Sunday, February 05, 2012

Mumia Abu-Jamal Among the Living

On January 27th, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist and Black Panther Party member who spent thirty years on death row related to a case that many feel is a miscarriage of justice, was released into general population at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy. Three days later, he had his first contact visit and kissed his wife for the first time in three decades.

Last Thursday, he had his second contact visit and the following letter was posted by Johanna Fernandez (left above) to share the experience with the rest of us.

Thanks to Johnanna for taking the time to do this and to Hans Bennett for giving me a heads-up.

Comrades, Brothers and Sisters:

Heidi Boghosian and I just returned from a very moving visit with Mumia. We visited yesterday, Thursday, February 2. This was Mumia's second contact visit in over 30 years, since his transfer to General Population last Friday, Jan 27. His first contact visit was with his wife, Wadiya, on Monday, January 30.

Unlike our previous visits to Death Row at SCI Greene and to solitary confinement at SCI Mahanoy, our visit yesterday took place in a large visitor's area, amidst numerous circles of families and spouses who were visiting other inmates. Compared to the intense and focused conversations we had had with Mumia in a small, isolated visiting cell on Death Row, behind sterile plexiglass, this exchange was more relaxed and informal and more unpredictably interactive with the people around was more human. There were so many scenes of affection around us, of children jumping on top of and pulling at their fathers, of entire families talking intimately around small tables, of couples sitting and quietly holding each other, and of girlfriends and wives stealing a forbidden kiss from the men they were there to visit (kisses are only allowed at the start and at the end of visits). These scenes were touching and beautiful, and markedly different from the images of prisoners presented to us by those in power. Our collective work could benefit greatly from these humane, intimate images.

When we entered, we immediately saw Mumia standing across the room. We walked toward each other and he hugged both of us simultaneously. We were both stunned that he would embrace us so warmly and share his personal space so generously after so many years in isolation.

He looked young, and we told him as much. He responded, "Black don't crack!" We laughed.

He talked to us about the newness of every step he has taken since his release to general population a week ago. So much of what we take for granted daily is new to him, from the microwave in the visiting room to the tremor he felt when, for the first time in 30 years, he kissed his wife. As he said in his own words, "the only thing more drastically different than what I'm experiencing now would be freedom." He also noted that everyone in the room was watching him.

The experience of breaking bread with our friend and comrade was emotional. It was wonderful to be able to talk and share grilled cheese sandwiches, apple danishes, cookies and hot chocolate from the visiting room vending machines.

One of the highlights of the visit came with the opportunity to take a photo. This was one of the first such opportunities for Mumia in decades, and we had a ball! Primping the hair, making sure that we didn't have food in our teeth, and nervously getting ready for the big photo moment was such a laugh! And Mumia was openly tickled by every second of it.

When the time came to leave, we all hugged and were promptly instructed to line up against the wall and walk out with the other visitors. As we were exiting the prison, one sister pulled us aside and told us that she couldn't stop singing Kelly Clarkson's line "some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this." She shared that she and her parents had followed Mumia's case since 1981 and that she was overjoyed that Mumia was alive and in general population despite Pennsylvania's bloodthirsty pursuit of his execution. We told her that on April 24 we were going to launch the fight that would win Mumia's release: that on that day we were going to Occupy the Justice Department in Washington DC. She told us that because she recently survived cancer she now believed in possibility, and that since Mumia was now in general population she could see how we could win. She sent us off with the line from Laverne and Shirley's theme song --"never heard the word impossible!" -- gave us her number, and asked us to sign her up for the fight.

We're still taking it all in. The journey has been humbling and humanizing, and we are re-energized and re-inspired!!

In the words of City Lights editor, Greg Ruggiero:"

"Long Term Goal: End Mass Incarceration.

Short Term Goal: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!"

~Johanna Fernandez
Facebook Link to Photo


Elizabeth said...

How can I help?

Changeseeker said...

Of course! What was I thinking? I have now embedded a link in the text of this post that will take readers to Mumia's official website. So thanks for the reminder, Elizabeth. Just go to this site and click on "How to Help." And again, thanks for asking.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you have wasted part of your life supporting a cop killing racist monster. Mumia should have suffered the same fate as Ofc. Daniel Faulkner. I believe his time will come in this world or the next.

Changeseeker said...

And I'm glad you've spent a few minutes of your life being exposed to reality instead of to whatever it is you are usually focused on, Anonymous. It always seems odd to me that, with millions and millions of blogs in the world, anyone would "waste their time" reading blogs they don't like.

Dan said...

The "Free Mumia" movement is like any other conspiracy theory. Just as with "truthers" re: 9/11, "birthers" re: Pres. Obama's place of birth, Holocaust deniers, etc. they latch onto little details that ultimately prove nothing.

For example: even today, some in the "free Mumia" camp proclaim that Officer Faulkner was killed by a calliber larger than a .38, and that since Mumia had a .38, it wasn't Mumia that killed the officer. However the reality is that the autopsy never concluded that the bullet was larger than a .38. Latching onto a doctor's notes about bullet fragments, some convince themselves that the bullet couldn't have come from a .38. In fact official ballistics tests done on the fatal bullet verify that Officer Faulkner was killed by a .38 caliber bullet, not a .44 caliber bullet. The fatal .38 slug was a Federal brand Special +P bullet with a hollow base (the hollow base in a +P bullet was distinctive to Federal ammunition at that time). It is the exact type (+P with a hollow base), brand (Federal), and caliber (.38) of bullet found in Jamal’s gun. Additionally, tests have proven that the bullet that killed Officer Faulkner was fired from a weapon with the same rifling characteristics as Jamal’s .38 Caliber revolver. Further, Jamal’s own ballistics expert, George Fassnacht, conceded in his 1995 PCRA testimony that the fatal bullet was not .44 caliber, and that it was most “likely” a .38.

It sort of reminds me of Holocaust deniers who latch onto the fact that immediately following WWII, the Soviets had placed a sign at Auschwitz claiming that 4 or 5 million were killed at the camp. Later when the sign was changed to two million, the deniers claimed this as proof that the Holocaust is a hoax. Or, that the fact that the World Trade Centre buildings collapsed upon themselves on September 11th as evidence that they must have been taken down by demolition charges.

These types of conspiracy theories, however, fail to look at the preponderance of evidence; of the reality of human nature; and of the general inability of groups of individuals to keep a secret for a prolonged period of time. It's not that conspiracies don't happen; it's just that the more people are involved with them, and the more time goes by, the greater the chances that involved parties will talk.

As he sat in his cab in December of 1981, coincidentally, right in front of him comes his brother driving the wrong way on a one way street. An officer pulls the car over. The driver - Mumia's brother - assaults the officer and a struggle ensues. In a large city, this just happens to occur in front of Mumia. Seeing his brother in a struggle with a hated white police officer, Mumia certainly had some motive to at least interfere. He's seen by various witnesses running towards the officer - even he does not deny this. Bullets from his gun end up in Officer Faulkner's back and head. A bullet from Officer Faulkner's gun ends up in Mumia's chest. Mumia is found at the scene moments later. Mumia's brother's only statement is "I ain't got nothing to do with this!" (20 years later, he finally gave the completely unbelievable statement that he didn't see who shot Daniel Faulkner...even though he was right there.) Mumia doesn't say what happened. And with these set of facts, people want us to believe that he's innocent? Such a position is clearly unreasonable.

Even if one were to indulge the fantasies of those who claim that Mumia did not kill Officer Faulkner, Mumia and his brother would clearly know who did. Neither are saying anything - rendering them morally culpable as party to the offence at the very least.

Changeseeker said...

Dan: Your comment looks as if it was cut-and-pasted from a Execute-Mumia website. You've drunk the kool-aid, I'm afraid, and may not be able to imagine anything other than the party line. The only conspiracy related to the Mumia Abu-Jamal case is the one hatched four hundred years ago in Europe against people of color. It's been in place so long, most folks are comfortable with pretty much anything it suggests.

It's kind of like the Pacquiao-Bradley fight. Bradley might have won. He was, after all, given the decision and the belt, right? But, as one tweeter put it, "If Bradley had been knocked-out, do you suppose he would still have been declared champion?"

Just because the decision said Mumia did it doesn't make it so. There is ample evidence -- in this case and thousands of others (including that of Troy Davis who was executed while clearly innocent according to the "evidence") -- that the criminal not-just, not-legal system operates well outside the bounds of "legality" so much of the time, any proceeding could be suspect and any proceeding having to do with wresting White Power from its strangehold on U.S. society would be almost without question questionable. I'm just sayin'.

Dan said...

Changeseeker, I'm not familiar with the execute-Mumia site. Seriously, is there an identical argument with the same examples and metaphors?

I'm aware of injustices and screw-ups in the American criminal justice system; as well as in my own country (Canada). Cases such as the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin in Canada; the West Memphis 3 and the story of Ronald Williamson (see John Grisham's non-fiction book "The Innocent Man") in the U.S. have held my attention and fascination. It was in reading up on Mumia Abu-Jamal from both the "innocent" and "guilty" (as well as some in between, more interested in getting him off death row than proclaiming his innocence) that I came to my conclusion. To me, the confluence of evidence is overwhelming. There is no getting around some very basic facts: Jamal was at the scene of the murder when it happened; Jamal's gun was there, with spent cartridges in the cylinders; the rounds that killed Faulkner were the same type that were in Jamal's gun; Jamal's brother was also there, having been in a physical altercation with Officer Faulkner just before Faulkner was killed. Neither Jamal nor his brother provided a statement. Jamal never took the stand to say what happened; neither did his brother. These facts all sides agree on. With these facts alone, there is a prima fascie case against Jamal. The thing is, nobody from the Jamal is innocent camp has ever been able to provide a reasonable alternative to Jamal being the murderer.

Indeed, your post itself only confirms provide no other rational explanation, choosing instead to go on about a European based conspiracy against "people of color". Someone has indeed drunk the kool aid, but I'm afraid that it isn't me.

For a fairly good breakdown of some of the "Free mumia" points, see Sam Donaldson's report:

For an interesting take from someone who is no fan of the Phily police:

Most people that had gotten sucked into the Mumia craze in the 90's have come to realize the inescapable conclusion that Jamal pulled the trigger. Even Michael Moore wrote in his book "Dude Where's My Country?" that Jamal is probably guilty (though he admittedly offered an incredibly weak backtrack to journalist Amy Goodwin).

Anyway, believe what you wish. My post was only pointing out that the "Mumia is innocent" arguments I've read share the same logical fallacies as most other conspiracy theories, and your response, quite frankly, only serves as a rather crude illustration of my point.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks, Dan for your considered response. I realize these things take time to compose. In any case, the reason I don't do a more involved and complicated post on Mumia Abu-Jamal's case is that it's already been done (as you point out) from every possible angle. I choose to believe all the points and people who claim his innocence. Others make strong claims of his guilt. It's not difficult to spend considerable time and energy chasing this issue all over the internet. I recommend that anyone truly interested do that.

I have no vested interest in being right or convincing anyone that I'm right about this or any other matter. I do, however, know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in a White Supremacist nation, any person of color is suspect in ways that any White person doesn't even have to know about. Because of this, the entire criminal not-just, not-legal system can "prove" anything it wants. There are so many cases (some of which I address on this blog) that demonstrate the mind-bending lengths to which prosecutor's, law enforcement officers, and even judges have gone to convict, punish and even execute people who were then proven to be innocent that we can no longer assume that "facts" presented against the accused are, in fact, "facts." And therein lies the rub.