United States

Mumia Abu-Jamal Responds to Recent Court Ruling

Interview with the Prisoner Of Conscience Committee (POCC) Minister of Information J.R and Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. onThe Block Report Radio Show KPFA, and reprinted in the San Francisco BayView National Black Newspaper .

Minister of Information J.R.: We have recently suffered a set back in this 3rd Circuit Court decision. What is your response and what is the situation with this juncture?

Mumia Abu-Jamal: I’ve learned over the years to always look at oral arguments with a degree of skepticism. This has only reinforced that opinion. Years ago, many years ago, 1987, it may have been, when we were in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, several of my lawyers at that time came to me and they were effusive because they heard how angry the justices were at Philadelphia DA’s office and they heard the answers and they heard the questions and they were like, “this is great, Mumia.”

This was early, but I held on to my skepticism after many years in politics especially black revolutionary politics. This was really more of the same.

A reporter who looked at the case called it the “Mumia exception.” The fact of the matter is, it is not the “Mumia exception” it is the “Mumia rule” because it has happened before so we should not be surprised.

Minister of Information J.R.: There are some people out here who have been calling it a victory. Can you explain how it is not a victory but a set back?

Mumia Abu-Jamal: If it was a victory, it was a tiny small victory, but not a victory. If you look at what the court said and what they did, what they did is, they made up new rules, that is not a victory. That is again the Mumia rule—the same thing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did. For people who do know and have read legal cases there is a case called Commonwealth vs. Baker, it was decided in 1986. I know that the Internet is out there so it enables people to do a lot more research in ways that were a lot more difficult to do many years ago. If you look up Commonwealth vs. Baker decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1986 and you read the argument that got him off of death row and then read that same argument made by the same prosecutor in the same courthouse if not the same room, and then see how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court created a new rule in Abu-Jamal and then reinstated the old rule several years later. So it’s the new rule once again. When a court has to make up new rules and make up new law to uphold something that was unjust before, that is not a victory. Not a victory. It’s not a victory but we struggle on.

Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr.: Ona Move Free ‘Em All.

Mumia Abu-Jamal: What’s up Fred Jr.? I saw you on PBS a few nights ago, talking to a bunch of kids on a bus.

Fred Hampton, Jr.: Right On. We’re trying to get the word out through every venue possible, you know?

Mumia Abu-Jamal: That’s exactly what you said.

Fred Hampton, Jr.: Yes indeed, yes indeed. We believe that we have to continue to reiterate the fact that we have to do our thing out on the streets to get the word out. It’s going to take the pressure from the people to get the desired results, but what tactics do you think we can tweak or what should we touch on or really stress to up the ante about this campaign.

Mumia Abu-Jamal: I think you hit the nail on the head. Many people, even those who consider themselves radicals and revolutionaries, got caught sleeping for a moment, they either heard about or were present at or read about the oral arguments and they said “Whoa! He’s got that.”

Let me tell you a story, if I may, that friend of mine, who is a lawyer, told me several days ago. This was in Pittsburgh, and it was a conference, discussion given by a very well known Black capital-case lawyer, who is from Alabama. His name is Bryan Stevenson, and he was speaking to a group, opposed to the death penalty generally, but also students and law students and other people, and he gave his speech and it was very nicely received and at the end people got up and asked questions. Well someone got up and asked, “Well, what about Mumia?” And the guy says, “Ah don’t worry about that, he’s got a new trial.”

And as fate would have it about 5 minutes before he said that, someone received a text message, it was about 11:00 in the morning on the 27th, and they received a text message telling them what the 3rd Circuit had done. This is a guy who is a recognized expert, not only in capital case law but in The Law, he is a famed expert. So having read the cases and read the briefs, he was sure, you see, but he was wrong. Because, even lawyers who are very smart and very good, what they don’t factor in is politics in the law, what they don’t factor in is personality in the law, what they don’t factor in is the power of the law to change itself like a chameleon. And many people who are very well informed or radical or even revolutionary, for a moment, for a moment, said this is good, because what they read or what they heard or what they saw in oral arguments gave them the belief that this would be different. Well, we learned otherwise haven’t we? So we go back to basics.

I’m not going to tell people what to do or how to organize. They know how to do that. They need to trust in their own instincts. I believe in the people. I have always believed in it since I was a young teenager. The people never let you down; they do what is right because they know in their hearts what is right. And I commend them for it.

I just did a piece, yesterday, about how we have a history that we forget about sometimes. A history of the courts being on the side of repression, being on the side, not of freedom, but on the side of enslavement. Literally, that is what Dred Scott [Dred Scott was a slave in the United States who sued unsuccessfully for his freedom in the famous Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1856] was all about. If you look at Plessy v. Furgeson, that is what that was all about.

A lot of people still believe that Brown vs. the Board of Education changed everything. Well it changed some things for some people. If you were well to do and your parent is a lawyer or a doctor or a professor or something like that then, you’re OK. You still have problems but you are OK. You have the resources to take care of your family and do what you have to do to live a very good life, one that your parents and grandparents couldn’t even think of.

But if you are Black and poor in this society, things have not really changed for you; in fact, in some ways they’ve gotten worse. I mean we talk about Brown v. Board of Education, decided in 1955 or 1953, which ended segregation in law in the United States. But I went to high school in the 60s in a segregated school; I’d been in a segregated elementary school or segregated Jr. High school. The only real integration I received in my schooling was in summer school or college. And the same schools I went to as a kid are not very different for people who are the age of my grandkids or teenagers today. Segregation in law is one thing; segregation in real life is another. So we have to remember what we know and act on what we know. Remember what the elder Fredrick Douglas said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Fred Hampton, Jr.: This has been addressed on a number of occasions, by you and other forces, but would you like to say something about what the case of Mumia Abu-Jamalrepresents and why we have every apparatus from rappers being reprimanded when they speak about you in videos, to certain media outlets being reprimanded, to even the fact that the Governor of California when he denied clemency for Stanley “Tookie” Williams, pointed out the fact that Tookie Williams identified with such forces as Field Marshal George Jackson and Mumia Abu-Jamal. What is this, what you represent is it a symbol? Would you explain that for us?

Mumia Abu-Jamal: I think for many people—especially for those in the establishment—I represent, in many ways, their biggest nightmare. For many people who don’t know, who have not lived in that period—they do not know about the Black Panther Party and about the Black liberation movement. They may know tangentially about the Civil Rights movement, they may think that everything is hunky-dory and nice now.

Those people who live it, they know it, they know otherwise, they know that the life of a Black person in the ghetto or a brown person in the Barrio today, is unmitigated hell. They are still fighting for their 40 acres and 2 mules because they ain’t got nothing. And on top of that that, they have the contempt of the Black bourgeoisie which is now married to the contempt of that whole political class. But what they fear is the Black revolution re-igniting. You see, that is why we have the present politics we have, the politics of acquiescence—where Black people are apologizing about what the Black preachers tell them in church. And that used to be one of the few sites where people could speak about freedom, could speak truth to power. Now it has to be politically watered down so that outsiders, people who have never been in a Black church are going to dictate what Black people should listen to—it’s madness. Ona MOVE!

Fred Hampton, Jr.: Ona MOVE! If you hear that clamor out there in different languages—from Scandinavia to Africa and throughout the world—that loud noise is to let them know that people out there are saying Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free ’em all!

Mumia Abu-Jamal: Give my love and tell ’em “Ona MOVE!”

Fred Hampton, Jr.: Ona MOVE!

Mumia Abu-Jamal: Thank you all!

Fred Hampton, Jr.: Thank you!

Minister of Information J.R.: You were just listening to the voice of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal as he responded for the first time publicly to the 3rd Circuit Court decision to not give him a trial. We are asking our listeners to get involved in the Free Mumia campaign now because your help is needed to get this former Black Panther out of the cross hairs of the United States Government, who wants to kill this freedom fighter, and prolific journalist who many know as the voice of the voiceless. This is the Minister of Information J.R. and Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. on POCC Block Report Radio signing off.


—San Francisco BayView National Black Newspaper, April 7, 2008