage and black freedom has now become one designed and determined to strip blacks from the voting roles. Despite the people in the streets and over 900 arrests national coverage is slight and fleeing. Perhaps that may be because they are so busy covering the 50-year anniversaries featuring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., instead of what is happening now right beneath their noses.

You may not see it, or hear of it, but a movement is blossoming in Raleigh, North Carolina.

It is called “Moral Mondays.” rsz_mumia_innocent_2

From Imprison Nation – this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

© Mumia Abu-Jamal, February 7, 2014  (audio at Prison Radio).

 

MUMIA & MANDELA, by Johanna Fernandez

NE1_close_color_hands

(Professor Fernandez’s post below went viral )

Friends:

Dec. 6, 2013. Today we mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, the fearless, South African freedom fighter who was incarcerated for his affiliation and active involvement in the armed revolutionary wing of the African National Congress. During the 28 years of his incarceration, Mandela defied his captors from his cell by preserving his humanity and compassion in the face of the torture and brutality unleashed against him, and many other political dissidents, by the U.S.-backed, Apartheid South African regime. In the United States, the incarceration of former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal and the failed attempt on the part of the state to execute and silence him mirror the trajectory and legacy of Mandela’s imprisonment. From the early 1980s to the present, Mumia’s prison writings have made him a symbol of defiance against the absolute, inhumane, and repressive power of the state. Like the early revolutionary Mandela, Mumia’s voice resounds with clarity, humanism and an unflinching commitment to the struggle for freedom, the world over.

Today, let us honor Nelson Mandela by launching the struggle that will bring home our current-day-Mandela. Like the struggle that freed Mandela, the fight to free Mumia is bound up in the struggle to build a better world and to free all political prisoners in the United States,  the majority of whom belong to historically oppressed minority groups. Like Mandela, these currently imprisoned Puerto Rican Revolutionary Nationalists, African American radicals (mostly former members of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army), and radical Native Americans were incarcerated for their defense of the idea of armed revolutionary struggle, and for their determination to defend, by any means necessary, their people’s right to life and the pursuit of happiness.

Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College (CUNY)
EMAJ Coordinator

NEW FILM IN PHILLY: MUMIA: LONG DISTANCE REVOLUTIONARY – FOR WHAT?

by  Mark Lewis Taylor

A new film, Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary (A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal), opens May 3 at Philadelphia’s Landmark Ritz on the Bourse for at least a week. Film-goers again consider Mumia Abu-Jamal, the revolutionary journalist who recently won federal court rulings that his death sentence was unconstitutional. He is now serving a life sentence in prison, after having served nearly 30 years on death row.

The film comes as new “Bring Mumia Home” campaigns build momentum. A petition to the Department of Justice supports claims to innocence that Abu-Jamal has maintained ever since he was arrested for the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia Officer Daniel Faulkner. In calling for his immediate release, the petition cites the “cruel and unusual conditions” of his long-term confinement, recent exculpatory evidence and Amnesty International’s 2000 judgment that Abu-Jamal’s trial was “irredeemably tainted by politics and race.”

The film at Philadelphia’s Landmark Ritz already has achieved “Official Selection” at multiple film festivals, ranking number 3 nationwide when it opened in New York City (number 1 in Los Angeles and the Bay Area). It has played on campuses such as Princeton and Temple Universities.

The film dispels a number of myths about Abu-Jamal, not the least of which is the most flagrant and defaming one, that he was just an angry young Black Panther “out to kill a cop.” The real story of Abu-Jamal is carried in the film-title phrase: “long distance revolutionary.”

“Revolutionary” for what, some may ask?

The answer, as dramatized by the film’s riveting, historical treatment of Abu-Jamal, is freedom – a mode of freedom the media and mainstream rarely treat. It would be a freedom for America’s poor communities which, since the late 1960s, have been trapped in a pincers movement of social dispossession and police repression, resulting in a seven-fold increase in the U.S. prison population since the 1970s (“One in 100” Americans imprisoned, the Pew Center reports).

Numerous scholars meticulously explain this pincers movement (Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Bruce Western, Loïc Wacquant). As “safety nets” were slashed for the socially vulnerable, state powers offered only “dragnets,” ramped-up policing that swelled the prisons. Across decades of social service cutbacks for the poor, like the 1996 “Welfare Reform” bill that cast 6.1 million off welfare (315,000 being children with disabilities), there arose across the same period omnibus crime bills, mandated long-term sentences, media-hyped racial stereotypes of the poor, and a failed drug war that didn’t stop drugs but did fill prisons with non-violent drug users.

Law professor Michelle Alexander argues in her new book, The New Jim Crow, that the real problem lies in the prisons’ scandalously disproportionate confinement of people of color, often on drug charges despite the majority of users being white. No other nation incarcerates its racial/ethnic groups at a higher rate. A new racialized “caste” has emerged, Alexander writes, like the old Jim Crow. Especially Black communities are locked into an ever-deepening politics of disempowerment.

So, “long distance revolutionary” for what?

For a freedom from this legacy of the 1960s, freedom from powerful structures that dispossess and incarcerate the black, brown and poor, freedom from racist regimes that undermine national ideals of justice for all. Abu-Jamal has been a “revolutionary” for that freedom.

Martin Luther King, in 1963, named prisons and policing as threats to full freedom in rarely-cited words of his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” There, he intoned, “Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.”

King felt even greater persecution and surveillance after his 1965 speech criticizing the Vietnam War, U.S. imperialism and corporate power. A White House advisor termed this “Martin throwing in with the Hanoi Hawks.” Authorities feared rising national alliances of Blacks, Asians and other war-dissenters.

The film dramatizes Abu-Jamal’s struggle through these times. From his youth in the late-1960s, he organized among his city’s racialized poor communities. He was personally “staggered by the winds of police brutality,” recalling King’s words.

Abu-Jamal and Black communities in Philadelphia suffered this in full measure in the years of former Mayor Frank Rizzo: high schoolers beaten for peaceful protests, whole neighborhoods suffering police brutality, community leaders harassed. In 1985, police dropped a military explosive on the MOVE family/activist home, decimating 65 neighboring homes.

As funding grew for policing in cities like Rizzo’s the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) under Director J. Edgar Hoover acted out its fear of a “Black messiah” rising from urban communities. While Abu-Jamal had never been charged with a crime, the FBI compiled over 600 pages about him. COINTELPRO targeted King and other leaders in the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, American Indian and Chinese-American movements. This is meticulously documented in works like Kenneth O’Reilly’s, Racial Matters.

In sum, the state’s fear of activists organizing in their communities of color prompted both repression of those activists, and also the “drug war” policing of activists’ entire communities, thus driving U.S. mass incarceration to unprecedented levels, and anchoring the racialized caste regime of today.

Altering these state practices will require, as Alexander warns, nothing less than a “mass movement.” This is because ending mass incarceration demands ending the politics of dispossession and repression that drive it. It will require anti-racist advocacy, and ending government’s dispossession of the poor. It means also, she stresses, ending the ways U.S. weapons industries and private companies now invest heavily in U.S. prisons.
For such a mass movement, whole communities must tap into a collective “long distance revolutionary” spirit.

Abu-Jamal, alongside other political prisoners, has been an exemplar of this spirit, from days as a young activist to his present writings from prison. Across seven books and thousands of essays, he has exposed, explained, and resisted the political maneuvers creating today’s “prisons for profit complex.” Moreover, he has linked that complex – as did Martin Luther King, Jr. and others –to U.S. wars abroad.

The film, Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary, shows no stereotyped revolutionary. Instead it foregrounds the long-distance struggle of one whose journey has been to create life in the face of systems of social death. That struggle delivered Abu-Jamal into a racist trial, decades on death row, and now prison. But this film is one more testimony to the power of his struggle, a “long distance revolutionary” struggle – for a comprehensive and liberating justice, for all, which is the mark of any real freedom.

Mark Lewis Taylor is the Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture, Religion & Society, at Princeton Theological Seminary.

CROWDING MORE INTO CHOWCHILLA – Prison Crisis Update by Mumia

© 2013 Mumia Abu-Jamal

Several years ago, in a hotly contested case, Brown v.Plata, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to uphold a lower court ruling declaring California’s state prisons an unconstitutional violation, which threatened the mental and physical health of prisoners.

One of the reasons for this declaration of unconstitutionality was the state’s overcrowding situation, which in 2009, topped 171,000 prisoners. Cali’s prison population is the second highest in the nation, only exceeded by Texas.

Several years after Brown v. Plata, and the state has adopted a strategy of transfer, from state prison to the counties. Also, it has begun to stuff prisoners into other state prisons, including women’s prison.

At Valley State Prison for Women, the state’s prisoncrats are converting it into a man’s prison- and squeezing over 1,000 women and transgendered persons into the two remaining women’s prisons, violating the letter, if not the spirit, of theBrown opinion.

In Brown v. Plata, the U.S. Supremes ordered the State to reduce overcrowding. Despite this, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDOCR) has been playing bait and switch, shipping people around, sending few people home.

On Saturday, Jan. 26th, people are coming together to protest this state of affairs, by rallying at Valley State Prison for Women, demanding, an end to overcrowding, and true release for thousands of people from prison dungeons.

For more information, contact: www.womenprisoners.org

-© ’13 maj
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Mumia’s essays have been lovingly and tirelessly transcribed and broadly posted by Sis. Fatirah Aziz for many years and is a treasure to Mumia (and us all!)

New Mumia Column: “What ‘Fiscal Cliff’?”

[col. writ. 12/11/12] © ’12 Mumia Abu-Jamal

From every TV and radio news broadcast, the words, `fiscal cliff’ are being mentioned, in a tone and frequency of dread and fear. Listeners, viewers and readers can sense the dread and faux fear, but little clarity arises from the dust.

What is the fiscal cliff?

It is a political creation – made by Congress itself, as a self- made rule to force agreement (but really to blackmail political opponents), or else massive cuts will be automatically made in defense, social services and other government programs.

In the Mel Brooks-made cowboy comedy, Blazing Saddles, a Black sheriff moseys into town to the shock and surprise of the white townspeople. When things get ugly, the sheriff (played by actor Cleavon Little (1939-1992), pulls out his Colt. 45 and points it at himself, warning them to get back, or else he’ll shoot.

The fiscal cliff? It’s “Blazing Saddles.”

But, it’s no comedy.

As Workers World’s Larry Holmes sees it, this so-called `fiscal cliff’ is a recent political invention designed to erect an American austerity program-cut-backs in social services so that more money could be sucked up by the ruling 1 %.
Holmes, in remarks made to a recent Workers World party conference, made the following analysis:

We are going to hear a lot about the so-called “fiscal cliff”. It is worldwide austerity. In Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, in Ireland and in South Africa, all throughout Latin America, and here in the U.S. From the point of view of the capitalists, the idea is to fix their system on the backs of the workers. They can’t get it from profits because of overproduction, so let’s just go literally into the body of the workers and get more pounds of flesh by stealing things from them. It is a mad, insane exercise in destruction, social destruction. It really should be called “the terminal crisis-of-capitalism cliff.”*

In sum, this is economic warfare parading as a political conflict, between two capitalist parties. It is a self-made squabble among brothers.

–© ’12 maj

[Source: * Holmes, L., "Reviving a Global Revolutionary Perspective", Workers World(weekly), Dec. 13, 2012, p.7]
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Mumia’s essays have been lovingly and tirelessly transcribed and broadly posted by Sis. Fatirah Aziz for many years and is a treasure to Mumia (and us all!)

2012 CANDIDATE FOR U.S. CONGRESS IN CA IS UNDER ATTACK FOR HIS 1999 RALLY SPEECH FOR MUMIA AND PELTIER – A Letter of Solidarity from EMAJ

CONTACTS: Dr. Taylor (847 708-2479) Dr. Fernandez (917 930-0804). Sent today to major print and radio/TV venues in Palm Springs, CA

LATEST UPDATE HERE: RUIZ WINS! – PREVAILING IN SPITE OF POLICE CRITIQUE OF HIS MUMIA AND PELTIER ADVOCACY AS STUDENT.

LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR DR. RAUL RUIZ (November 5, 2012)

In the last days of Dr. Ruiz’s campaign for U.S. representative from California’s 36th District in California, opponents have attacked Dr. Ruiz for statements he made while a medical student in 1999, clipping out brief segments from the speech to aid their video attack. In particular, the attack-ads focus on Ruiz’s words of support for two well-known prisoners in the U.S: (1) Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who has been in prison since 1977 for the shooting deaths of two FBI agents that occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and (2) African-American journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was jailed in 1981 for the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer.

We as scholars working for intelligent and principled defense of people like Abu-Jamal and others imprisoned for often political reasons, find nothing onerous about Dr. Ruiz’s 1999 statement. We work in an organization, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, an organization that has enlisted the support of over 500 scholars in support of Abu-Jamal, and in support, too, for the many others unjustly imprisoned in this country. In various forums and venues, we have represented every level of education in this country, and institutions of higher education all across the United States.

One of us, Mark Lewis Taylor, Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary,* has been studying these two cases for over fifteen years. Another, Dr. Johanna Fernandez, a professor of American History at Baruch College (CUNY)* and a Fulbright Scholar, has also reviewed the case for that length of time, and interviewed Abu-Jamal numerous times. Dr. Tameka Cage-Conley, independent scholar/writer in Pittsburgh and a 2010 Fellow at the August Wilson Center, has also visited with Abu-Jamal and written and taught on his case for the past decade.

We make the following affirmations on behalf of Dr. Raul Ruiz:

(1) Simply to support Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal in no way also suggests any support for killing police officers. To the contrary, to raise questions about the justice of imprisoning these two men is to defend justice in a most principled way, because it assures that the right persons have been convicted for the killings. These were very controversial cases, still highly contested ones, and they took place in racially-charged historical contexts and when official corruption had been documented as a pervasive problem.

(2) Extensive exculpating evidence for Peltier and Abu-Jamal has come forward in both these cases, pointing to law enforcement corruption, prosecutorial misconduct, and partiality of judicial review. Thus, Amnesty International in 2010 placed Leonard Peltier’s case on its “Unfair Trials” list. In 2000, Amnesty International also called for Abu-Jamal to be granted a new trial. So flagrant have been the abuses of Abu-Jamal, and so unconstitutional was his 30 years of confinement to death row (now he still languishes in prison, with a Life sentence), that Desmond Tutu has called for Abu-Jamal’s “immediate release.” Human rights organizations worldwide have been vocal and persistent in making similar calls for Peltier.

(3) We have reviewed the audio and transcript of Ruiz’s statement at the 1999 rally for Peltier and Abu-Jamal. If statements made by candidates during their student years are to be taken as grounds for judging fitness for public service today, we see nothing in this statement that in itself would disqualify Ruiz. His statement was not then, nor is it now, an uninformed statement. Nor is it incendiary. It is ludicrous, and surely only just a base charge of political gamesmanship, to claim that Ruiz’s words as a youth prove he would not support prosecution of those who murder police officers. On the contrary, we find Ruiz’s 1999 statement to be that of a young man of conscience, who is sensitive to the potential for injustice in any system, and then courageous enough to point the way toward a more just world.

Mark Lewis Taylor, Ph.D.
Princeton Theological Seminary*
Maxwell M. Upson Professor, Religion & Society

Johanna Fernandez, Ph.D.
Baruch College, CUNY, American History
2012 Fulbright Scholar

Tameka Cage-Conley, Ph.D.
Independent Scholar/Writer
2010 Fellow, August Wilson Center for African American Culture

*Institution names given only for identification purposes.

JUDGE HANDS DOWN MUMIA’S LIFE SENTENCE W/O PAROLE – WITH NO NOTICE!

(from EMAJ, Mark Taylor). On August 13, 2012, Judge Pamela Dembe, without notifying Mumia or his attorneys, simply filed an Order to sentence Mumia to life in prison without parole. This was a clandestine act, discovered by attorney Rachel Wolkenstein going through the dockets of the court (an unusual act of scrutiny). It is a clear violation of Mumia’s rights. See Linn Washington, Jr.’s commentary on the Order as the latest in a series of outrages in Mumia’s case. You can also listen here to a video online of Rachel Wolkenstein and Pam Africa commenting on this recent development. A brief statement of Wolkenstein follows immediately below, about the Post-Sentencing Motion filed by Mumia pro se, August 23, 2012.:

I filed it in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division at approximately 4pm after Mumia edited a draft motion during my visit with him earlier. It was filed on an emergency basis to meet the 10-day jurisdictional time requirements for filing the challenge. This will be supplemented by a fuller statement of facts and a Memorandum of Law.

The first issue of this motion is to reverse and declare null and void the clandestine sentencing of Mumia to life imprisonment, which was an attempt to deprive of him of his right to challenge this sentence. Mumia’s motion not only attacks his own sentence to “slow death row,” but makes the constitutional challenge to life imprisonment without parole, solitary confinement for death row inmates and solitary confinement in general. Mumia is fighting with and for the entirety of “incarceration nation.”

Notably, Mumia’s motion concludes with the statement, “This motion does not waive any issues of arguable merit of innocence or any governmental misconduct in the underlying case.”

In the fight for Mumia’s freedom,
Rachel Wolkenstein
August 24, 2012 “

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