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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays

Commentaries by the award-winning journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal
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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays
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Now displaying: July, 2008
Jul 23, 2008
If TV channels are any measure, the US presidential elections, now less than 4 months away, are the permanent stuff of headlines. If candidate A sneezes, it's breaking news; if candidate B hiccups, it's film at eleven. It's hardly worthy of headlines, but the beast [the media] must be fed. For far too many people this news overdose on the elections has bred a kind of passivity among millions, as they wait in front of TV screens and computers, like deer caught in headlights. What happened to anti-war protests? What happened to housing rights protestors? What happened to anti-FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) activists? People are dulled by the almost sure expectation that the Democrats will prevail in the next election due to the low ratings of the Republican Party, and its lame duck President George W. Bush. And those dull expectations are based upon the totally unfounded faith that a Democratic win of the White House really means an end to the war. (We might ask, which war?) Millions have apparently forgotten the bitter lessons from the 2006 mid term election, when Democrats prevailed in congressional elections, formed a slight majority in both houses, and proceeded to do -- nothing. Peace in Iraq? Off the table. Instead, like lemmings leaping off a cliff they voted for more and more billions for war. And what of the recently renewed FISA bill, which legalized the law-breaking of the Bush Administration -- and gave retroactive protection to phone an communications companies which violated prior law? FISA -- signed, sealed and delivered: and even the Democratic candidate (Sen. Barack Obama, D.IL), who blasted the measure, put his John Hancock on it, voting 'yes.' The great abolitionist (and women's right supporter), Frederick Douglass, supported Abraham Lincoln, yet that didn't stop him from protesting against him, when he moved too slowly, or not at all. Reading his criticisms are still biting, even though over a century has passed. And yet, his teaching remains just as relevant, for Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without demand." If people demand nothing, that is precisely what they will get. These lessons from history must teach us today, that protesters must PROTEST. Elections aren't endings -- they are beginnings -- and movements mustn't stop moving; they should protest more! 7/23/08 (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Jul 20, 2008
Business Sense [col. writ. 7/20/08] (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal If there is an overarching ideology at work in America today, it's the ubiquity of the market. On TV, stars shred every last fig-leaf of privacy to sell alleged 'reality.' Everyday folks join the shows in a realm of entertainment that might best be called "Indignity for Dollars." Politicians and press people are virtually for hire to the biggest corporate bidder. Thus politics and media news outlets become multi-billion dollar industries. Moreover, they become industries that feed on each other, as politicians buy millions of dollars worth of commercials, and of course, TV and cable outlets make big bucks by selling ads. Meanwhile, the everyday economy -- of food, fuel, housing and education -- goes from bad to worse. To the average network anchor who pulls in millions per year in fees, this is decidedly under the radar. His (or her) job is to protect the status quo. From this convergence we get the present political structure, where accepted political debate is that which doesn't ruffle the feathers of Wall Street or the corporate elite. When's the last time you've seen or read (in the corporate media) about the sub-prime lending debacle as a crime -- as truly the most premeditated of crimes designed to steal the wealth of millions? Not lately, I'd bet. It's a straight news story, no 'B' roll (or background video). It's usually an anchor reading a script, dry as day-old bread. Because it happens primarily to people who are Black and Latino, it's not a news leader nor headliner, even though it represents the biggest loss of Black wealth in history. According to the group United for a Fair Economy, such people lost between $164 and $213 billion dollars. If it weren't so tragic, it would remind one of the silly character popularized by comedian Mike Myers in his Austin Powers movies -- the nefarious Dr. Evil. (y'know -'$213 billion dollars!') But this is no joke. It is the root of the current foreclosure crisis, which in turn has sent the Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation),the federally insured mortgage assistance agencies to the brink of bankruptcy. How does the government respond to this crisis? It has thrown a life preserver to the agencies (and through them the banks and traders who hustled the sub-primes), and turned its back on the people who got swindled. Typical. What we are seeing is the perverse logic of the market, or in a tighter phrase, 'business sense.' Anything goes to get money, and if you fail, don't worry, for the fake free traders in government will bail you out, but only if you're big enough. --(c) '08 maj
Jul 17, 2008
[col. writ. 7/12/08] (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal It should surprise no one that the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama (D.IL), has evoked such fascination; not least because of his presumed outsider status as a man of (at least partial) African descent. It is this racial inheritance that accounts, to a considerable degree, for the fascination among both Blacks and whites posed by his candidacy. But, as ever in America, race often hides as much as it reveals. For, if Barack is an outsider to the American body politic because of his blackness, he is too an outsider to much of Black America precisely because of his direct East African heritage, one unleavened and unmitigated by the 500 years of Black bondage, resistance, repression and rebellion that is at the very heart of African-American experience and identity. Indeed, it is this very outsider stance that allows so many of us, Black and white, to project upon him so much of what has been encapsulated in his ubiquitous campaign of 'hope' and 'change.' In this sense, Obama is a double-talker, and as such he has had to work out his own way into what being Black in America really means. His somewhat unique outsider status reminds us of the uniqueness of another great outsider who became the consummate insider -- Napoleon Bonaparte. Consider this; imagine a man born on the Italian-speaking island of Corsica in 1789; by the time he was 30 he was named First Consul (or dictator) of France. In 5 years he was emperor of a vast French empire. My point isn't to malign Obama as a dictator- in-waiting. It's to show an example of how an outsider (with incredible ambition) becomes the ultimate insider. When Napoleon was a boy in military school in France, his fellow students ridiculed him and made fun of him - not because of height (as might be expected) -- but because of his Corsican accent, which marked him as an outsider. Napoleon eventually became more French than the French, and today, by virtue of his brilliance, his French nationalism and military exploits in the field during the erection of the empire, he is regarded as one of the greatest Frenchmen who've ever lived. Obama as a boy in Indonesia was made fun of because of his kinky hair (not to mention his slightly darker complexion) which marked him as an outsider. What does that mean in his formation of a sense of self? We don't really know, but as Sigmund Freud reminds us, 'the child is father to the man.' When Obama speaks (especially in his post-primary incarnation) one hears a profound nationalism. He has spoken in the past of an American history that many of us know has never actually existed. It has forced him to denounce a man he once knew, admired and respected (here I speak, of course, of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright) for making whites uncomfortable by speaking ugly truths about American history, at home and abroad. Is this but the necessary shifts occasioned by the nasty game of politics? Or is it the road occasioned by one being an outsider, making that transition to the consummate insider? Time will tell. --(c) '8 maj
Jul 10, 2008
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Jul 3, 2008
They called him "Bushead", and he is no longer on death row. That's only because "Bushead" is no more. He died on Sunday, June 29, 2008, in the early evening, after a long and valiant struggle against the ravages of Hepatitis C, which had wreaked havoc on his liver. For those who have known him, they are undoubtedly sad at his passing, but as they remember him, perhaps they can't help but snicker, for "Bushead" was a man gifted with a priceless sense of humor. His jests and jokes were so keen, so sharp, that men often laughed until they cried, their sides gripped in delicious pain. On the prison rosters he was recorded as Billy Brooks, but he was born Larry Shavers on April 1, 1958. On the mean streets of Philadelphia, and throughout the meaner halls of state and county prisons, he was known simply as Bushead. Relatively short in height, of once stocky build, Bushead was, simply put, a hell raiser. He took no stuff from anyone, and would fight at the drop of a hat. His fiery temper would send him to Death Row in the '80's when he got into a conflict with a prisoner in Philadelphia county prison over a bathrobe. When they fought over possession of knife, he gained control, and he stabbed the other young man, which would've normally resulted in a voluntary manslaughter, or third degree homicide conviction, except the deceased was the son of a prominent state prison warden. The notoriety meant the State would seek and receive the death sentence against him. Stories about him abound from all who knew him. One fellow on Death Row recalled: "Once, me and Bushead was in the yard, and I was braiding his hair. A guard came out and said I had to stop doing this because it violated the rules. Bushead told the guard,'If you don't stop that dumb stuff, I'm gonna ball your old ass up!' Later, when we was at work, Bushead found a rule book, strolled into the office, and said, 'Find that rule in the rule book!' The Sgt. had to admit there wasn't such a rule -- and Bushead hollered, 'I told ya'll! I told ya'll!" That was Bushead; outspoken, loud, earthy, and wildly funny. When he was housed at the state prison in Pittsburgh, he participated in the Scared Straight program, and spoke to young people coming into the prison, deeply impressing upon them the emptiness and loss of imprisonment. He did all he could to convince them to avoid this fate. Bushead was 50 years old. He lived from the streets to the prison, a high octane, high energy, high volume life. His illness, which led to his long and tortuous suffering, was utterly debilitating. Hi memory among many prisoners, will evoke smiles, and hearty laughter, despite the manner of his passing. (c) '08 maj
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