by nanny & the professor
Steve Yip, Mark McClain Taylor, Tony Medina - respectively, a NYC Maoist and political activist, a Princeton Seminary academic, and a revolutionary NYC poet. It is a rare occasion that these three men might be drawn together on an issue, rarer yet that we here in Bloomington-Normal have the opportunity to participate in the experience. The 14th Annual Socialist Scholars Conference was held April 12-14, 1996 in New York City and recorded on audio and video tape by Roger Leisner for RADIO FREE MAINE. Panel 69, composed of the three individuals aforementioned, was titled, "Live from Death Row: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal."
The panel sought not only to communicate and identify the current status and issues involved with Mumia's case, but more importantly, to unify the efforts and convictions of diverse sociopolitical groups toward his release.
For those of you unfamiliar with this case, Mumia Abu-Jamal is an uncompromising Black revolutionary journalist who was, as a teenager, a member of the Black Panther Party. For years, he exposed the racist brutality of the Philadelphia Police Department through his writings and publications. On December 9, 1981, Mumia was shot, beaten, and nearly killed by police in a street incident in which an officer was killed. It is widely accepted (human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch agree) that Mumia was then framed up on murder charges and sentenced to die in a trial where he was denied even the most basic rights of legal defense. This being the case, Mumia Abu-Jamal remains the premier political prisoner in the US currently facing execution.
Mumia has been on death row for over 12 years. Throughout his imprisonment he has continued to speak out against the system, bringing revolutionary acumen to millions of people through his writings, in spite of attempts by prison authorities and others to censor him and break his spirit. Mumia's case has become the spearhead of a racist campaign to restore the death penalty in Pennsylvania where no one has been executed since 1962. Mumia's pending execution marks a major escalation in the use of state violence against the people by its attempts to establish the death penalty as an accepted weapon against revolutionary movements.
The panelists challenged conscious communities to recognize Mumia as a symbol of the war the system is waging on the people, to bear in mind that we are all vulnerable to oppression (not just those of us relegated to 6x10 cells), and to acknowledge that much of the fabric which under girds our own security is threatened when we choose to critique, dissent, or expose injustices. They remind us that no matter what sector of society we identify ourselves with, we must act as a coalition against oppression and hatred, whether it be in the form of brute force, discrimination, or adversarial politics. They remind us too that we must do more than theorize about the subjugation of suppressed communities, but that we must openly participate, organize, mobilize, and rally for our right to live in an honest, peaceful, and free world.
Steve Yip is an assiduous activist in NYC who coordinates the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, Mark McClain Taylor teaches at Princeton Seminary and organizes a group called AMAJ (Academics for Mumia Abu-Jamal); Tony Medina is a revolutionary poet from NYC who recently co-edited an over 400 page book galvanizing the efforts of award winning writers, artists, activists, academics, and revolutionaries entitled, "In Defense of Mumia," published by Writers & Readers in 1996. It is vitally important to a free society that information be impartial and unobstructed. As Cornell West says, "Communication is the life blood of democracy." We owe a great deal of respect and gratitude to citizens like Roger Leisner who are willing to distribute essential information without concern for the protection of their market share.