- Created: Thursday, 27 August 2009 13:43
- Written by Danny Masuka
‘This war in Iraq isn’t the end; it’s the beginning of wars to come...This isn’t just a war on Iraqis or Afghanis or even Arabs or Muslims. It is ultimately a war on us all. That’s because the billions and billions of dollars that are being spent on this war – the cost of tanks, rocketry, bullets, and yes, even salaries for the 125,000-plus troops – is money that will never be spent on education, on health care, on the reconstruction of crumbling public housing.’
On 6 April, 2009, the US Supreme Court denied former Black Panther, political prisoner and revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal against his 1981 conviction for murder. Despite having physically destroyed the Panthers in the 1970s by all-out surveillance and repression, the US state’s ideological war against the Black Panther Party continues to this day – from the characterisation of the Party as ‘black nationalist’ to the recent prosecutions of eight former Panthers in San Francisco on the basis of evidence obtained from their torture in 1973, to the continued incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was born in Philadelphia in 1954. Aged 14 he became a founding member and Lieutenant Minister of Information of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defence. During the summer of 1970, he worked for the Panthers’ newspaper in Oakland, California.
In the 1970s Mumia worked as a radio journalist. His hard-hitting criticism of the Philadelphia Police Department and the administration of Mayor Rizzo marked him as a journalist ‘to watch’ and eventually cost him his broadcast job. By the time of his arrest, he had come to be known as Philadelphia’s ‘voice of the voiceless’.
On 9 December 1981, Mumia was critically shot and beaten by police and charged with the murder of white police officer Daniel Faulkner. Put on trial before Philadelphia’s notorious ‘hanging judge,’ Albert Sabo, he was convicted and sentenced to death. The case was marred with racial bias, including the deliberate exclusion of African Americans from the jury, resulting in a jury of 10 white and only two black people in Philadelphia where 43% of the population is black.
After years of challenges and international protests, the US District Court overturned the death sentence but upheld the conviction. This decision was then appealed by both sides, with the prosecution objecting to the overturning of the death sentence and Mumia’s attorney rejecting the upheld conviction.
Even from Death Row, Mumia has been a prolific journalist and social commentator. His ‘radio essays’ cover a wide range of topics including Cuban socialism and its ‘remarkable achievements’, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the barbarism of the US death penalty, and how capital punishment is used to suppress the poor – and especially black people – in an attempt to prevent them from fighting back against the exploitation and violence of the capitalist imperialist system.
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!
FRFI 209 June / July 2009