April 24th 1954 is a profoundly important day in the history of contemporary Black radical resistance. It marks the 69th birthday of one of the most iconic, courageous and fearless Black people to ever walk the earth, Baba Mumia Abu Jamal.
From the late 60s onwards, over a thousand Black Panther and Move revolutionaries have been incarcerated in US jails, on dubious charges and for periods ranging from 20 to 50 years.
Some have even died in prison while serving these ridiculous sentences. These are Black revolutionaries such as Safiyah Bukhari, Marshall Eddie Conway, Masai Ehosai, Jack Ivory Johnson.
Sekou Kambui, Sekou Odinga, Dhoruba bin Wahad, Kuwasi Balagoom, Bashir Hameed, Teddy Jah Heath, Abdullah Majid, David Rice, aka Mondo we Langa.
Herman Wallace, Albert “Nuh” Washington, Warren Wells, Assata Shakur (who remains in exile in Cuba), and many others.
All of them have one thing in common: they dared to stand up to the anti-black AmeriKKKan empire for its incessant, unprovoked, gratuitous and systematic violence against Black people.
The widespread incarceration of Black revolutionaries in AmeriKKKa from the 60s, was part of a terror campaign by the Nixon administration against the growing influence of the Black Power movement in AmeriKKKa, and in particular the Black Panther Party.
As a counter to the growth of Black Power and led by the nefarious and anti-black FBI, AmeriKKKa’s overall intention was to delegitimise Black resistance through the arbitrary criminalisation of Black people and in particular, Black men.
This was done under the pretext of fighting against crime and in particular Nixon’s deceptive ‘war on drugs’. Using such methods as infiltration, planting drugs within Black revolutionary movements and framing of prominent Black revolutionaries.
One of the Black revolutionaries who become a target of AmeriKKKa’s war on Black resistance is Baba Mumia Abu Jamal. In December 1981, Mumia was framed for the murder of a white police officer.
He ended up being sentenced to death and later, it was changed to life. Today, Baba Mumia has spent an effective 42 years behind bars. While behind bars, his dignity was incessantly violated and as a result, Baba Mumia is now suffering from various medical conditions.
These include liver cirrhosis, hepatitis C, congestive heart failure, a severe debilitating skin condition, hypertension, diabetes. More recently, Baba Mumia also contracted Covid-19.
He was taken for medical treatment without the knowledge of his wife, lawyer and medical doctor. In fact, for about 4 days, these people who speak to him daily, didn’t know where Baba Mumia was.
During his 42 years behind bars, Mumia lost his daughter, Samiya ‘Goldii’ Davis Abdullah in 2015 and in December last year, his wife and pillar, Mama Wadiya Jamal left us.
As far as I am concerned, the plan of the white supremacist AmeriKKKan empire is simple: for Baba Mumia, Mama Assata Shakur and others like them, to die. Nothing more, nothing less.
Born Wesley Cook in 1954 in Philadelphia, United States of AmeriKKKa. As stated, Baba Mumia was accused of killing a white police man, Daniel Faulkner in 1981.
In the book ‘The Framing of Mumia Abu Jamal’ , Patrick O’Connor, argues that the available evidence points to Kenneth Freeman, the passenger in Baba Mumia’s brother’s car.
He further argues that Baba Mumia was actually framed because he had been a member of the Black Panther Party and has been under FBI surveillance for a while because of his political views and activities.
In spite of his pain and suffering, Baba Mumia never allowed the fire of Black resistance inside him to die. From behind bars, he authored several books, including #LiveFromDeath.
For decades, he has been honoured around the world through street namings, awards, music concerts, campaigns, lectures and various forms of art.
In his book #DeathBlossoms: Reflections from a Prisoner of Conscience’, he writes:
“here and there, in the barrios and the favelas, among those who have least, beat hearts of hope, fly sparks of overcoming. ”
There is a sense in which Baba Mumia’s continued incarceration helps us to keep our focus on a number important but often neglected topics.
One, the fact the prison system has its genesis in slavery and that this system has been central in the anti-black project of breaking up Black families and contributing to the problem of absentee Black fathers. For an expansion on this, I recommend the Netflix documentary 13th.
Two, the continued hyper criminalisation of Black people and in particular Black men, is directly responsible for the modern day lynching by the police of Black men in AmeriKKKa.
I refer here to Black men such as Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Philando Castille, Eric Gardner, George Floyd, Patrick Lyoya and more recently, 16 year-old Ralph Yarl.
Yarl was shot in the head after knocking on the wrong door of an 84 years-old white man, Andrew Lester. Yarl mistakenly knocked on Lester’s door. He was looking for his twin younger brothers at the time.
There are of course also Black women who have been lynched in a similar manner. Three, the growth of the prison- industrial complex and the booming business of private prisons is interwoven with the persistence of broken Black communities, anti-black racism and capitalism, and now neoliberalism.
In spite of the waves of gratuitous violence that AmeriKKKa has unleashed on Baba Mumia’s body, he remains an indefatigable and irrepressible symbol of Black resistance.
His incarceration and that of many other Black revolutionaries (especially Black Panther Warriors), reminds us that, in spite of the deceptive and highly lucrative politics of integration and colourlessness, as promoted by some Blacks, we as the Black race continue to exist in a context slavery.
For a more systematic understanding of the phenomenon of Black mass incarceration in AmeriKKKa, I recommend the book ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colourlesness’ by Prof Michelle Alexander, alternatively you can check out her You Tube lectures.
As Black people, we must not just continue the call for Baba Mumia’s freedom and ensure our children know his name and story.
We must also ensure that we make our own contribution to dismantling the system that continues to guarantee and entrench our powerlessness as the Black race. Warrior Mumia Abu Jamal Lives On!
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- RESISTING THE HYPER- CRIMINALISATION OF BLACK MEN: 42 YEARS IN CAPTIVITY: THE BLACK WORLD REMEMBERS BABA MUMIA ABU- JAMAL - May 8, 2023
- A REVOLUTIONARY WHO LIVED AMONG THE PEOPLE- A TRIBUTE TO COMRADE CHRIS MATLHAKO (1965-2023) - April 24, 2023