Philadelphia’s West and Southwest neighborhoods came together as a community on March 10 at the Kingsessing Free Library in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners. Dozens of residents took part in an afternoon of hands-on learning and political discussion centered on Abu-Jamal’s latest book, “Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?”
Hosted by community activist and radio host Gabe Bryant, the event was organized by a coalition of groups, including the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Workers World Party, Socialist Action, Friends of Kingsessing Library, Mobilization4Mumia, Sankofa Community Empowerment and Food Not Bombs Solidarity. The multimedia presentation included several video clips and documentary footage related to the Black Lives Matter movement and Abu-Jamal’s own arrest and struggle for freedom.
Those in attendance also heard an audio recording of Abu-Jamal reading a section of the introduction to his new book. It ended with his thanking attendees and expressing his love for each and every one engaged in the struggle.
Participants in the event formed breakout groups to discuss various subjects covered in the book, including the meaning of the uprising in Ferguson, Mo., the murder of Trayvon Martin and police violence in schools. Each group reported back to the assembly and joined in a spirited discussion on the book’s themes and the future of the movement.
Workers World member Deandra Patrice Jefferson discussed the connection between Abu-Jamal’s case and that of Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, who recently returned to prison on false pretenses. She noted that many youth in Philadelphia are familiar with the campaign to Free Meek and emphasized bringing this new generation of energy and interest to the movement for Mumia.
Anthony Smith, with Philadelphia REAL Justice, also discussed the generational divide and stressed the importance of creating space for younger organizers and activists who are so disproportionately the target of state violence. Smith also encouraged people to be involved in the fight to stop gentrification, including Temple University’s push for a sports stadium in North Philadelphia’s predominantly Black community around the campus.
Betsey Piette, with the Mobilization4Mumia, gave updates on the state of Abu-Jamal’s health and his legal battle. Pressure has mounted on District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office to release files related to Abu-Jamal’s case that should expose former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille’s duplicity concerning Abu-Jamal’s appeals. A status hearing is scheduled for March 27, where supporters will continue to voice their basic demand: Free Mumia Now!
While a victory was achieved in 2011 when Mumia was taken off death row, the need to free him from prison is as urgent as ever. The state of his health is dire after nearly 40 years in prison with horrendous neglect by prison medical staff.
The Friends of Kingsessing Library was formed over a decade ago and won a successful fight to keep open their branch of the Philadelphia Public Library. Food Not Bombs Solidarity provided delicious meals to all those in attendance. With the support of his friends, family and community, both in Philadelphia and internationally, Mumia Abu-Jamal will one day soon walk out of prison a free man.