A multinational crowd of activists gathered at the SHAPE Community Center on April 23 to celebrate Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 69th birthday. After a militant talk and a prayer by Nation of Islam Minister Abdul Haleem Muhammad, who condemned the rich, white elite for the ills of the vast majority in this country, a film was shown in which Dr. Johanna Fernandez, a leader of the movement to free Mumia, explained the current legal issues facing Abu-Jamal.
Next a local treasure of creativity, Sister Momma Sonia, read two poems written by Julia Wright about Judge Lucretia Clemons. The first one began with a quote by the author’s father, noted novelist Richard Wright, who wrote in 1955 after the acquittal of Emmett Till’s lynchers: “The world will judge the judges.”
Sonia then read her own poem for Mumia which began: “My country tears of we; sweet land of bigotry; of thee we sing. Land where my fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers died; and of the Pilgrims’ false pride; from every mountainside; will freedom ever ring?”
The Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement’s singer and drummer, Trey Legall, had the room singing along to the chorus of “Ella’s Song” by Sweet Honey and the Rock: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest; we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” And the table of about eight children of the Brown Berets, who had been sitting quietly off to the side, came to life, banging on the table with the beats of the drumming.
Yusef Omowale, a member of the Black Panther Party in Chicago, gave a sobering report on the many dozens of political prisoners incarcerated in U.S. state and federal prisons. He ended by talking about Ruchell Magee, who was wrongfully framed up in 1963 and is the longest-held political prisoner in the U.S. Magee has been locked up for 60 years and is now 84 years old.
The Black Panther Party Alumni Association, Workers World Party, the Abolition Movement, Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Brown Berets hosted the event. After candles were lit and people sang “Happy Birthday,” everyone enjoyed cake and camaraderie.