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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: 2008
Aug 10, 2008
As we are on the eve of what may be the most powerful Black achievement in U.S. history, it would be well to examine the history of Black political leadership in this country. Most historical researchers look to the 1967 election of Carl Stokes, (1927-1996), as Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio as the emergence of black political power in major American cities. Many Blacks saw this as the beginning of an age of freedom for our people. From the 1960's to now, we most certainly have been disabused of that notion. For while black political leadership has surely been a source of pride, they have not been a source of black political power. That's because as agents of the States, they must defend the interests of the State, even when this conflicts with the interests of their people. For example, let's look at the experience of Mayor Stokes. Shortly after taking office, Stokes appointed former U.S. Army Lt.-General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. as his public safety director (a kind of super police chief). Gen. Davis, fresh from the rigors of Vietnam, ordered 30,000 rounds of hollow point (or dum-dum) bullets, items in violation of the laws of war. The object of his ire? The Cleveland branch of the Black Panther Party, and a local office of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, a Panther support group. In Aug. 1970, Gen. Davis resigned from the post, and criticized Mayor Stokes for not giving him sufficient support in his battle against radicals (like the Panthers). Stokes, the more politically adroit of the two, made Davis look bad for ordering ammo which violated the Geneva Conventions, but Stokes' personal papers revealed meetings between the two men, and their agreement on dum-dums as appropriate arms to be used against Panthers. Just because he was a Black mayor, didn't mean he wasn't dedicated to destroying a Black organization. Indeed, in times of Black uprising and mass discontent, Black mayors seem the perfect instrument of repression, for they dispel charges of racism. If Barack Obama wins the White House, it will be a considerable political achievement. It will be made possible only by the votes of millions of whites, most especially younger voters. This does not diminish such an achievement, it just sharpens the nature of it. But Black faces in high places does not freedom make. Power is far more than presence. It is the ability to meet people's political objectives of freedom, independence and material well-being. We are as far from those objectives as we were in 1967. 8/6/08 (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal [Source: Nissim-Sabat, Ryan, "Panthers Set Up Shop in Cleveland," p.111; from Judson L. Jeffries, ed., COMRADES: Local History of the Black Panther Party (Blomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2007), pp. 89-144.]
Aug 9, 2008
Several days ago, a majority of the US House of Representatives approved a resolution apologizing for slavery. The Senate has not yet moved on such a measure, and probably has no intention to do so. That it comes today, some 143 years after slavery was prohibited in the Constitution (notice I said 'prohibited', and not stopped, for historians and scholars have uncovered that the trade continued long thereafter, as an underground one, kind of like drugs today), gives us some idea of how deeply slavery still resides in American consciousness, and how empty such an apology is in light of all that has intervened in the century and a half since the cessation of the Civil War. It's like robbing someone, growing fat and rich on stolen wealth, and then passing that person on the street, who is now homeless, destitute and starving -- and tossing him a nickel. (Except, of course, in the case of the US House resolution, there isn't even a nickel!). As the great Black historian, J. A. Rogers taught us (especially in his Africa's Gift to America {1961} ) the wealth of America was founded on African slavery. One need look no further than the brilliant young W.E.B. DuBois, who published his doctoral thesis, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America: 1638-1870 (1896). For, citing contemporary sources, DuBois quoted the following: "The number of persons engaged in the slave - trade, and the amount of capital embarked on it, exceed our powers of calculation. The city of New York has been until of late {1862} the principal port of the world for this infamous trade..." [p. 179]. Centuries of slavery, the intentional destruction of families, tribes, and nations; ripping people asunder from their religions, their clans, their spouses, children, lands and all that they knew and loved -- for centuries -- to build and enrich a nation of strangers -- who enforced the practices of slavery for a hundred years after it's supposed abolition; only to consign the grandchildren of these people to the bitter half-lives of sub-par education, poor housing, second rate health care, under/employment, the cruelties of mass incarceration and a cynical judicial and political system that endlessly engages in white supremacy (without the labels).... Yeah, a political apology should just about cover that. 8/9/08 (c) Mumia Abu-Jamal
Aug 8, 2008
The recent world tour of freshman Sen. Barack Obama, was, by any measure, a blockbuster. The senator's trek to Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France, and England was a hit, from the word go. What was more impressive, however, were the graphics. The crowds (especially in Germany) were nothing if not spectacular. In political terms, the senator's campaign could hardly have asked for more. If it wouldn't seem to smarmy, perhaps they ought to give thanks to the Republican candidate, John McCain, who harped on Obama's lack of travel to Iraq for weeks. What happens? Obama goes to Iraq, and the U.S. supported Iraqi puppet, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, essentially endorses Obama's timetable to remove the bulk of US troops. McCain sought airtime in ethnic eateries, or geriatric golf greens. His comments attacking Obama seemed, by contrast, petulant and small. It was, quite frankly, stunning to see world leaders fall under his sway, as if the election were a mere formality. When he met Germany's Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, one could only flashback to lame duck President Bush's impolitic grasp of her shoulders, which forced her to grimace and gasp at the invasion of her personal and political space. Right wingers have, predictably, attacked his tour on numerous counts. "He thinks he's already president", some said. "He's arrogant", said others. Still others opined that he was 'inexperienced.' If his global tour had one flaw, it was that it was too successful, for it cast an unflattering light on the incumbent Bush Administration, which is, to put it lightly, far from popular in the world today. This, of course, also impacts McCain's campaign. Whether he helped his domestic campaign is questionable. What is not is the palpable hunger of many countries for a change from what has been. 7/27/08 (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Aug 6, 2008
For most people, August 8th is merely a reference to the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Because of the sheer passage of time, most people have forgotten August 8th, 1978, when police in Philadelphia unleashed a blitzkrieg against members of the MOVE Organization. There, police fired hundreds of rounds into the house, fired tons of water, and after people were flushed from their house, several were beaten on the street. The cops who beat one man, Delbert Africa, for example, were ordered acquitted by a local judge, despite videotape! When MOVE members went to trial, 9 men and women were railroaded on dubious charges for killing a cop who almost certainly was the subject of so-called friendly fire. The city of Philadelphia made sure that this question couldn't be resolved by literally tearing down MOVE's house -- allegedly an active crime scene -- by nightfall. But none of this mattered, for there was a railroad in process, and 9 MOVE people were sent to state gulags for 30 to 100 years! Behind the attack on MOVE was certainly their radical lifestyle and opposition to state power, but there was also the dynamic of powerful real estate interests which wanted to expand their holdings to create a greater University City. For MOVE, August 8th isn't 30 years ago; it's yesterday. It's that close. They need your support to end this injustice! 8/4/08 (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Aug 6, 2008
For Haitians, this coming August is a reminder of the kidnapping and disappearance of their brother, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, who was taken after a meeting with a US-Canadian human rights delegation visiting Haiti in mid-August, 2007. Pierre-Antoine was a co-founder of the Fondayson Trant Septenm, (Kreyol for September 30th Foundation), a group which assisted and supported the people who during (and especially after) the 1991 and 2004 coups against the democratically-elected president, Bertrand Aristide. Members of the Fondayson have been targeted for years. Around the world, activists have been organizing in Lovinsky's support, calling on various governments, from Haiti's President Rene Preval, Brazil (which forms the bulk of the United Nations forces in the country), Canada, the US and France, which organized the latest coup against Haitian democracy. When Pierre-Antoine was abducted, it forced other democracy and human rights activists in Haiti to go into hiding to avoid waves of state repression. Haiti has a proud and illustrious career on the world's stage, becoming the first free Black republic in the West after its 1804 revolution against France, which abolished slavery almost 70 years before the US Civil War spelled the end to human bondage in the US. Their freedom spread the bright lights of liberty and independence throughout the Caribbean, and when South America rose against Spain, it was to Haiti that their Liberator Simon Bolivar turned for support, arms, and a place to rest. For their bold struggle to bring Black freedom to the West, the US and Europe have unleashed an unholy war. France forced reparations (!) on Haiti -- an act unprecedented in history, forcing the victor in war to pay away it's wealth for almost a century. The US repeatedly invaded the country, brutalized its people, and imposed an assortment of puppet dictators to exploit the country for foreign benefit, and national impoverishment, for generations! Because Haiti's popularly elected Bertrand Aristide dared to oppose Haiti's rich elite, and tried to make things nominally better for its peasantry, US Marines forced him into exile. Because Lovinsky comes from the popular mass movements, he was snatched off the streets of Haiti a year ago, and the movement is building to bring him back home to his family, his community, and the popular movements of which he was a part. Haiti must never be forgotten, and neither must we forget Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. [For petitions to circulate and sign, contact: womenstrike8m@servor101.com; or call: (215) 848-1120. www.globalwomenstrike.net] Or sign online:www.petitiononline.com/lovinsky/petition.html 7/30/08 (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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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