Former political prisoner Sekou Abdullah Odinga was the featured speaker in a panel discussion at the Malcolm X Library in San Diego on Feb. 3. The panel included Dr. Johanna Fernandez, professor in the Department of Black and Latino Studies at Baruch College in New York City; Hank Jones, of the San Francisco 8; and Brandon Duncan and Aaron Harvey, leaders of a local grassroots campaign against Penal Code 182.5. The discussion was chaired by University of California at San Diego Professor Dennis Childs, author of “Slaves of the State: Incarceration from the Chain Gang to the Penitentiary.”
The University of California at San Diego’s African-American Studies Minor Program hosted Odinga as a part of his national tour in support of political prisoners. Professor Childs arranged for the panelists to speak at the Malcolm X Library.
The evening was truly a history lesson on political imprisonment, the prison-industrial complex and radical resistance. The room was filled with students, community members and leaders who listened intently as each panelist spoke.
The Malcolm X Library welcomed Odinga. The San Diego Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and All Political Prisoners honored Odinga with a “Justice for Mumia” medallion to commemorate over one year of his freedom and his continued work to free all political prisoners.
Panelists Duncan and Harvey are two young men from Southeast San Diego who were jailed under California Penal Code 182.5, a racist statute that has been used to arrest a number of young Black men for crimes committed by supposed “gang members.” Both men were facing life in prison. Since their exoneration, they have been working to free others jailed under CPC 182.5
Professor Fernandez wrote and produced a film entitled “Justice on Trial: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” and is currently working on a book, “When the World Was Their Stage: A History of the Young Lords Party, 1968-1974,” about the Puerto Rican counterpart to the Black Panther Party.
Jones, one of the San Francisco 8, was very instrumental in getting Odinga to San Diego. Professor Childs said that without his help, Odinga may not have been able to attend.
Odinga stated during his passionate narrative, “My work has been and continues to be, since I’ve been home, advocating for political prisoners. That’s the main thing I want to say to you tonight.” He explained the difficulty of doing a national tour. He is currently on probation and has to get permission from two probation officers to travel.
Odinga explained in detail the ways we can support the many political prisoners and prisoners of war who are spending decades in prison, sacrificing their livelihood defending the rights of the masses. Many, like Mumia Abu-Jamal, are suffering from medical neglect. “We need to support them because they support us,” said Odinga.
There was a petition to free the 71-year-old, ailing, Native-American hero Leonard Peltier. Now is the time — Free them all!