Saturday, April 25, 2009

In Her Own Words: An interview wit' Angela Davis

via: Greg Ruggiero
Source: The Liberator Magazine
[2-day featured story]

JR Valrey is the Minister of Information for the Prisoners Of Conscience Committee, an Oakland based organization founded by Fred Hampton, Jr. with the mission to liberate the minds and hearts of African and colonized people. The POCC takes the stand that all prisoners are political. JR is a regular contributor to The Liberator.

In Her Own Words. An interview wit' Angela Davis: Angela Davis is a legendary political activist professor in the U.C. System who has a history of resistance. She is a former political prisoner who has done work with the Communist Party, and she is also author of 8 books analyzing race, class, and gender. She also is a cofounder of the prison abolitionist group, Critical Resistance. She recently wrote a foreword to political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal's new book “Jailhouse Lawyers”, in which the Block Report did an interview with her to help promote.

I was first taught about Angela Davis being a political prisoner, later on the first jailhouse lawyer that I met through the mail was her codefendant who is still locked up, Ruchell Magee, whom I used to write occasionally. So this book gave me a better insight into what life as a jailhouse lawyer really is like. I dug the fact that Mumia picked a subject that is rarely discussed on this side of the walls. I learned a lot and it wet my appetite to wanting to learn more about these legal warriors. Check out Angela Davis as she talks about her foreword in Mumia's new book, in her own words...

M.O.I. JR: I want to talk to you today about your foreword in Mumia Abu Jamal's new book, Jailhouse Lawyers. Since I know a lot of readers do not have the book, I want to start off with reading a few quotes, and I will ask you questions in relation to the quotes. You say in your foreword, “Mumia points to me what was for me a startling revelation. Jailhouse lawyers comprised the group most likely to be punished by the prison administration, more so than political prisoners, Black people, gang members, and gay prisoners whereas jailhouse layers are punished by what Mumia calls 'cover charges'. Historically they could be charged with internal violations for no other reason that they used the law to challenge prison guards, prison regimes, and prison conditions. In your opinion what is the importance of Mumia choosing jailhouse lawyers to be the subject for his new book?

Angela: Well first of all, this is an amazing book. Everyone should read this book. And I was extremely excited to learn that he was working on a book on jailhouse lawyers because the story of jailhouse lawyers is a hidden story. Most people in this country are not aware of the extent to which resistance to the regimes of prisons, state prisons, federal prisons all over the country, has been shaped through the work of jailhouse lawyers. There is a long tradition of resistance. And Mumia, himself, is a jailhouse lawyer. And if one thinks about how many men and women have used the law in order to challenge the prison regimes, one gets a sense of what a powerful legacy that resistance is.

M.O.I. JR: In another quote in your foreword you say, “Mumia argues that the passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act is a violation of the Convention Against Torture for in ruling out psychological or mental injury as a basis to recover damages such sexual coercion that was represented in the Abu Ghraib photographs if perpetrated inside of a U.S. prison, would not have constituted evidence for a lawsuit. Why did you point this out in your foreword?

Angela: Many people assume that the the P.L.R.A., the Prison Litigation Reform Act, as I tried to point out in the foreword, simply prevents prisoners from engaging in frivolous lawsuits. But as Mumia points out, it is a pointed attack on the capacity of prisoners to use the law itself. It is not about frivolity at all, it is about taking away from prisoners one of the only instruments that they've been able to develop to challenge the whole system. So we can't assume that under the Clinton administration the P.L.R.A. was passed, and that put prison lawsuits to rest. It's important for those of us on the outside to support the rights of prisoners to use the law to resist the violence of the state.

M.O.I. JR: Again to quote you, you say in the foreword of Jailhouse Lawyers, “The way he situates the P.L.R.A. historically as an inheritance of the Black Codes, which were themselves descended from the Slave Codes, allows to recognize the extent to which historical memories of slavery and racism are prescribed in the very structures of the prison system, and have helped to produce the Prison Industrial Complex.” Can you discuss the importance of Mumia making this connection in Jailhouse Lawyers?

Angela: Well this is one of the things that I really loved about Mumia, he knows how to make these historical connections. He makes connections with what might appear to be very dispirit and different kinds of phenomenon, for example he points out that the P.L.R.A. was passed at the same time as the disestablishment of the welfare system, and that there is a connection between preventing women primarily from having access to safety nets for their families, and this assault on prisoners being able to defend themselves. So I really like the way that he makes those connections with slavery. I think of the prison system today in this country, and especially the system of capital punishment, I think of it as a historical memory of slavery, as a palpable inheritance of slavery. And as a matter of fact, the existence of those systems provide us with real evidence of the fact that slavery was not fully abolished. So I like the way in which he can show us the similarities between the Black Codes, that were produced in the aftermath of slavery to basically replicate the system of slavery after slavery was allegedly abolished. And the P.R.L.A. serves a similar contemporary purpose.

M.O.I. JR: Again, you write in Jailhouse Lawyers, in the last sentence, “He (Mumia), allows us to reflect on the fact that transformational possibilities often emerge where we least expect them.” Why did you end your foreword with that statement in this book?

Angela: Well you know because people don't usually think of prisoners in general as defending democracy. They think of the prison as the underside, the underbelly, of democracy; as the place where you send people who no longer have the right to be citizens. But I think that what Mumia does, he manages to portray jailhouse lawyers in such a ways as to persuade us regardless of what our political persuasions might be, the jailhouse lawyers have been, in a sense, on the front line of the defense of democracy. I'm not talking about capitalists democracy. I'm not talking about neo-liberal democracy. I'm talking about the kind of democracy that would also tend to not only political equality, but racial equality, economic equality, and sexual equality as well.

M.O.I. JR: What is the importance of us recognizing that Mumia is facing deathrow right at this second, right when he released such an eloquent book on jailhouse lawyers? You also pointed out in this foreword that he rarely speaks of himself, so in the midst of this being a time of the first Black president of America, what does Mumia's imprisonment, with all the flaws in his case, say about the real political climate in America?

Angela: Well, first of all, Mumia's case is so important for us to get involved in. We have to save his life. We have to free Mumia. And yeah, as many people acknowledge he rarely uses his amazing talent and capacities to advocate for himself. He's always advocating for others, and that is all the more reason to be passionate advocates for him. I have traveled in other parts of the world a great deal, and there are movements to free Mumia all over the world. Sometimes I feel very embarrassed that we have not managed to overcome the power of the Fraternal Order of Police for example and the other conservative forces that are determined to put Mumia to death. But this book is yet another reason why we need to defend him, and why we need to use whatever is available to us, whatever knowledge, whatever instruments are available to us to guarantee that his life is saved and that he is eventually set free.


Excerpts from Mumia's book Jailhouse Lawyers, including Angela Y. Davis's complete foreword can be downloaded as a PDF for free from the City Lights Web site.


Write the Department of Justice for a Civil Rights Investigation on Mumia's case

Write to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that he immediately initiate a civil rights investigation addressing a 27-year history of prosecutorial and judicial violations of Mumia Abu-Jamal's constitutional and international rights. If the Justice Department can guarantee justice for Senator Ted Stevens, it should do the same for noted journalist and multiple-award recipient, and international honoree Mumia Abu-Jamal. Demand that your elected officials endorse this campaign!

Initiated by the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)

On April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Mumia's appeal for a new trial based on evidence of racist jury selection on the part of the prosecutor during the original 1982 trial in Philadelphia. This appeal was based on the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court "Batson decision", a legal decision that says that prospective jurors cannot be selected based on their race.

This issue was considered the strongest basis for overturning Mumia's conviction, though certainly not the only one. According to Amnesty International's detailed review of the case, Mumia was denied at his trial in 1982 the right to a fair judge and unbiased jury, the right to represent himself and the right to adequate resources to prepare his defense. In addition, the prosecution withheld critical evidence from the defense, judge and jury; suborned the perjury of its chief witness; and intimidated at least one other witness to perjure herself. Since the AI report, more evidence has emerged of an ongoing conspiracy by the prosecution and members of the judiciary to keep out of the legal record evidence that points to Mumia's innocence. At the very least, this evidence indicates serious misconduct on the part of the prosecution and judiciary. It was precisely this kind of misconduct that led to the overturning, just two weeks ago, of the conviction of Senator Ted Stevens.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals' rejection of Mumia's appeal on the basis of the "Batson decision" shocked many legal observers, as the court set new and higher standards of appeal in complete violation of its own precedents. One of the members of the three-judge panel that arrived at this decision wrote a scathing 41-page dissent pointing to how Mumia was not granted the same rights that previous appellants were given by this very same court.

Please take a few minutes to read, sign and circulate widely the important letter below to Attorney General Eric Holder. Send copies to other officials demanding that they, too, demand a civil rights investigation. Only a powerful, international campaign can win long-overdue freedom for this outspoken, award-winning journalist and stop a 27-year-old conspiracy to silence him with legal lynching or life in prison without parole. Both options are outrageous violations of Mumia's human and constitutional rights, and we will not allow them to stand. Mumia needs our movement and our movement needs Mumia.


US Department of Justice
Washington, DC

April 2009

To Eric Holder, US Attorney General:

We write to you with a sense of grave concern and outrage about the US Supreme Court's denial of a hearing to Mumia Abu-Jamal on the issue of racial bias in jury selection, that is, the "Batson issue". Inasmuch as there is no other court to which Abu-Jamal can appeal for justice, we turn to you for remedy of a 27- year history of gross violations of US constitutional law and international standards of justice as documented by Amnesty International and many other legal groups around the world.

We call on you and the Justice Department to immediately commence a civil rights investigation to examine the many examples of egregious and racist prosecutorial and judicial misconduct dating back to the original trial in 1982 and continuing through to the current inaction of the US Supreme Court. The statute of limitations should not be a factor in this case as there is very strong evidence of an ongoing conspiracy to deny Abu-Jamal his constitutional rights.

We are aware of the many differences that exist between the case of former Senator Ted Stevens and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Still, we note with great interest the actions you have taken with regard to Senator Stevens' conviction to assure that he not be denied his constitutional rights. You were specifically outraged by the fact that the prosecution withheld information critical to the defense's argument for acquittal, a violation clearly committed by the prosecution in Abu-Jamal's case. Mumia Abu-Jamal, though not a US senator of great wealth and power, is a Black man revered around the world for his courage, clarity, and commitment and deserves no less than Senator Stevens.

(Your signature will be appended here based on the contact information you enter in the online form)


International Campaign for Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Sponsored by:

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)
P.O. Box 16, College Station
New York, N.Y. 10030
(212) 330-8029

International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 476-8812

Millions for Mumia

International Action Center
c/o Solidarity Center
55 West 17th St 5C
New York, NY 10011
For further information call: (212) 633-6646

The Free Mumia Five Point Plan

via: + The Black List

The Free Mumia Five Point Plan
If Not Now, When?
By U-Savior Guest Commentator

Instead of bailing Out Mega Corporations that have sucked the life blood from the community, endorsed slavery, raided pensions, decimated savings, created the perfect environment for scams and put home owners, renters and their families out on the street - FREE MUMIA!

The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, handed George W. Bush the election despite the democratic popular vote to the contrary and as a direct result of that court's decision we witnessed the erosion of civil liberties, scandals, torture and illegal wars that have killed hundreds of thousands. The world suffered greatly. Today this same court will not hear the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, an innocent man who has served over 25 years in prison on death row- in effect letting his conviction stand. This is not surprising! But this IS outrageous! This is disrespectful not only to Justice everywhere but to the Black Community in particular. What are we going to do about it?’s a thought:

The Free Mumia Five Point Plan:

1. Tell Your Mama AND Obama: To all the supporters of the Obama Administration: make this a central issue. If he's unwilling FORCE him to use every ounce of his reach and influence from presidential pardons to civil and human rights investigations to demand justice. Challenge his position and prepare to expose to the world where the real power is.

2. Shame Weak Leadership: Those in “leadership” in the Black community who do not step up to fight, speak, write, divest, protest, ignite, bite, spit and curse, throw stares and misbehave on behalf of our brother should be shown the door. Forever!

3. The Symbol: To my friends and family connected to street tribes: Let Mumia be your flag and symbol for a real political, social and positive movement that turns necessary attention back to Mumia's plight.

4. One Hour Pledge: If every justice-loving, peace-seeking , freedom-fighting, consciousness-bringing individual pledges and dedicates at least one hour every day to fight, speak, write, divest, protest, ignite, bite, spit and curse, throw stares and misbehave, we can shake up this world and shake Mumia free from those cold white walls, steel doors and shackles.

5. Promise to never Say "I’ve done enough": It’s not enough that in every Ghetto Chronicles episode that I direct that I place a promo about the Mumia coalition.

It’s not enough that every year I put his name on my Birthday cake because we share the same birthday.

It’s not enough that after every film I place a FREE MUMIA TAG!

It’s not enough that I wrote this article.

It’s not enough to say I wrote, visited or listen to Mumia on Prison Radio.

Never say we’ve done enough or we’ve done all we could until our true symbol of hope, change and justice is where we want him to be. Home, with us!

Let’s not forget that Mumia Abu Jamal has done more work from death row than many “inactivists”, movement folk and “webolutionaries” to bringing attention and clarity to our struggle than those outside of prison. Mumia was an activist, photographer and writer dedicated to real justice before being arrested and charged with the murder of a Philadelphia policeman. Mumia Abu Jamal like so many other political prisoners deserves our commitment. If we don’t take care of the best of us right here and right now it will send the wrong signal to activist all over the world. The fight for Mumia’s Justice and Freedom is a fight for our very own and a Fight we must win. IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

Revolution, then peace!

On The Move! Guest Commentator, U-Savior Washington, was born in Harlem and raised in East New York Brooklyn. U-Savior Washington is an author, video journalist and film director. He is the executive producer of The Ghetto Chronicles hosted by Nana Soul and the director of the documentary film “Confessions of a Liberal Actor-vist” which is distributed by Black Waxx Multimedia,

!Mexico City Activists Use Obama Visit to Fight for Mumia!

Hey all,

yesterday we improvised a small action in support of Mumia that got a fair amount of mainstream radio coverage. Obama is here, visiting with Calderón, and we went to the National Auditorium, right by the gates of Campo Marte, the military camp where his helicopter landed to deliver a letter urging him to take a stand for justice and freedom in the case of Mumia and other pps. Of course they didn't let us in to deliver the letter, and who knows if Obama will ever find out we were there, but we put it up on the independent media sites and did get an abbreviated version in the "letters to the editor" section of the mainstream, semi-leftist La Jornada newspaper. There's been so much hype in the press for the last week about all the heavy duty security measures that it was hard to figure out where we could be, or if were were going to be able to get through the police /military lines at all. And all the propaganda about 6,000 police and soldiers, sharpshooters, helicopters, searches of anyone in the zone, etc. definitely had a chilling effect on the turnout. There were only thirteen of us, but to our surprise, the access was pretty easy, and we got a kick out of it because the press never comes to our demonstrations, but today we got there early and they were hanging around waiting for Obama, so they all came over to talk to us. As we pretty much expected, the mainsteam tv stations and newspapers ended up doing official promo, but for a while some of our interviews were buzzing around on the radio stations. So we ended up feeling pretty good about it. Will send some pics as soon as I get them.


Here goes the English version of the letter, followed by the Spanish.

Dear President Obama:

On your first visit to Mexico, today April 16, we are writing to urge you to take a stand for justice and freedom in the case of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. It’s shameful that this acclaimed journalist and writer is still held in degrading, inhuman conditions on death row 27 years after his arrest on December 9, 1981! And it’s even more shameful that the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of the United States, just broke its own precedents in its zeal to deny him the new trial he was seeking to establish his innocence in the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner!

We are among hundreds of thousands of people in the world who share Mumia Abu-Jamal’s struggle for a better world. We greatly appreciate his weekly columns and the six books he’s written during his time on death row. We admire his dignity and steadfastness and want to see him free.

As of now, the Supreme Court has not responded to the District Attorney’s petition to reinstate the death penalty, thrown out in 2001 by federal Judge William Yohn, who ruled that it would be necessary to hold a sentencing hearing in the event that the DA moved to reinstate the death penalty. His ruling was sustained by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in May of 2008. But now the Philadelphia D. A. intends to kill him without even so much as a hearing, in collaboration with the Fraternal Order of Police and public officials who will only be satisfied with his head. What do you think about the threat of a modern-day lynching, President Obama?

President Obama, your victory was celebrated all over the world as a great step against racism, but as of yet, you haven’t denounced the fact that 41% of all the prisoners in the United States and 41.9% of those on death row are African Americans although they only represent 12.3% of the total population. Of all the political prisoners held in your country, over half are African Americans. In their political trials, racism was a major factor. This was definitely true in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, where D. A. Joseph McGill used 10 of his 15 peremptory challenges to exclude black candidates from the jury, and where Judge Albert Sabo was overheard commenting to his clerk, “I’m going to help them fry the nigger”!

During your campaign, you promised to put an end to torture and civil rights violations. You also took a stand for the freedom of political prisoners in Burma, including that of political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. But we haven’t heard you utter a single word of support for Mumia Abu-Jamal or more than a hundred other political prisoners who have spent decades of torture, isolation, and denigrating conditions in the dungeons of your own country, condemned for their political activism. There they are-- Leonard Peltier, the MOVE 9, the San Francisco 8, the Angola 3, the Puerto Rican independence fighters, “los Cinco”, the anti-imperialists, the Chicano activists, the environmentalists, the animal rights defenders, and the opponents of the terrible School of the Americas, along with so many more. Neither have we heard you make a call for the freedom of more than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners who endure constant torture in Israel’s extermination camps.

As a matter of fact, when the right wing columnist Michael Smerconish asked you about Mumia Abu-Jamal during your campaign, you said you didn’t know much about his case, but that anyone who kills a cop deserves the death penalty or life in prison. (Philadelphia Inquirer, October 10, 2008). Are we to believe that a defender of human rights like yourself knows little or nothing about the case of one of the most widely supported political prisoners in the world and is not aware of all the violations of his constitutional rights during his trial, which have been duly registered by a long list of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International?

Please don’t tell us that you agree with the political motives of the Fraternal Order of Police and politicians like Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, District Attorney Lynn Abraham, and Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille. These public officials who incriminated Mumia Abu-Jamal of homicide are the very people who are still in power and block every attempt to achieve justice and freedom in his case. You couldn’t possible believe that his membership in the Black Panther Party in the ‘60s and his sympathy with the MOVE organization constitute a crime, could you?

President Obama, you have a great opportunity to act on behalf of justice and freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal and all the political prisoners in your country. What do you intend to do?

Amig@s de Mumia, México

Estimado presidente Obama:

Aprovechamos su visita a México el 16 de abril, para instarle a pronunciarse por la justicia y libertad en el caso del preso político Mumia Abu- Jamal. Es vergonzoso que este aclamado periodista y escritor sigue en el corredor de la muerte 27 años después de su detención el 9 de diciembre de 1981, bajo condiciones inhumanas y denigrantes, y aún más vergonzoso que la corte más alta de la nación, la Suprema Corte de Estados Unidos, acaba de romper su propios precedentes en su afán de negarle un nuevo juicio para comprobar su inocencia en el asesinato del policía Daniel Faulkner.

Somos cientos de miles de personas en el mundo que compartimos la lucha de Mumia Abu-Jamal para un mundo mejor. Apreciamos sus columnas
semanales y los seis libros que él ha escrito desde el corredor de la muerte. Apreciamos su dignidad y congruencia, y queremos verlo libre.

Hasta la fecha, la Suprema Corte no ha respondido a la petición de la fiscalía para reimponer la pena de muerte, rechazada por el juez federal William Yohn en el 2001, quien había dictado que sería necesario celebrar una audiencia para determinar su sentencia en el evento de que la fiscalía quisiera reimponer la pena de muerte. Su dictamen fue avalado por el Tribunal Federal de Apelaciones del Tercer Circuito en mayo del 2008. Pero ahora la fiscalía de Filadelfia pretende ejecutarlo sin audiencia alguna con el respaldo del sindicato de policías y de las autoridades públicas que=2 0piden su cabeza. ¿Qué opina de la amenaza de un linchamiento moderno, presidente Obama?

Presidente Obama, su victoria fue celebrada en todas partes del mundo como un gran avance contra el racismo, pero hasta ahora usted no ha denunciado la situación de que 41% de todos los presos en Estados Unidos y 41.9% de los condenados a la muerte son africano-americanos aunque representan sólo 12.3% de la población total del país. De los presos políticos, más de la mitad son de la población africano-americana. En sus juicios políticos, el racismo fue un gran factor. Éste también fue el caso en el juicio de Mumia Abu-Jamal, en el cual el fiscal Joseph McGill usó 10 de sus 15 vetos perentorios para excluir a los candidatos negros del jurado y el juez Albert Sabo dijo: “Les voy a ayudar a freír el nigger”.

Durante su campaña electoral, usted se pronunció por un fin a los abusos de las libertades civiles y al régimen de tortura. También se pronunció por la libertad de los presos políticos de Burma, inclusive la presa política Aung San Suu Kyi. Pero no escuchamos una sola palabra suya en apoyo a Mumia Abu-Jamal o más de cien otros presos y presas políticos que han pasado décadas de tortura, aislamiento y condiciones denigrantes en las mazmorras de Estados Unidos, condenados por su activismo político. Ahí están Leonard Peltier, “los 9 de MOVE”, “los 8 de San Francisco”, “los 3 de Angola”, los independentistas puertorriqueños, “los 5 cubanos”, los anti-imperialistas, los activistas chicanos, los ecologistas, los defensores de animales, los opositores al terrible Escuela de las Américas, y tantos otros. Tampoco escuchamos un llamado suyo por la libertad de más de 10,000 presos políticos palestinos que aguantan las torturas en los campos de exterminación de Israel.

De hecho, cuando el columnista derechista Michael Smerconish le preguntó sobre Mumia Abu-Jamal durante su campaña, usted dijo que no sabía mucho sobre el caso, pero que “si alguien mata a un policía, él merece la pena de muerte o cadena perpetua” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 de octubre, 2008). ¿Debemos creer que un defensor de los derechos humanos no conozca el caso de uno de los presos políticos con mayor apoyo popular en el mundo y que no conozca las múltiples violaciones de derechos constitucionales en su proceso, señaladas por una larga lista de grupos de derechos humanos, inclusive Amnistía Internacional?

¿Usted está de acuerdo con los motivos políticos de la Organización Fraternal de Policía y de oficiales como el gobernador de Pennsylvania, Edward G. Rendell, la fiscal Lynn Abraham, y el juez principal de la Suprema Corte del estado de Pennsylvania, Ronald D. Castille para incriminar a Mumia Abu-Jamal del homicidio? Ellos son los que siguen en poder y obstaculizan cualquier esfuerzo para lograr justicia y libertad en su caso. O ¿a caso cree usted que su militancia en los Panteras Negras en los años ’60 y su simpatía con la organización MOVE constituyen un crimen?

Presidente Obama, usted tiene la gran oportunidad de promover justicia y libertad para Mumia Abu-Jamal y todos los presos políticos de su país. ¿Qué piensa hacer al respecto?

Amig@s de Mumia, México