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Representative or the represented?

October 19, 2015

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Recently, a Black congresswoman from Florida revealed that white legislators from the state’s redistricting body changed her district to include the state’s overcrowded but under-represented prisons, thereby insuring her defeat when the next election comes along, for prisoners can’t vote.

Congresswoman Corinne Brown is the first Black elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction. Here, speaking at a march on the Capitol last March, she calls Florida “stuck on stupid” as she demands the repeal of its Stand Your Ground law that was used to justify the murder of Trayvon Martin and that sent Marissa Alexander to prison for firing a warning shot at her abuser that hurt no one. – Photo: Glenn Bell, Tallahassee Democrat

Congresswoman Corinne Brown is the first Black elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction. Here, speaking at a march on the Capitol last March, she calls Florida “stuck on stupid” as she demands the repeal of its Stand Your Ground law that was used to justify the murder of Trayvon Martin and that sent Marissa Alexander to prison for firing a warning shot at her abuser that hurt no one. – Photo: Glenn Bell, Tallahassee Democrat

While legislator Corrine Brown, D-5th District, has a claim, the better solution shows us how the Congressional Black Caucus has failed its constituencies and its members by not fighting for deeper, broader voting rights – like enfranchisement of prisoners.

In South Africa, the post-apartheid government opened the door to prisoners voting. The same practice holds for Israel.

If the Congressional Black Caucus had fought for and prevailed on prisoner enfranchisement, Rep. Brown would have no viable argument against her redistricting, for prisoners would be allowed to vote as everyone else.

The nation that claims to be a democracy should not exclude people from voting, but seek the broadest, deepest constituency. All of the people should be represented – not just some.

The prisoner exclusion from voting arises from state attempts to weaken the Black political power of the Reconstruction, which outlawed all Black voting under white supremacist legislatures and governments.

The echoes of that tradition remain a principle in American law, with little, other than tradition itself, as justification.

The nation that claims to be a democracy should not exclude people from voting, but seek the broadest, deepest constituency. All of the people should be represented – not just some.

This is no solution to the crisis of mass incarceration. Not by a long shot.

But Mao famously said, “Politics is war without bloodshed.”

It has its place too, to combat the extreme isolation facing captives of the biggest imprisonment boom on earth.

It’s not a solution. It’s not a talisman to be worshipped. It’s a tool.

And the oppressed need every tool that they can touch.

© Copyright 2015 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. His new book is “Writing on the Wall,” edited by Joanna Hernandez. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.

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