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Mumia Abu-Jamal: At the Crossroads

Published Apr 15, 2010 9:03 PM

April 3 was “Call to Action Day” at Columbia University — a day to inform, mobilize and organize to save the life of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. The theme was “Live from Death Row: Mumia at the Crossroads in the Age of Obama.” It was organized by Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Co-sponsors were the Columbia groups Lucha, the Black Students Organization, the Muslim Students Association and the Intercultural House at Columbia, the Arab Student Association at SIPA, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, the African Diaspora Literary Society and the Black and Latino Student Caucus at the School of Public Health.

EMAJ’s founder Mark Taylor, who is also a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, thanked Columbia students for holding this event. For 15 years, the group has educated and organized for justice for Mumia. They are coordinating the national campaign for a civil rights investigation into his case by the U.S. Justice Department.

EMAJ says that the same judicial violations and racism surrounding Mumia’s case account for the disproportionate incarceration of other Black people and the increasing illegal detentions of Arabs and Muslims.

More than 500 students, teachers and activists, including members of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC), the Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the International Action Center, attended. The six workshops — on campus organizing, media building and legal struggles — and the evening plenary were open to the public.

Johanna Fernandez, a Baruch College professor and an EMAJ coordinator, moderated the evening panel on “Live from Death Row.”

Each speaker described Mumia as a true revolutionary, who speaks for the oppressed and whom the government seeks to silence because he speaks the truth about capitalism and repression.

Pam Africa of MOVE and the International Concerned Family and Friends emphasized that now, more than ever, Mumia’s life is endangered, as all legal avenues have been exhausted. She emphasized the power of the people to effect change and said that it was mass action that rescued Mumia from his scheduled execution in August 1995.

Now activists must, Africa stressed, become fully engaged in the campaign to demand a full and complete investigation by the U.S. Justice Department of the racist, illegal prosecutorial actions by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, the police department, the courts and city officials.

Jamal Joseph, a Columbia professor, former Black Panther and founder of IMPACT Repertory Theatre for youth, told of the federal government’s Cointelpro campaign, which destroyed the Black Panther Party when party members spoke about the need for unity of all peoples. “We need a movement to release Mumia,” he said and quoted Frederick Douglass, who said, “Agitate, agitate, agitate!”

Vijay Prashad, Trinity College historian and author, talked about the attacks on the workers and said that what is needed is a commitment, a movement and a struggle. In comparing U.S. state oppression here and abroad, he asserted, “Mumia is Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Guantánamo.”

Cornel West, noted African-American scholar and Princeton University professor, urged everyone to act to support Mumia and to oppose the mass incarceration of and police brutality against Blacks and Latinos/as.

West said that, in the age of Obama, there’s no concern for the plight of everyday people under corporate power, and that the poor and working class in the U.S. and globally are suffering unnecessarily. Today, as in Reagan’s age, greed has run amok. Despite massive poverty, the people are declared “too little to rescue, the banks too big to fail.”

The evening’s highlight was Mumia’s phone call, live from death row. The audience gave him a loud standing ovation. Mumia opened with, “Power to the people!” He thanked everyone for being there and all of his supporters.

Mumia reviewed his life as a Black Panther and the good works the young Panthers performed without the advantage of speaking to Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, who were already murdered. They built their organization because they felt oppression in their bones, and they were motivated by love for the people, said Mumia, referring to Che’s statement that true revolutionaries are guided by great feelings of love.

The machinery of oppression continues today, explained Mumia, referring to the “new Jim Crow” justice system. He encouraged young people to use their energy and abilities to organize and said that they don’t need to wait and ask for permission to do so.

Suzanne Ross of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC) stated that “Mumia’s death is not acceptable,” and she called on everyone to go to Washington, D.C., on April 26 to demand a federal civil rights investigation of Mumia’s case.

The evening closed with loud chants of “Free, free, free Mumia and all political prisoners!”

For transportation and logistical information, see www.freemumia.com/april26.html. Every Thursday call the Justice Department hotline: 202-353-1555, or switchboard: 202-514-2000, to demand a civil rights investigation.