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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Americas | International | U.S. | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
A True Story about a True Man: Message for Mumia Abu-Jamal
An open letter from Mexican political prisoner Gloria Arenas read at solidarity actions in Mexico City on December 6 in the zócal and December 9 at the U.S. embassy
Forty years ago, in the country that was the center of worldwide military and economic hegemony, an organization emerged that not only demanded the rights of Black people, but showed them how to use them. The Black Panthers founded schools, carried out community projects and, from the ground up, breathed life into autonomous power and practiced self-defense against police racism and brutality. In the middle of the Cold War with everything against them, they were able to overcome conformity in the Black communities and extend their organization to many important cities in the United States. The system felt threatened and in 1969-70 launched a persecution that included armed searches of the organization’s offices, raids, imprisonment, shooting people down in the streets and where they lived, torture, harassment and a smear campaign.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was only fifteen years old when he joined the Black Panthers. Several years later, in 1981, when they arrested him, he was President of the Black Journalists Association of Philadelphia. He had denounced police attacks against the ecologist organization MOVE, as well as the legal machinations used to jail nine members of the organization. The honorable and steadfast stance of John Africa must have left a deep impression on the journalist who covered the trial of this activist in 1981, the same year that Mumia was jailed. But Mumia’s story is an amazing tale of a true man.
Who is Mumia Abu-Jamal?
He’s the boy who joined the Black Panthers, the committed journalist, the radio broadcaster, the social activist, the writer, and also the political prisoner who’s spent twenty-seven years––yes, twenty-seven years in prison!, the man who said “Many people say it’s insane to resist the system, but actually it’s insane not to.”
As a political prisoner, Mumia is the example of a free, insubordinate spirit. He’s written several books, including We Want Freedom. A Life in the Black Panther Party, and has written numerous essays and articles in which he lays out, in a convincing, agreeable style, the world reality and the imperialist nature of United States interventions in many different countries. He’s the political prisoner who, before thinking of himself, stands up for other political prisoners in the United States and the world.
Mumia has been on death row, a step away from capital punishment, for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s now officially sentenced to life imprisonment, but despite his executioners, finds a way to speak out from death row, explaining with extraordinary political clarity that “The people of Oaxaca should be supported, not just with words, but with similar organizing against flawed and corrupt elections, from folks all over the world.
It should begin with the people of the U.S.”
Mumia is the political prisoner who, even as he awaits a possible execution order, writes. Not to ask for mercy, not to complain, but to criticize power groups in the United States and the invasion of Iraq: “It is ironic that a government that is profoundly autocratic, that relies on elite authoritarianism, secrecy, wireless wiretaps, secret prisons and torture, can claim to be fighting for something that is becoming so rare in the U.S. (ahem -- democracy).” .
Mumia has the gift of speech. From the time he was very young he began to develop it, and it was his weapon against racism and capitalism. Now he uses it to speak of the invisible ones, the excluded, the oppressed. With it, he demands justice for Acteal and Atenco just as he does for Palestine. It doesn’t matter what he’s writing about; with admirable simplicity he always gets to the bottom of exactly where imperialism’s hand is to be found.
He is a political prisoner among tens of thousands in the world, but his ethical stance makes him an exceptional being, a star whose light shines in many faraway prisons. The political prisoners of Mexico can’t give way to defeatism, to discouragement, or inactivity, knowing that there’s a prisoner under threat of death who’s been imprisoned for twenty-seven years and still keeps on struggling.
I lift my voice together with all the other voices from México demanding Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Freedom, as well, for Leonard Peltier and John Graham of the American Indian Movement; for Marilyn Buck, the ex guerrilla held prisoner in California; for the Puerto Rican Independence fighters Oscar López Rivera, Carlos Alberto Torres and Haydee Beltrán Torres; for the Chicano Álvaro Luna Hernández; for Jalil Muntaqim, Herman Bell, Mutulu Shakur, Sundiata Acoli, Jalil Al-Amin, Veronza Bowers, Sekou Odinga, Russel Maroon Shoatz, Hugo Pinnell, Ruchell Cinqué Magee, Ojore Lutalo, Chip Fitzgerald, Seth Hayes and Zolo Azania of the Black movement; for Tom Manning, Jaan Laaman and David Gilbert; for the ecologists Jeff Luers, Daniel McGowan and Eric McDavid; for the MOVE prisoners; for Ramon Labañino, Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero, and René González, the five Cuban patriots held prisoner in North American jails.
Freedom for all political prisoners in the United States!
Gloria Arenas Agis, Chiconautla Prison, Ecatepec, December 2008.
Gloria Arenas Agis and her husband Jacobo Silva Nogales were in the leadership of the Revolutionary Army of Insurgent People (ERPI) and captured in an operation in 1999 and tortured for several days. From their cells, they participate in the Zapatista Other Campaign. They are still being held illegally; in effect, the State is trying them twice for the same offence in violation of the Constitution and illegally lengthening their sentences for the offenses of rebellion and property damage.
translation—Amig@s de Mumia, Mx