Published Apr 16, 2008
By Tyneisha, Miya and Rhapsody Scintilla
Members of New York and Boston FIST
The following is a commentary from three members of the youth group
Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) on the eve of the April 19
march and rally in Philadelphia to demand the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
There is a man in the state of Pennsylvania who has a street in
France named after him. That man is Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist and
ex-member of the Black Panther Partyan organization classified as
"terrorist" by the U.S. government. A former Black Panther, Mumia is
now in his 26th year on Pennsylvania's death row.
Mumia is a hero to Black youth and all people seeking liberation. The
"voice of the voiceless," he chronicles the legacies of people's
struggles worldwide. One of the greatest threats to U.S. imperialism
is the uprising of "young Mumias" from the streets of Philadelphia to
the streets of Paris.
At the age of 15, Mumia joined the Black Panther Party in
Philadelphia, one of the most racist and repressive cities in the
country. He became the lieutenant of information for the Philadelphia
chapter and later worked with the New York and Oakland chapters.
Mumia performed a variety of duties, ranging from selling the Black
Panther newspaper to armed security duty.
With his fellow Panthers, Mumia was a leader in the Black Liberation
struggle of the late 1960s and earlier 1970s, which was demanding the
right of Black people to self-determination, self-defense and,
ultimately, complete liberation.
Since his time in the BPP, Mumia has dedicated his life to the
education and liberation of Black people in the U.S. and across the
world. He is a journalist and was integral in calling media attention
to the attacks of the Philadelphia Police Department on local Black
Panthers and the MOVE organization, including the 1985 bombing of the
MOVE compound. In that act of state terrorism, 11 Black people died,
including four children.
Is this man not a hero? Is Mumia not a freedom fighter? Why are there
no holidays for him and other leaders of the Black Liberation
struggle? Did he not dedicate his life to the liberation of the most oppressed?
In history the word "hero" has been used to define a variety of
people. The men considered to be the "founding fathers" of the United
States are often referred to as heroes, but it is undisputed that
these men were active in racist institutions, including slavery.
George Washington owned slaves and at one point had teeth removed
from the mouths of slaves in order to have them implanted in his own
jaw. Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings, a teenage slave he owned,
said to be his wife's half sister. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln, the man
credited with emancipating Black people from slavery, stated the
following: "While they [Black people and white people] do remain
together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as
much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position
assigned to the white race."
These three men, along with many other wealthy white men in U.S.
history, have been labeled heroes. Youth and students across the
country are taught daily that they are the type of people we should
celebrate. Their histories of racism, sexism, capitalism and
heterosexism are covered up and the mass murder and displacement they
are responsible for is called the establishment of the United States.
But those are the oppressor's heroes. Who are ours? Who are the
heroes of people of color, women, lesbian/bi/gay/trans/queer folks
and the working masses? One of them is definitely Mumia Abu-Jamal.
In 1981 Mumia was framed for the murder of Daniel Faulkner and
sentenced to execution. The U.S. government, the Fraternal Order of
Police and the racist mainstream media have waged a campaign against
Mumia for 27 years, portraying him as terrorist and a murderer. But
the people's struggle has kept him alive.
The negative portrayal of Mumia and the Black Liberation movement as
a whole is an aspect of the overall war against Black people,
specifically Black youth. Like the omission from the history books of
the 1935 Wiley College debate team, recently portrayed in the film
"The Great Debaters," the criminalization of Mumia is a deliberate
attempt to erase the contributions of Blacks in the United States.
Combined with disproportionate military recruitment and
incarceration, as well as the blatant murders of Black youth by the
state, the eradication of Black Liberation history is a strategic
tool in the oppression of Black people. Cases like the Jena 6, the
Jersey 4, the state murders of Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo, as well
as the case of John White, are all a part of the attack on Black
people and our basic human right to self-defense. One must ask: Why
is it that when people of color are forced to defend ourselves, it is
considered by the state to be an unheroic, criminal act?
The Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 1970s and Mumia Abu-Jamal
are our heroes and revolutionaries. They are the leaders of our
national liberation. We as youth, especially Black youth, see the BPP
as proof of Black agency in history, in opposition to the education
we receive that portrays Black people as a historically passive people.
Though many of us can name Mumia as our hero, there are far too many
of us who have no idea who he is and what he has contributed to human
history. It is a product of the state's attempted eradication of all
liberation movements fighting against U.S. imperialism, specifically
those led by people of color.
In the words of Mumia: "I'm fighting every day, not just for my
freedom, not just for my liberation, but for all of our liberation.
Unabashedly I'll fight for revolution because I think revolution is
our only solution. I'm not shy about using that word."
Mumia: father, grandfather, journalist, freedom fighter, visionary,
revolutionary. Mumia is not just a hero but a flame-sparker and we
are the Inheritors of the Fire.