President Obama, grant clemency to Dr. Mutulu, Veronza, Leonard, Oscar and, posthumously, Marcus Garvey
by The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee
Dear Mr. President,
On behalf of The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, a memorial and humanitarian project dedicated to preserving the legacy of Malcolm X in New York City, we urgently, though respectfully, implore you to grant executive clemency to Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Veronza Bowers, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez Rivera and posthumously to Marcus Garvey for both humanitarian reasons and in the interests of justice.
Messrs. Shakur, Bowers, Peltier and Rivera have been in prison from 30 to more than 40 years each. They have been model prisoners. They have quietly joined the ranks of aging prisoners. They pose no threat to society.
For these and other reasons, including especially the need to move past the heavily biased circumstances that landed them in prison in the first place, it is our express view that these men should be granted clemency and released.
In the case of Mr. Garvey, he was the first to face prison time from the same heavily biased circumstances that later impacted the others’ ordeal. His family has been trying to clear his name for decades now. Certainly, justice would be better served by righting this long overdue historical wrong.
Sir, our organization has first-hand experience with this ordeal.
For instance, our organization was founded by the late Herman Ferguson, an activist educator and founding member of Malcolm’s Organization of AfroAmerican Unity. Mr. Ferguson faced a similar ordeal as he tried to continue to organize in New York City in the aftermath of his legendary leader’s assassination in accords with principles of human rights, self-determination and self-defense.
Tragically, he also faced the consequences of trying to do so in the heavily biased environment of the late 1960s. As such, he too was faced with a bizarre conviction of conspiracy to commit murder of two leading civil rights leaders, Whitney Young and Roy Wilkins, even though it was revealed that a government provocateur was the lone basis of the evidence against him.
Rather than capitulate to that travesty of justice, Mr. Ferguson opted for exile in Guyana, where he could use his skills to help that newly independent nation develop both its educational and military infrastructure as opposed to wasting away in a New York state prison. He retired from the Guyanese National Forces a full-fledged colonel.
In his advanced age, Mr. Ferguson came back to the United States to clear his name, knowing that he would face certain and immediate imprisonment. Only after he’d served several years in prison and was going into his 70s, an enlightened New York state judge, the late Bruce Wright, examined the case and faced its obvious bias squarely and had Mr. Ferguson released in the interests of justice.
We insist that the courageous and enlightened example of Judge Wright has compelling application for these men and their cases now. It is our prayer that you would see that also.
Finally, we insist that you also recognize that the kind of sacrifices associated with these brave men also have a lot to do with your getting to your advanced position, an achievement unimaginable during most of our lives, just as those same sacrifices have had a lot to do with the semblance of freedom we must now fight for again like we haven’t had to in years!
Justice, history and honor are calling each of us! Grant these men their freedom with dignity. You can do it at this moment!
cc: Dequi Kioni Sadiki, chair