Sunday, May 2, 2021

Mumia Abu-Jamal on the Meaning of May 13, 1985 (reprinted from All Things Censored, 2000)

May 13 Remembered

Written by Mumia Abu-Jamal

(Reprinted from All Things Censored, 2000)   

The muted public response to the mass murder of MOVE members has set the stage for acceptable state violence against radicals, against blacks, and against all deemed socially unacceptable. 

In the 1960s and ‘70s the Black Panther Party defined a relationship between the police and the black community as one between an occupying army and a colony. The confrontations between move and this system’s armed domestic forces has given that claim credence. 

An article in The Village Voice in 1991, quoted an anonymous white cop giving his prescription for bringing law and order to Los Angeles.  Consider this:

COP ONE:  “You wanna fix this city? I say, start out with carpet-bombing. Level some buildings. Plow all these shit [beeped] under and start all over again.”

COP TWO: “Christ, you’d drop a bomb on a community?”

COP THREE:  "Yeah. There’d be some innocent people, but not that many. There’s just some areas of L.A. that can’t be saved."

The twisted mentalities at work here are akin to those of Nazi Germany, or perhaps more appropriately, of My Lai, of Baghdad, the spirit behind the mindlessly murderous mantra that echoed out of Da Nang: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”  

As abroad, so here at home. For as the flames smothered life on Osage Avenue, police and politicians spoke of “destroying the neighborhood surrounding the MOVE house, in order to save it.” Now cops patrol neighborhoods across America, armed like storm troopers, with a barely disguised urge to destroy the very area they are sworn to “serve and protect.” Or perhaps we should say, “sever and dissect.” 

As they sit and sup and smoke what animates their minds? Are they an aid to the people, or a foreign army of occupation? May 13, 1985 should have answered that question decisively. MOVE founder John Africa wrote over a decade ago:

“It is past time for all people to release themselves from the deceptive strangulation of society. Realize that society has failed you. For to attempt to ignore this system of deception now, is to deny you the need to protest this failure later. This system has failed you yesterday, failed you today, and has created conditions for failure tomorrow, for society is wrong, the system is reeling, the courts of this complex are filled with imbalance. Cops are insane, the judges enslaving, the lawyers are just as the judges they confront. They are Harvard and Princeton and Cornell and Yale, and trained, as the judge, to deceive the impoverished; trained, as the judge, to protect the established; trained by the system to be as the system, to do for the system, exploit with the system, and MOVE ain’t gonna close our eyes to this monster.”

It was true then, it’s even truer now. This system has failed all of us. Indeed it is the problem. Organize this very day to resist it, to oppose it, to go beyond it. Demand that all imprisoned MOVE members be released and that all political prisoners be freed. That is a beginning. That is a first step we can all take today. 

Ona MOVE! Long Live John Africa!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Goodnight Kiilu Nyasha

(PHOTO: Kiilu proudly wears her Mumia shirt)

Goodnight Kiilu Nyasha

Written by Mumia Abu-Jamal

(April 16, 2018)

To people in California’s north, the name Kiilu Nyasha is familiar, like an aunt or another relative. To them, she was a voice of resistance, heard on public radio, and on her television show called “Freedom is a Constant Struggle.” To former members of the Black Panther party, she was Sister Kiilu, a former member of the New Haven chapter.

During the murder trial of Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins in 1970,  Sister Kiilu served as a legal assistant to attorney Charles Garry, who defended many top Panthers. During the trial, Kiilu was known as Pat Gallyot.  

After the party, she suffered from “polymyositis,” extreme muscle inflammation that left her in a wheelchair. Yet polymyositis never stopped her or defined her. She became an immensely talented artist. She worked as a journalist, commentator and a host of radio shows. 

She worked for years as a supporter of Hugo “Yogi” Pinell, the late political prisoner. She was an endless and brilliant source of resistance to the system. She became a beloved and respected elder for young people in the Bay Area.

We remember Kiilu Nyasha: mother, artist,  commentator, revolutionary inspiration.

(Artwork by Kiilu Nyasha depicts Ruchell Magee, Jonathan Jackson, and George Jackson)

(Artwork by Kiilu Nyasha depicts Mumia Abu-Jamal alongside Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell and Albert "Nuh" Washington.)

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Frances Goldin (1924 - 2020): Housing Activist, Radical, and Literary Agent

Frances Goldin (1924 - 2020): Housing Activist, Radical, and Literary Agent

Written by Mumia Abu-Jamal 

(May 19, 2020)

Who knows the name, "Frances Goldin?" The better question may be: "Who doesn't know her?". She had spent a long and colorful life on behalf of the poor and dispossessed, and almost began it as a politician, but luckily that was not to be. She ran for the New York State Senate in 1951 on the US Labor Party ticket.

And guess who led the slate? None other than W. E. B. DuBois. Labor didn't win, but that didn't stop her. Later in the 50s, she and several colleagues formed the Cooper Square Committee to fight on behalf of the residents of the Lower East Side. Fight against what? Perhaps New York's most famous city planner, Robert Moses, was trying to bulldoze the homes of some 2,400 poor tenants to make room for apartments for the middle class who could pay more money. 

Frances, and other members of the committee, Thelma Burdick and Walter Thabit, fought long battles against the city and almost 50 years later, over 50 in fact, homes were open on the Lower East Side. Which I might add, reopened, and they maintained rent controlled apartments over this period. And they were sold to the tenants for several hundred dollars. 

Several years ago, homes were opened there and the building was named after Frances Goldin. Frances, a radical, loved books. Especially radical books. In 1977, she took her love of books and operationalized it, founding and establishing the Francis Goldin Literary Agency: a home for radical books and their writers. For a woman who wanted to change the world, she opened up the door to books that could change people's minds: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, even children's books.

So book by book, author by author, she built the agency that continues to thrive to this very day. Her clients became her friends, which reminds me of this. Several years ago, CSPAN2, also known as Book TV, aired a book party for the launch of a novel by Barbara Kingsolver entitled the "Poisonwood Bible." The reception was filled to the brim with women who loved her work and loved her. When there was a question and answer session from the audience of her readers, I was struck by the tone. It could have been a church, for the vibe was reverential. I remember seeing Frances on the front row beaming like a cherub as her friend answered questions.

Another Frances memory. It was, I think , the middle to late first decade of the 2000s. I was on death row. When I heard a rap on the glass of the cell door, I looked up and there she was-- on the block of death row. I was flabbergasted. I was dumbfounded. I was stupefied. For such a thing never happened before. But Frances Goldin made things happen. Francis, being Francis, went around the block, talking to the men on death row, other guys.

Then she went out to the so-called yard. A few minutes later, she returned to my cell door, tears streaming from her eyes. Before I could ask a stupid question, she blurted out, "Those... those... cages, they're not fit for dogs." I wanted to hold her, console her, to stop her sobbing. But the door between us prevented it. I felt oddly embarrassed. Like a poor man when others see his shack, his poverty.

Those cages, about 60 square feet, of chain link fencing, never looked the same again. For before it was but a place to play handball, to do pushups, to run and recreate. Frances' tears stained the memory. 

Frances was more than a radical, or successful literary agent or even a ferocious housing activist. There are two daughters, Sally and Reeni. She was a mom, and her love and pride for that was something fierce. Born in 1924 to Russian Jewish refugees, she often bragged playfully of her Russian peasant genes. She grew up in Queens and New York's Harlem, and tasted antisemitism as stones and bricks thrown at her family's windows in Queens. She was both daughter and mother of the movement.

I dare say she was a woman of color, as only Frances could be. The color? Purple of course. Her eyes, a brilliant violet, reflected her spirit, intelligence, humor, her passions and her compassion. Those peasant genes carried her through 96 spring times. And the little woman taught generations the power of a big and mighty heart to transform the world around us.

From Imprisoned Nation, this is her friend and her client, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Monday, February 1, 2021

GERONIMO [ nee Elmer G. Pratt] Returns to His Ancestors

 GERONIMO [ nee Elmer G. Pratt] Returns to His Ancestors

[col. writ. 6/4/11] (c) '11 Mumia Abu-Jamal

   On Thursday, June 2, 2011, came word that former Black Panther leader, Geronimo Ji-Jaga [nee Elmer G. Pratt) died in exile in Tanzania. 

   Geronimo's life was one of intense and almost total warfare, from battles in his youth on behalf of the U.S. empire in the steaming jungles of Vietnam, to his membership and leadership of the L.A. chapter of the Black Panther Party, where he fought for his people.

   The FBI-inspired killing of L.A. Black Panther leader Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter led to Geronimo's rise as the chapter's deputy Minister of Defense, and during a police raid on the Central Avenue office on December 8th, 1969, Geronimo so prepared the site that it withstood over 6 hours of a police paramilitary assault with automatic weapons and grenades.

   Geronimo's prominence and shine in the shadows of Hollywood so disturbed the state, local and federal governments that they framed him for a murder that it was impossible for him to commit, and sent him to prison for 27 years.

   When he was freed, it was because of an insistent, national movement, and because federal government files revealed he was nearly 300 miles away when the murder took place, and the state's chief witness was not only an LAPD undercover agent, but a snitch for the L.A. DA's office as well as the L.A. Sheriff's Department, an agency that formerly employed him.

   Upon his liberation, Geronimo, after going across the country to thank his supporters, left the land of his birth and joined a small expatriate community near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

   Like several other ex-Panthers, he could never trust his life nor his freedom to the American government.

   And though he spent the balance of his years under a brilliant African sun, one suspects he longed for the rhythms of his native Louisiana, which remained in his speech and its accents.

   It was in Louisiana, after all, where he learned about  Black armed self-defense, for this was fertile ground for the Deacons for Defense, and armed body which resisted and forcefully discouraged Ku Klux Klan violence in the region.

   Geronimo Ji-Jaga, a warrior for his people, returns to his ancestors.

--(c) '11 maj