A march called “From West Africa to West Philly to the West Bank, we shall set us free,” held in Philadelphia on Jan. 15. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday – was highlighted by a focus on political prisoners from Mumia Abu-Jamal in the U.S. to Ahmad Sa’adat in Palestine. The march began at Malcolm X Park on West Philadelphia’s 52nd Street, a Black commercial district. The rally opened with a message from a 9-year-old Palestinian living in the U.S., who expressed her solidarity with the children in Gaza.
YahNé Ndgo with Black Lives Matter Philly, and Gabe Bryant with Mobilization4Mumia, addressed the recent passing of Sekou Odinga, a formerly incarcerated Black freedom fighter, and Kamau Becktembe, a beloved, long-time Black freedom fighter and Mumia supporter in Philadelphia. Other speakers raised the common struggle against imperialism from Haiti to Palestine to Niger, Mali and other nations. South Africa and Yemen were particularly recognized for their solidarity with Palestine.
Along the march, chants gave homage to struggles against imperialism in West Africa, Sudan, Haiti, and throughout the Middle East. The popular “Gaza, Gaza, you will rise! Yemen, South Africa, and Oman are on your side!” called up Yemen’s courageous support for Palestine, and solidarity from Malaysia, Oman and South Africa.
At 48th Street and Baltimore Avenue, demonstrators took over the large intersection outside the historic Calvary Methodist Church. Abu-Ali, a representative of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, gave an impassioned speech, stressing that resistance is key to the struggle and to any lasting peace. It can be heard at Sunny Singh’s Hate5Six YouTube network. (tinyurl.com/4s6xr5zc)
Inside Calvary Church, African National Congress representative Godfrey Sithole, who led the campaign in Philadelphia against South Africa’s apartheid system in the 1980s and early 1990s, addressed the crowd before it split up into several workshops. The largest group heard Samidoun members explain the struggle of political prisoners in Palestine. About 20 people participated in a workshop led by Mobilization4Mumia that explained Mumia’s case to the group, most of whom knew little, if anything, about him.