This date marks the anniversery of the night that Jamal was shot, arrested, beaten up and framed for the murder of a Philadelphia Police Officer called Daniel faulkner. 30 years later this political prisoner , critically acclaimed journalist ( before his imprisonment he was the President of the Philadeplhia Association of Black Journalists) and became one of the world's most recognised death row inmates awaits a decision by Federal District Court Judge William H.John Jr, on his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Hopefully he will finally get some justice and a full hearing by the federal court.
Mumia was born in 1954 in Philadelphia and was given the slave name Wesley Cook. At 14 he joined the Black Panther Party and was already showing signs of his strong articulateness and passion. Becoming known for his outspokenness and his work as a radical journalist, mostly on radio as the 'voice of the voiceless', bringing him unwanted attention from the F.B.I and the local police.
He moved on from the black Panthers and became a supporter and spokesperson for the Move Organisation founded by an African American named John Africa a black back to nature group with an anarcho primitist outlook that rejected the system. It's members and supporters faced a daily onslaught against them for a number of years, being systematically tageted for their beliefs and on numerous occasions faced violent retribution from the state.
His support of this organisation and his reporting of unpopular causes which included exposing the violence of the state as it manifests in entrenched poverty, endemic racism, police brutality and celebrating a peoples unending quest for freedom led him to lose his job as a radio journalist, so he took up taxi driving in order to provide for his family. So one could imagine that he already was a marked man.
On Dec 9th 1981 he had just dropped a client off when he heard gunshot and saw people running. One of whom was his brother a Billy Cook who ran towards him, he then he saw a police officer aiming a gun at him, he was shot and beaten, and later was charged with the murder of Officer Faulkner who had died from gunshot wounds only a feet away from where Mumia himself had fallen. Mumia himself remained in critical condition for a period of time, but his case was rushed to trial within 6 months .A trial that Amnesty International condemned as failing to meet even the most minimal standards of fairness, and that is an understatement.The trial was a farce with witnesses constantly changing statements, vital evidence being buried, proceedings markedby racism, inept prepresentation andto cap it all a bigoted and prejudiced judge. There was no way that Mumia was going to get the justice he deserved, and he was found guilty and sentence to death.
One of the key prosecution witness was a prostitute with a long history of arrests and her testimony contadicted previous statements and that of other witnesses. A man was with dreadlocks was seen running fron thescene, Mumia has dreadlocks, there are so many doubts. Several prosecution witnesses from his trial have since recanted their testimony , furthermore another individual Arnold Beverly has since subsequently confessed to killing Faulkner. Mumia has always maintained his innocence.
One reason for them finding Mumia guilty was like others he stood up against repression, for civil liberties and the government and the police simply wanted to silence an activist long known for exposing corruption.. With their attempts to silence him we can see double standards , because this is not the message they dare preach to the rest of the world. But their 30 year conspiracy of silence has not worked
In December 2001 his death sentence was oveturned but not his conviction, so still he is not free.
An online petition for President Barck Obama 'Mumia Abu- Jamal and the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty' was signed by over 20,000 people from around the world. Tomorrow let us also remember that internationally political opponents to nation states continue to face wrongful imprsonment too.
Today in Britain between 5.00 - 7.00 pm campaigners will assemble at Speakers Corner and make their way via Marble Arch and Oxford Street tothe US Embassy in London and will demand the unconditional and immediate release of Mumia Abu- Jamul. Many similar actions will take place across the globe,joining an international chorus who are actively calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
For Mumia Abu -Jamal
By Martin Espada
The board-blinded windows knew what happened;
the pavement sleepers of Philadelphia, groaning
in their ghost-infested sleep, knew what happened;
every black man blessed
with the gashed eyebrow of nightsticks
knew what happened;
even Walt Whitman knew what happened
poet a century dead, keeping vigil
from the tomb on the other side of the bridge
More than fifteen years ago,
the cataract stare of the cruiser's headlights
the impossible angle of the bullet,
the tributaries and lakes of blood,
Officer faulkner dead,suspect Mumia shot in the chest,
the nameless witnesses who saw a gunman
running away, his heart and feet thudding.
The nameless prostitute know,
hunched at the curb, their bare legs chilled.
Their faces squinted to see that night
rouged with fading bruises. Now the faces fade
Perhaps an eyewitness putrifies eyes open in a bed of soil,
or floats in the warm gulf stream of her addiction,
or hides from the faged whispers of the police
in the tomb of Walt Whitman
where the granite door is open
and fugitive slaves may rest.
Mumia: the Panther beret, the thinking dreadlocks,
dissident words that swarmed the microphone like a hive,
sharing meals with people named Africa,
singing out their names even after the police bombardment
that charred their black bodies
so the governer has signed the death warrant.
The executioner's needle would flush the poison
down into Mumia's writing hand
so the fingers curl like a burned spider;
his calm questioning mouth would grow numb,
and everywhere radios sputter to silence, inhis memory.
The veiled prostitutes are gone,
gone to the segregated balcony of whores
But the newspaper reportsthat another nameless prostitute
says the man is innocen, that she will testify at the next hearing.
Beyond the courthouse,a multitude of witnesses chants,
pray, shouts for his prison to collapse, a shack in a hurricane.
Mumia, if the last nameless prostitute
becomes an unravelling turban of steam,
if the judges' robes become clouds of ink
swirling like octupus deception,
if the shroud becomes yourAmish quilt
if your dreadlocks are snipped during autopsy,
then drift above the ruined RCA factory
that once birthed radios
to the tomb of Walt Whitman
where the granite door is open
and fugitive slaves may rest.
Philadelphi, PA/Camden, NJ, april 1997
Mumia Abu -Jamal Radio Broadcasts
Home page of John Africa's MoveOrganisation
Link to excellent film on the case
by acclaimed director Marc Evans here
" This message comes toyou from the depths of America's dungeons, from the cages in Babylon's bowelsthat are in a sense, America's own 'Taten Trakle', Wings of death where men await execution by electrocution.
As radical journalists we have another tale to tell - it is a tale not of plenty but of loss, of torture and injustice. In short it is a tale of the oppressed, but it's also a tale of brighter tomorrows, of seas aflood with life, of air sweet to the lung, of forests green, of health, of hope, of freedom and peace, for all the worlds people.
We can create islands of liberated consciousness,afloat with truth of peoples sentiments for dignity and freedom, free from the systems slur of terrorism. We can produce you progressive portraits of the possible so that a better tomorrow may dawn."
- Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Further Reading :-
Mumia Abu-Jamal , Death Blossoms: Reflections of a Prisoner of Conscience, Plough Publishing House 1997
David Lindroff - Killing Time: An investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Amnesty International - The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal , Seven Stories Press.