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Critical Moment for Mumia Abu Jamal and Black Leadership is Silent
On March 29, 2008, hundreds of Black, white, and Latino folk gathered at the Adam Clayton Powell Office Building on 125th Street in Harlem to protest the Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision denying Mumia Abu-Jamal a new trial, or even a hearing detailing his trumped-up murder conviction of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in Philadelphia 26 years ago. Congressman Charles Rangel, senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), has his office there.
The Adam Clayton Powell Office Building was chosen after numerous calls were made on the Congressional Black Caucus to reaffirm their 1995 and 1999 support for Mumia. At this crucial time, Mumia needs that support once again.
The executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Dr. Joe Leonard, directed us to stop calling because the Black Caucus has a procedure to follow. He said he would relay these issues to the proper individuals, and they would get back to us. The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus is Carolyn Kilpatrick; given the attitude Leonard displayed, she probably never even received our request to meet with her. Regardless, no one ever contacted us. She must now hear from all of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s supporters.
Ten months ago, when we contacted the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Dr. Joe Leonard, his response was a familiar one. We were given the same runaround over two years ago by the national NAACP’s Dennis Hayes, their national legal counsel and now interim CEO. He wrote us saying the NAACP was too busy to meet with us but instead would meet with Governor Ed Rendell to discuss Mumia’s case. That struck us as odd since Rendell promised to sign the death warrant for Mumia as soon as it came across his desk. This was his campaign promise when he ran for governor. When Tookie Williams was facing execution at the hands of the California authorities, the NAACP visited him in jail and even offered him a job with the national organization. We applaud that move even though it was not part of their national call, as Mumia was and is. Some of us feel that this was a move by the NAACP to drum up membership and donations since there were no serious demonstrations by the organization or a national call to stop the execution. We also wonder why they have not offered a similar offer to Mumia at a time when such pressure could make a difference. Funny, the NAACP could turn out 10,000 folk in South Carolina to demonstrate about the Confederate flag flying over the South Carolina capitol building, but not one demo to stop the execution of Tookie. The NAACP also turned out thousands in Detroit to bury the word “nigger,” but not one demo to support Mumia.
Maybe we should have buried some of our Black leadership with the n-word.
Mumia Abu-Jamal has strong support among the rank and file of working-class people and also such notables as former mayor of New York City David Dinkins. He is a lawyer and after studiously reviewing the case of Mumia declared his support for Mumia’s freedom. Support also came from other notables in the Afrikan community such as Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Dick Gregory, Danny Glover, and many others in that same vein.
At the national convention of the NAACP in Philadelphia in 2004, after great pressure from Mumia supporters outside and inside the convention hall, the NAACP passed a resolution urging all chapters of the NAACP at home and abroad to study the case of Mumia and demand a new and fair trial for our brother. What transpired after the 2004 convention was that the only chapter in America (the Ossining NAACP) that brought the resolution to the national convention was suspended by Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State NAACP chapter. Dukes was earlier convicted of stealing money from a dying friend who had entrusted Duke to handle her estate. Strangely enough, after the controversy of her conviction subsided, Dukes was re-elected in 1999 to her former post. Her re-election has long since been thought of by many members to have been rigged.
In 2005, after we made the NAACP nervous at the national convention in Washington, DC, with our demonstration and speaking to the membership, Hilary Shelton, lobbyist for the national NAACP, promised to meet with us. During a visit to his office in Washington, DC, Shelton told us that he would get us an audience with at least a couple of brothers or sisters in the CBC who would listen to what we have to say. Shelton “played us” like his namesake, who “came under fire” during a landing in Bosnia, because we never got a hearing.
We have seen our legislators and lawmakers become frightened by the attacks of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) lobbyist in Washington, DC, whose only purpose is to see that Mumia and other Black people are executed. Congressman Chaka Fattah from Pennsylvania, a Mumia supporter, fell victim to the FOP as did John Street, former mayor of Philadelphia.
If it were not for the working people of these United States and the world, Mumia would be dead by now. Those Black leaders in office that pretend to advocate for justice when we fall in the hands of the injustice system have failed to step up to the plate. The rank and file people must step up the struggle for Mumia’s freedom. We must expose these Black leaders for their cowardice and hypocrisy.
Mumia has spoken about this subject, and they want him silenced. His national radio comments never talk about his case but about the oppressed around America. His comments have been diametrically opposed to some Black leaders’ positions. One such contradiction is in New York and cities where our people are suffering. In New York, we are facing the loss of Harlem to avaricious developers and the Columbia University plan to gentrify what we call our beloved Mecca (Harlem) for Afrikan folk around the world. When we look at who is leading this land grab, we find Hazel Dukes and certain NAACP chapters in support of this ethnic cleansing of Harlem under the guise of redevelopment. When we pull back the covers, we see Congressman Charles Rangel and David Dinkins, along with various clergy, supporting this process that threatens “the village of Harlem as we know it.”
The 2004 resolution in Philadelphia by the NAACP was a move to silence the Mumia movement because they merely meant to throw us a few bones. They had no intention of dealing with the Mumia issue in any meaningful way. This was evident in Dukes’s statement shortly thereafter that the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal was not a priority of the NAACP. The Black leadership took a chapter right out of the counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO), whose predecessor (COM-FIL) carried out infiltration of suspected Communist organizations and individuals. One such person was radical Black leader W. E. B. Du Bois, one of the founders of the NAACP who created the Crisis magazine. He exposed the lynching of hundreds of Black men and women around America. Finally, the NAACP succumbed to the federal government’s demands and kicked W. E. B. Du Bois to the curb.
In spite of the courts that violate their own decisions and our rights every day, these same Black leaders have not stood up as the NAACP and Congressional Black Caucus and said, hell no, we ain’t lettin’ this brother Mumia go down like this!
Even after Judge Ambro of the Philadelphia Third Circuit Court of Appeals in his dissent on a 2-1 decision said that the decision not to hear Mumia’s appeal around “Batson” was part of a double standard not to hear Mumia out. Ambro’s minority opinion states further that every other “Batson appeal” that was reasonable before that court was granted. Mumia has been the only exception. Mumia’s' appeal went beyond reasonable.
The prosecutor Lynn Abrahams has stated her intent to execute Mumia. Surprisingly, even after this outrageous decision by the appellate court, we have not heard a “mumblin” word from the NAACP, Black elected officials, or the Congressional Black Caucus.
Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to act.
First, let us start holding Black leadership accountable. Call and write these folk as soon as possible and tell them this decision is too outrageous for their organizations or individual political affiliations to stand by in silence while this lynching of an innocent man is playing out before the world.
Rep. Charles Rangel, 212 862 4490
Dennis Hayes, Interim CEO and President, NAACP (National), 410 580 5777
Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, Chair of Congressional Black Caucus, 202 225 2261
Richard Macintyre, Communication and Media, NAACP, 410 580 5787
Dr. Joe Leonard, CBC Executive Director, 202 226 9776
National Caucus of Black Legislators, 202 624 5457
Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sundiata Sadiq 914 941 6046
New York Coalition to Free Mumia Abu Jamal
Former President-Ossining NAACP (In Suspension)