Philadelphia — United around the goal “Mumia, Free in 4!” — meaning his release in four years — dedicated activists from several U.S. cities, France and Germany gathered at Temple University on Jan. 26 for a conference organized by Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The event laid out a historical and political perspective on why now is the time to raise a campaign around Abu-Jamal, who in December 2011 was released into general population at Pennsylvania’s SCI Mahanoy. This comes after his nearly 30 years in solitary confinement on death row. Demands for his freedom will also link Abu-Jamal’s case to the growing fight to end mass incarceration.
Dr. Anthony Monteiro, a professor of African-American Studies at Temple University, called for “a strategic plan to free Mumia.”
Monteiro stated that Abu-Jamal and other political prisoners have not been isolated in prison for decades just because “we did not fight to free them. We must not underestimate that the forces we fight also have a strategic plan to keep our leaders isolated from the people to prevent movements against imperialism and repression.”
Monteiro noted that while over 2.5 million people are imprisoned today, the ruling class plans to build prisons for millions more. “The 1% relies on the state to uphold an economic system they know will never recover from its current crisis.”
Stressing solidarity, Abu-Jamal’s son, Jamal Hart, who was himself imprisoned for 15 years, cautioned people not to get caught up with things that divide us, but focus instead on the direction we all want to go. “The movement to free my father is global, but it must also stay connected with the family.” Hart shared a simple message sent to him by his father on Jan. 21 that read, “I want to go home!”
Other speakers, including Ramona Africa of the MOVE organization and Johanna Fernandez of EMAJ, addressed the need for the campaign to get information to young people and to popularize Abu-Jamal as a freedom fighter imprisoned longer than most youth coming into struggles today have been alive.
Noelle Hanrahan, with Prison Radio, urged people to join in efforts to fill theaters for the release of the new documentary, “Long Distance Revolutionary — A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal.” It opens in theaters across the U.S., starting Feb. 1 in New York. This film, produced by Street Legal Cinema in association with Prison Radio, focuses on Mumia’s dramatic career as a journalist, revolutionary and important voice during a time of increased mass incarceration, escalating war and impoverishment of an entire generation of young people. For information see www.mumia-themovie.com.
Attorneys for Abu-Jamal provided legal updates and discussed plans to launch a media campaign to “mainstream Mumia” as a counter to decades of the racist media coverage of his case. Judith Ritter, with the Legal Defense Fund, stated, “Mumia himself is the strongest weapon we have for people to know what kind of man he is.”
An international petition campaign was proposed to stress Abu-Jamal’s innocence and call on the U.S. Department of Justice to recommend that the governor of Pennsylvania immediately vacate his sentence.
Young activists Autumn Marie, Jamila Wilson and Domingo Estevez led a lively discussion, encouraging the sharing of ways to popularize Abu-Jamal’s case. Progressive hip-hop performers, including Immortal Technique and M-1 of Dead Prez, took part directly or by phone-in.
A highlight was a call from Mumia himself, who urged those present to “build something stronger and more powerful than ever before.” n