An A – Z of Mumia Abu Jamal, writer and journalist, who was convicted in 1982 of killing Police Officer Faulkner in 1981 and has been on death row ever since. This writing is in the name of no one but myself, a white british woman currently living in
London, England, and is a result of my readings and research in preparation for this awareness-raising event in Stockwell, (Ceri Buck, 2006, Brixton)
A is for Arnold Beverly
whose confession to the murder of police officer faulkner
still hasn’t been accepted by the courts.
B is for Black Panther,
a group Mumia learnt from and worked with in the 70s
considered the ‘terrorists’ of the time by the FBI
who killed 38 panthers nationwide for their political beliefs
C is for Corrections,
euphemism for the
US penal system
in essence a green light for violence of prison staff against prisoners,
none of whom are “corrected”,
none of whom emerge from prison better than when they went in
thanks to the outlawing of education for death row prisoners,
a hellish diet of junk food, and barbiturates
Prisoners need Connection, to themselves and others,
through support and education,
not the corrosive lie of correction
through emotion wrecking chemicals
D is for Death Row population
40% of whom are black
when the total
US black population is only 11%.
E is for evidence
or lack of it.
The prosecution scenario of the shooting
is physically impossible
and not even supported by the prosecution’s own evidence.
Moreover, the scene of the crime
was not sectioned off by police
to secure the integrity of the location,
which was highly unusual
given this incident involved the killing of a police officer.
F is for follow-through from the 60s,
or lack of it,
that beautiful discourse of freedom and civil rights.
We need social change as much now as we ever did.
We need again that mighty impulse for change,
feeding into and from the networks of the digital age we are now living in.
G is for Alfonzo Giordano.
on the scene of the shooting
under investigation for corruption by the FBI at the time.
Giordano first claimed that
‘Mumia confessed in the police van’
after being shot, beaten and arrested
(although the other officer in the van did not report any confession).
Then Giordano claimed that Mumia confessed on the hospital floor,
while he was almost bleeding to death.
The doctor at the hospital said that
Mumia could not possibly have said anything.
In 1986, Giordano was accused of receiving thousands of dollars
in illegal payoffs.
So G is for Giordano
and by association for police corruption and mob connection,
an investigation of which
is urgent for Mumia’s freedom.
H is for History
accepting the challenges that the horrors
of the History of the black diaspora
places on us.
Accepting and acting on this obligation
so that our lives are concerned with confronting injustice,
and defending freedom
is a constant, life-shaping task.
We face a brick wall of
an economic system that makes money for the few
rather than exploring how humans can explore and deliver their potential.
H is for History and utilising
at our disposal.
I is for the stories of the individual
who’ve escaped poverty and made a decent life,
who’ve travelled from the ghetto to the middle class,
from ignorance to education,
from gangster to the redeemed.
This is a formula that sells
because it accepts and maintains the fact that
there are rich and there are poor.
It is about individuals,
It comforts the rich
and the powerless alike
because if some can be seen to escape,
the system is not totally evil,
nor are the powerless totally guiltless
… if some haven’t escaped, then why haven’t I?
J is for judge and jury,
both of which were handpicked
to ensure that Mumia was convicted
and sentenced to death.
At the time of the trial,
no one believed that Mumia
could be convicted
the charge was so out of character
but Judge Sabo was overheard by official court stenographer
as saying that he would help fry Mumia,
The racist jury selection meant black people were kicked off the jury
so he faced a non-representative proportion of the population.
And these are two of the issues up for consideration
before the 3rd circuit court of appeals
at the present moment.
K is for Rodney King, violently beaten by 4 LAPD cops in the early 90s,
causing distress and anger in LA and around the world
No friend of the cops,
Mumia, from Death Row, criticises
the retrial of the LAPD cops
as a violation of the 5th amendment
which states that no one can be tried twice for the same crime.
Mumia argues that this is how the state
will sacrifice even its own agents
when it is propitious to do so,
in our age of false gestures and public relations.
L is for the Line-up
that Mumia demanded after his arrest.
There is no stronger evidence in court
than being picked out of a lineup by an eyewitness.
Another indicator of Mumia’s innocence
– he trusted that he would not be picked.
The prosecution blocked it
saying they didn’t have witnesses
and then proceeded to somehow find them
to testify against Mumia in court
M is for MOVE
A spiritual, interracial, communal organisation,
whose empowered way of organising themselves
was especially threatening to the system.
In 1978 a year long police siege,
ended with 600 cops shooting up the MOVE house
killing one of their own in the crossfire,
and for which 9 MOVE members were convicted.
Mumia reported this trial
exposing their August 1981 convictions as a frame up.
During this time,
he became a MOVE supporter
started to wear dreadlocks
lost his steady radio journalism jobs
for his uncompromising stance
took up cab driving part time
which was what he was doing on the night in December 1981
well known to the police
for his critique of them.
the authorities firebombed the MOVE community,
killing 11 men, women and children.
M is also for Media.
Don’t expect the corporate media networks to serve any progressive movement.
If we resist, we will be portrayed as insane, so that the authorities can attack us
without fear of reprisal, as in the MOVE story,
as in the
that the authorities said was ‘suicide’.
And even in our quiet determination to live our own lives,
the media will fan flames of sensationalism over our dead bodies
to cover up police brutality
by saying that we jump tube barriers,
refuse to obey police instructions
and look suspiciously like suicide bombers.
We will not forget Jean Charles de Menezes.
N is for New Trial.
“Our job is to throw out the conviction,
not demand a new trial.
It’s the job of the DA
to decide if they want a new trial
with all their phony evidence
and all their perjury and lying witnesses
or if they want to do the right thing
and free Mumia.
If you think about it,
if Mumia’s innocent
and if there is no real evidence against him,
why do we want a new trial
based on perjured evidence.
Our position is he’s innocent,
the conviction is no good,
he didn’t get a fair trial,
throw it out,
let him go,
let’s all move forward in history.”
P is for political persecution.
is intended to be a lesson
to all who dare to speak up
against injustice and inequality.
R is for Rights
In Mumia’s case
the right to a fair and impartial jury
The right to represent himself
The right to a fair trial
Human rights don’t exist,
they’re privileges of the rich and powerful.
For the powerless and displaced,
Human rights slip out of hands like soap.
When I have been stripped of my socio-political identity through war, displacement, & economics,all i am is human and then i am denied human rights and taken to a detention centre outside the London and Paris airports.
S is for self-determination and self-defense, both practices that Malcolm X argued for, inspiring the panthers and Mumia and making perfect sense to me. Malcolm X saw through the paternalism of civil rights, important as many moments of its history are, because you won’t get protection from the same authorities who, without fundamental change in their make-up and outlook, will agree one minute, then violate an agreement the next. Freedom is not given by any authority but constructed every moment of every day in every interaction our bodies participate in.
T is for the tightrope we walk,separating us, if indeed it does, from unforgiving entrapment and poverty and lifeless chancelessness,media mesmerizing us with mirages of boundless wealth. It’s hard to walk safe and free in our lives not be bound by the limitations of a system that represses and divides us from our creativity, from our potential as human beings.
U is for us (lower case), the power of us, when we manage to work togetherand not forget those who are disappearedthrough imprisonment
V is for ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ as Mumia is often known. While he’s been on death row, some groups and individuals worked hard to make Mumia known as a working journalist, so that he wasn’t nameless and faceless, making it harder to execute him. In 1994, his writings featured on National Public Radio who then received threats for funding cuts from Republican leaders.
W is for Weinglass and Williams, the defence attorneys on Mumia’s case for a decade until Mumia fired them in 2001. These two lawyers highlight the dangers of a liberal approach to a highly political case. Unable to believe in emerging evidence of police and mob connections that point to a police frame up of Mumia, they obstructed the key testimonies of Arnold Beverly, William Singletary and Billy Cook – all of whom state that Mumia did not kill police officer Faulkner.
Y is for Why can’t I hug him? Why can’t we kiss? Why can’t I sit in his lap? Why can’t we touch? Why not? Break it! Break it! – the words of Mumia’s daughter on her first visit to her father. Tiny fists on plexiglas.
Z is for zoomMoving intravelling quicklyrising sharply in numberchanging smoothly from a long shot to a close upon Mumia’s case and othersto change to cause changeto be the change.
Source texts:Live from Death Row – Mumia Abu JamalVarious writings and speeches by Rachel Wolkenstein, Partisan Defence Committee, Eliot Grossman