The following talk was given by Christian Cobb at a June 1 forum on “Mumia Abu-Jamal Victories and Historic MOVE Conference” in New York City, which also featured MOVE members Pam Africa and Ramona Africa; lawyers Bob Boyle and Rachel Wolkenstein; and long-time Puerto Rican activist Esperanza Martell. The meeting was chaired by Suzanne Ross from the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
I’m here today to talk about what Mumia Abu-Jamal means to the youth. I will do that by talking about what he means to me. Prior to getting involved with Workers World Party, I had not heard of Mumia Abu-Jamal. When I stepped through these doors, I couldn’t not hear the name Mumia Abu-Jamal: from stories of other people’s visits to his court cases to the necessity of his freedom and to the impact he had, has, and will have as a freed man on the movement.
So I began to learn and I began to share in the inspiration that my new comrades shared about this amazing man. From stories about Mumia joining the Black Panthers when he was 15 years old to him standing up against Mayor Rizzo in the 1970s to how he was also a MOVE supporter. Then I learned more about how he was framed for the death of a white cop in 1981 and sentenced to death in 1982.
We all know the real reason why he was sentenced. It was because he was a Black Panther and a Black revolutionary.
That is why when I heard that there was a new court hearing, all I had to know was where do I sign up. Myself and other comrades went down to Philly to pack the courtroom and to join in with demonstrations outside demanding the freedom of Mumia as well as all political prisoners.
I stayed outside, where I learned the chant: “Brick-by-brick, wall-by-wall, we’re going to free Mumia Abu-Jamal!” Many of us lined the sidewalk chanting, holding up signs and passing out literature to those walking by and to those going to and from the courthouse. We also wished Mumia a “Happy Birthday” as well, since it was, in fact, his birthday that day.
Finally, Mumia’s lawyers came out and spoke about how the hearing had gone. They talked about how they had fought to get a right to discovery on former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castille. They stated that they didn’t know how long it was going to take to get the judge’s decision.
But in that space, surrounded by Mumia’s supporters, hope was everywhere. If you breathed, it filled your lungs. Everyone knew he would win the right to discovery. Everyone knew that one day Mumia would be free.
Now, Mumia has won the right to discovery on that judge, who should have never been his judge in the first place. Now he is one step closer to being free!
He will be free! Leonard Peltier will be free! The Move 9 will be free! Just like Oscar López Rivera was freed. Just like Chelsea Manning was freed. All political prisoners will be free! Free them all!
So I came away inspired and motivated, having seen the impact that People Power can have on a case, and seeing the impact that Mumia had on everyone who was gathered there, especially the varying generations.
All the work that the elders have done is impressive. And they have done a lot of work. Workers World Party has been involved in the fight to free Mumia since 1995. That’s now over 20 years. The party was vital to a huge 1995 rally, where over 10,000 people filled the streets of Philly to protest Mumia’s execution date. And they stopped his death.
The fight kept continuing to 2010, when Mumia was successfully taken off of death row.
This fight has continued for so long because Mumia has been able to inspire each succeeding generation, from the 1980s to the 1990s to now. Through the work he continues to do even now behind bars and at the age of 63, he is able to reach the youth. He still talks about various struggles that allow him to unite the movement, to generalize the struggle, and to serve as a symbol for anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism.
Mumia is a symbol of hope for the oppressed.
This is why it is vital for the youth and newer comrades to take up the fight to free Mumia. We have to work to sustain and build upon the work that was done before us. We have to invigorate the movement.
It is up to us to see the fight through to its conclusion: the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free political prisoners! Free them all!