Wednesday night Amherst cinema over 50 people came out to watch, “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey With Mumia Abu Jamal”.
Journalist, author, and activist Mumia Abu Jamal has been in prison for 30 years. Much of this time was spent on death row. The documentary tells the story of Mumia’s life and the world he was born int0; an America rife with segregation, violence and inequality. It is a film about the Black Panther Party, the Prison Industrial Complex and Revolution; It is a film for everyone.
Featuring interviews with Juan Gonzalez, Amy Goodman, Giancarlo Esposito, Rev. Cornel West and others the movie takes you via poetry, art, and Mumia’s own words, into an uncensored look at the end of America’s “Justice System”.
Rather than focusing on his individual case the film takes on the broader picture of America; a country that created and then locked up and murdered most of the leaders of the Black Panther Part, an America that chooses to silence freedom fighters and truth speakers. It leaves the open ended question, even for people who are guilty of crimes, what actual use is the prison? And how many people in this country are locked in different types of prisons…
The film told the history of Mumia’s entry into the Panther Party and his beginnings as a journalist. It also showed Philadelphia in the early 60’s and 70’s run by white supremacist police who terrorized the city for years.
It shared the story of MOVE and the Africa family whose home and headquarters were bombed in ’72.
(see: The Bombing of Osage Avenue)
Following the film there was a panel and open discussion led by Professor Chris Tinson, Jamila Wilson of the National Campaign to Free Mumia, and Lois Aarons of the Real Cost of Prisons Project.
Jamila Wilson shared upcoming events and actions we can to do call for the release of Mumia. “Speak his name out!” she said, encouraging people to share the story with their community.
She spoke about the recent release of Herman Wallace, part of the Angola 3 who was in solitary confinement for the last 40 years, and the upcoming trial of Marissa Alexander. She reminded us that the power of the people works, and encouraged us to sign a petition to Attny General Eric Holder to release Mumia.
(Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/release-mumia-abu-jamal )
Next we heard from Louis Aarons who shared some incredibly sad facts about prisons Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts when women in prison are in labor they are forced to give birth in shackles unless the doctor specifically comes out and asks for the shackles to be removed and for the guard to leave.
In 2012 Massachusetts passed a three strikes law similar to the law in Florida – the last state to pass a three strikes law was Arizona in 2005. We’re in good company. Right now in the US there are 80,000 prisoners in solitary confinement – 642 of them are in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is also one of the only states to actually sentence people to segregation (solitary).
(Real Cost of Prisons Project)
Chris Tinson shared dates for mass action to release Mumia; December 9th, the date Mumia was incarcerated there will be a mass actions across the US and the world calling for his release. Another date rallies will be held is on his birthday, April 24th.
(Keep up to date: http://www.freemumia.com/)
After discussion the panel opened up the space for questions and conversation.
A few interesting points were raised.
One man – probably the second man to ask a question asked, “But does he maintain his innocence? I’m just looking for details. It’s not really talked about in the film. Did he do it?”
It seems like at meetings, rallies, discussions, group meetings, there’s always a random white dude who asks totally irrelevant questions to take up time and distract or divide the group. I believe we could call them provocateurs? And my apologies if he’s just a local lawyer or something that really desperately wanted to know if Mumia Abu Jamal did in fact kill a police officer 30 years ago but it seems to me that anyone watching the movie who was paying any attention at all would have other questions on their mind.
There’s always a person to re-direct the conversation, or talk angrily about how non-violence doesn’t do anything.
Just a suggestion that at our personal spaces when we are organizing we be aware that yes, the United States Government does in fact send people to come disrupt and destroy organizing before it can get started, and that no, we do not in fact have to acknowledge these people at all.
Whether he was a provocateur or a person who was actually just really disconnected doesn’t really matter. He can go home and research the case details – the dialogue space was for broader questions.
Good discussion came up, and Chris Tinson closed with a question,
“What history does Mumia’s life force us to reckon with?”
What history indeed.