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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: 2009
Jan 17, 2009
Like you, I've seen the searing phone-camera tape of the killing of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, of Oakland, California. And although it's truly a terrible thing to see, it's almost exceeded by something just as shocking. That's been how the media has responded to this police killing, by creating a defense of error. This defense, that the killer cop who murdered Grant somehow mistook his pistol for his Taser, has been offered by both local and national news reporters -- even though they haven't heard word one from Johannes Mehserle, the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop who wasn't even interviewed for weeks after shooting an unarmed man! If you've ever wondered about the role of the media, let this be a lesson to you. You can see here that the claim that the corporate media is objective is but a cruel illusion. Imagine this: if the roles were reversed, that is, if bystanders had footage of Grant shooting Mehserle, would the media be suggesting a defense for him? Would Grant have been free to roam, to leave the state a week later? Would he have made bail? The shooting of Oscar Grant III is but the latest, West Coast version of Amadou Diallo, of Sean Bell, and of hundreds of other Black men -- and like them, don't be surprised if there is an acquittal -- again. Oscar Grant is you -- and you are him, because you know in the pit of your stomach that it could've been you, and the same thing could've happened. You know this. And what's worse is this: you pay for this every time you pay taxes, and you endorse this every time you vote for politicians who sell out in a heartbeat. You pay for your killers to kill you, in the name of a bogus, twisted law, and then pay for the State that defends him. Something is terribly wrong here--and it's the system itself. Until that is changed, nothing is changed, for we'll be out here again (in the streets) -- chanting a different name. -- 1/17/09 (c) '09 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Jan 16, 2009
Address to the Rosa Luxemburg Conference, Berlin Germany 1/10/09 'Imperial Power & Counter-Power':(M.A. Jamal's Remarks to the Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Germany / Jan. 10th, 2009 [SP. WRIT. 12/30/08] (C) '08 MUMIA ABU-JAMAL If one is to address the reactions to the recent election of Illinois Senator Barack Obama to the U.S. Presidency, this can perhaps be best encapsulated by the term, exultation. For if ever a political figure rode the currents of a stellar alignment, Barack Obama did so. The exultation was both national and global. In my 1/2 century of life, I can recall no presidential election that elicited so profound a political -- indeed visceral! -- response. When one considers what role the left had in such a spectacular political event, again we must look to alignments; not of stars, but of constituencies, which converged to not only elect Obama, but to also close the door to the ruinous politics of the U.S. right wing, represented by the incumbent President, George W. Bush, and his presumed political heirs, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin of the Republican Party. While the U.S. left was a constituent part of the larger constituency, it neither drove nor directed the forces that elected Obama. In many ways it was hostage to those forces. Those forces were youth -- those between 18-28, who mobilized in ways never seen before; it was also African Americans who voted in unprecedented numbers for one they perceived as one of their own; add to this millions of women, some of whom felt, frankly, disrespected by the choice of Palin, who, though a woman, betrayed an astonishing lack of knowledge and expertise on issues, especially given the very real possibility that her running mate, sen. McCain, might not survive the rigors of office. But one cannot ignore the significant segment of those who felt betrayed or disaffected by the hard-right tilt of the Republican Party -- which ran almost exclusively on the notion that Obama was a "socialist", who in Palin's oft-repeated quote, "pals around with terrorists." For those beyond our shores, it may be necessary to briefly decode this language. The "socialist" tag was a kind of cleaned - up, classy version of 'communist', the ultimate slur in U.S. capitalist politics, only exceeded by the post 9/11 term "terrorist" (and by calling Obama a "pal" of terrorists, it was tantamount to calling him one). The last reference was to the alleged friendship between Obama and William Ayers, a Hyde Park educator who, in the 1960's, was a leading member of the Weather Underground, student anti-war and anti imperialist activists, who engaged in acts against property, and who supported the Black liberation movements of the era. In point of fact, Obama was, by no measure, a leftist. In the Spring of 2008 issue of The Black Scholar, African-American studies professor, Charles P. Henry makes the point explicitly, citing both Obama's own words, as well as a political biography of him in the New York Times Magazine. (1) Obama's quoted remarks are instructive: The Democrats have been stuck in the arguments of Vietnam, which means that either you're a 'Scoop' Jackson Democrat or you're suspicious of any military action. And that's just not my framework .(2) Obama's choices were illustrative of two poles of the Democratic Party: Sen. Henry 'Scoop' Jackson was so pro-war that he was called the "Senator from Boeing". (3) ; Hayden by contrast, was a student anti-war activist, and member of S.D.S. (Students for a Democratic Society). (Interestingly, Obama never referred to himself as a Jesse Jackson Democrat either). This leads us to the next query on the role of the U.S. anti-war movement; in a word, it is moribund. This, paradoxically, can be traced to the massive demonstrations of Spring 2003 in protest of the imminent Iraq War. For millions of people, this was their first, and last experience of mass action. Sadly, the lesson they learned was of their impotence, not their power, for Bush promptly ignored the protests, rattled the sabers of war, and launched Operation Shock and Awe. For many people, unused to popular protests, this short-term failure to stop the war blinded them to the rarity that such mass protests represented: never had the nation seen such mass protests before the war was begun. At this stage, the people were a Counter-Power, but they stopped far too soon. To further analyze the question of whether the election of Obama represents a leftist surge, or if the anti-war movement is in its ascendancy we need only recall that Obama is neither a leftist nor is he anti-war. The early stages of his electoral campaign were explicitly against the Iraq War. As he ran in the later stages, his sound bites announced a troop withdrawal in Iraq was necessary to buttress U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Indeed, given the events occurring as these words are written, there will probably be more U.S. anti-war protests against the Israeli blitzkrieg on Gaza in the next 2 weeks, than there was against the U.S. occupation in Afghanistan in the last two years. That, I think, succinctly states the case of where we are. But where we are need not determine where we can go. For people move by inches and by leaps. This was, undoubtedly, a giant step in U.S. history. This was not a day ever envisioned by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln or even John F. Kennedy. Yet, one of Black America's most revered historians, Vincent Harding, (author of the classic, There is a River), spoke for far more than himself when he said, "So my hopes are very much focused on him, but not on him alone. I see the energy that's been built up over these two years of campaigns, and I see the possibility that we could gather ourselves together and begin to ask, in a very powerful way, not what should Barack Obama be doing next, but where do we go from here? What is our role as committed, progressive citizens to move to the next stages?" Harding, a close confidante of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ended his comments on the Obama election with this fitting suggestion: "Maybe a democracy needs community organizers more than it needs commanders."(4) Maybe so. It appears Dr. Harding is suggesting that instead of empire, we need a republic, for if history teaches us anything, it is that the two realities are un- reconcilable. In the days of ancient Rome, the advent of empire spelled the end of the republic. In 193 C. E., an African seized the throne of Rome. Emperor Septimius Severus extended Rome's power, and strengthened its empire. His sons succeeded him, and exceeded him in cruelty and brutality. They didn't bring change -- they brought continuity. Will this empire be any different? Danke! Aus die Todeszelle, Hier Sprecht Mumia Abu-Jamal. Endnotes 1. Traub, James, "Is His Biography Our Destiny?", New York Times Magazine, November 4, 2007, pp.50-55. 2. Hayden, Tom, "An Appeal to Barack Obama", post to ariannahuff@aol.com, November 8, 2007; cited in Henry, Charles P., O"Obama '08 -- Articulate and Clean,"The Black Scholar, (Spr. '08) [vol. 38:no.1}, p.6, fn.17. 3. Johnson, Chalmers, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), p.211. Boeing received some $20 billion in defense contracts in 2006. 4. Wane, Aly (compiled by), "Historical Moment: Black Thinkers Reflect on the Election of Barack Obama", Syracuse Peace Council's Peace newsletter (Jan. '09: #780), p.7.
Jan 15, 2009
written 4 POCC 1/15/09 Huey P. Newton's name, and more importantly, his history of resistance and struggle, is little more than a mystery for many younger people in their 20's. The name and works of a third rate rapper is more familiar to the average Black youth, and that's hardly surprising given the failure of the public school system. For the public school system is invested in ignorance, and Huey P. Newton was a rebel -- and more, a Black Revolutionary. Inspired by the civil rights movement and the violent attacks on Blacks trying to vote, Huey felt a bolder, more radical stance was needed. At the age of 24, he co-founded the Black Panther Party, and the group expanded by leaps and bounds. Begun in Oct. 1966, in 3 years it had grown to over 40 chapters and branches across the country, with an international section in Algiers, North Africa. Dedicated to the principles of Black self-defense and Black freedom, the Party became the foremost radical group of the era, with a wealth of supporters and enemies. Chief among enemies was the US government, which, in the words of the FBI's head, J. Edgar Hoover, considered it "the greatest threat to national security." For many thousands of Black youth, the rebelliousness of the Party spoke to their spirits more truly than did the peaceful resistance represented by Dr. Martin Luther King. Huey was not a pacifist, and neither were millions of Black people. But Huey, for all his brilliance, flair and resolve, was only human, and as the saying goes, 'to err is human.' Under attack from without and within, the party made missteps that contributed to it demise by the early 1980's. But it is the best of Huey P. Newton that survives -- the bold soldier, the Minister of Defense, the thinker and writer -- who gave his best to the Black Freedom movement; who inspired millions of others to stand. --(c) 1/15/09 maj
Jan 12, 2009
36 HOURS: Death in a Cell 1/12/09 Mumia Abu-Jamal The strangulation death of 19 year old Ronnie L. White in a jail cell in Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County, Maryland, after 36 hours confinement has confronted Ron Harris, the teenager's father. A month ago Harris told reporters, "it's been six months, and still nobody can tell me who killed my son or what happened leading up to his death." Harris added, "I want to know why there is still so much secrecy in this case and why, after all this time, I still don't have answers." And despite the empanelment of a county grand jury looking into the case, Harris still has no answers, for the grand jury disbanded without bringing any indictments. Community groups, from the People's Coalition for Police Accountability, Cas de Maryland, and the Princes George's County of the NAACP have protested the death of Ronnie l. White, and braved the bitter December winds to gather together to demand a true, fair and impartial investigation into his death, and the prosecutions of all involved. That's because White died 36 hours after his arrest in connection with the death of a Prince George's county cop, who was hit by a car allegedly driven by White. White's father is left with little more than questions after the events of June 2008. Ron Harris says, "My son died in solidarity confinement in a jail. They knew who was working in the unit and where he was that day. The doors were locked, and only a few people had keys. Yet, after all this time, they say they don't have enough evidence to know who did it? Why not?" Community groups smell a cover up. For more info: call 301-779-7432 or email : fightpolicebrutalityinpg@gmail.com maj --@'09 {Source: Thomas-Lester, Avis, "Father Seeks Resolution months After Son Dies", washingtonpost.com, Tues., Dec. 23, 2008, B02}.
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