LETTER TO THE GRASSROOTS CONCERNING MUMIA ABU-JAMAL
Note: March & Rally on Monday, April 26, at 10:30 a.m.
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
1313 New York Avenue, N.W.
Last week, Rev. Benjamin Hooks, at age 85, and Dorothy Height, at age 98, died after decades of struggle in the black liberation movement. To be sure, they labored in that part of the black liberation movement which focused on our civil rights. And their labor bore fruit.
For Benjamin Hooks, when the NAACP appeared to be hopelessly dormant and irrelevant, Rev. Hooks stepped in as the executive director and for a time reinvigorated the NAACP’s efforts at aggressively protecting the interests of black people in education, in voting rights, in civil rights legislation, in affirmative action and small business development, and against racially bigoted prosecutions.
In the case of Dorothy Height who died five days after Hooks, Ms. Height started as a protégé of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in the National Council of Negro Women. For nearly seven decades, she pressed forward the concerns of black people, especially those of black women. From 1955 through 1963, she asserted herself in the newly militant civil rights movement, mainly as a lobbyist and as a national organizer, but always as part of the foundation of our civil rights movement.
Nevertheless, Dorothy Height’s and Benjamin Hooks’ work failed to end the racially bigoted prosecution and imprisonment of black people by the American police state. While American prisons house more than 2.6 million people, more than fifty percent are black men. While U.S. death rows imprison and plan to execute nearly 3,300 people, about 42 percent of that number are black men. Worst still, the black female prison population increases at a faster rate than any other class, faster even than that of young black men. Since black prisoners in the U.S. are usually from fifteen to thirty-nine years old, that is, of child bearing age, the racially disproportionate imprisonment and execution of our people amounts to legalized genocide.
All of this brings us from Benjamin Hooks and Dorothy Height to the noted black journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal. A former Black Panther, a renowned journalist for justice and peace, and an outspoken gadfly against American bigotry, Mumia faces certain execution on Pennsylvania‘s death row, but for a crime he never committed. During Mumia Abu-Jamal’s trial in Philadelphia in 1982, the judge confided among whites that he, a white judge, would "help to fry the nigger"! A nurse who testified against Mumia confessed that she lied on the witness stand when she claimed that Mumia confessed to killing a white police officer. As for that white cop, Mumia Abu-Jamal saw this man viciously beating Mumia’s brother, Billy Cook. Mumia understandably ran towards the beating to rescue his brother. When that happened, the white police officer shot Mumia Abu-Jamal, but only after another black man gunned down the cop for his violence against Billy Cook. While Mumia Abu-Jamal lay on the ground with his brother at his side, the killer who saved Billy Cook from a vicious police beating escaped on foot.
After Mumia survived this gunshot wound, he faced a racially bigoted prosecution. Months later, a largely white jury and the white judge who promised "to fry the nigger" convicted Mumia Abu-Jamal and sentenced him to death. Unknown to Mumia and his lawyer, the prosecution worked in illegal and racist fashion to exclude black people from the jury who decided Mumia’s fate. Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in prison for nearly thirty years, since December 9, 1981. In an effort to advance the work of Dorothy Height and Benjamin Hooks, we must rally for the liberation of this wrongly convicted black man.
This will happen on Monday, April 26, 2010, at 10:30 a.m., in Washington, D.C., where we will march against the Obama Justice Department and demand that the "change we want" start with a federal probe of the racist bigotry that put Mumia Abu-Jamal in prison and on Pennsylvania’s death row. The rally will start at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, located at 1313 New York Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C. We start at the church with a massive press conference. Then, we march on the Obama Justice Department to demand a federal probe that should have taken place nearly thirty years ago.
Be with us on Monday, April 26, at 10:30 a.m., at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, at 1313 New York Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s life and liberty may well depend upon your effort.
Nat Turner Rebellion
Legal Counsel of the Black August Planning Organization