Lynne Stewart, Ramona Africa, Pam Africa and Ralph Poynter were greeted by a packed, standing-room-only house in Oakland, Calif., on May 4, as part of their “Bay Area Celebration of Life” tour to celebrate Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 60th birthday and the liberation of ailing people’s attorney, Lynne Stewart, from the clutches of prison.
Mumia, in a taped introduction, told the audience: “I breathe today because you fought for my breath. … Like sunshine, we just keep on coming,” and “We gather in protest of the obscenity of mass incarceration … and the prison-industrial complex — not to make it nicer, but to abolish it.”
A letter from the Cuban Five was read, as well.
Pam Africa said that “Mumia is in a very dangerous situation, and people don’t realize it.” She also mentioned that President Obama was approaching the period where he would be considering names for pardons. Ramona Africa talked about how “fighting back is instinctive,” stating that the MOVE motto is “We fight back.” She added: “We can’t stop them from doing things to us, but what we can do is expose them. No matter what they come at us with, we come back at them, because we have no choice.”
Lynne Stewart thanked the crowd for their role in freeing her, saying: “I was accused of terrorism, the big ‘T’ that they scare everyone with. But you came to rescue me. … I’m a 74-year-old ex-con you broke out of jail.”
She also described her struggle to get medical care for her cancer, describing the two-and-a-half month battle. She was told that she had missed the enrollment period for Medicare (while she was incarcerated), and she would have to wait. The cancer, of course wouldn’t wait. Lynne described how she finally got enrolled in Medicaid, only to find out that her doctors and hospital didn’t take Medicaid. (She finally got them to accept it). Finally she talked about how she wanted to support women prisoners, but couldn’t have contact with them as an ex-felon. She also raised the case of the Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Mich., who is being framed for voter fraud for fighting for the recall of the mayor.
The May 4 celebration was organized by Jeff Mackler from Socialist Action.