Another world is possible: Boots of the Coup interviews Mumia Abu Jamal

Boots-Riley, Another world is possible: Boots of the Coup interviews Mumia Abu Jamal, Abolition Now! Archives 1976-2008
Boots of the Coup performs with passion to get people to “move to action,” as he explained to Mumia. – Photo: Minister of Information JR

by Boots Riley of the Coup

The POCC: Block Report Radio show recently recorded a conversation where internationally known musician Boots Riley of the Coup interviewed political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal. Although people can hear Mumia on with his weekly commentaries, the Block Report believes that it is important to hear from Mumia in a looser setting where he can talk casually and interact, rather than just try to make a few concise points with credible evidence. The interview that we produced before this was with M1 and Mumia; it can be found at, along with the audio from this interview in its entirety.

Boots: Hello!

Mumia: Hello, hello!

Boots: Oh wow! This is Boots Riley from the Coup. It’s an honor to meet you, sir.

Mumia: The honor is mine, brotha.

Boots: There are a few things that I always wanted to ask you. In my music, a lot of times I’ve been accused of dealing with things that seem more personal than political, although I see them as very political.
I try to deal with that piece that gets people to move to action where the system interacts with people in their personal lives. What is it that separates you and I and other folks that consider themselves part of a movement from the masses of other folks who don’t consider themselves part of that movement?

Mumia: Well, actually very little. I remember hearing, and this is in another context, but I remember hearing a boxing trainer say that the difference between champs and those who are not champs can be measured in inches, not feet. And I was always impressed by that.
I mean we think of champs as these great, great, great creatures, but the fact of the matter is that it is really very little between those of us that consider ourselves activists or revolutionaries and those who are not. It often turns on one’s personal experience.

Remember you mentioned the personal, in terms of what you put into your music? But I assure you there is an intersection between the personal and the political. And how people were raised, when they were raised, and their experiences influence how they see the world. I mean, it can not be otherwise.

If Huey P. Newton didn’t have the background that he had in the streets – he was a thief, you know? – if Malcolm didn’t have his background in the street – you know he was a pimp and a burglar – they would not have been put in the position where they had to question what they were doing in the world and how they could change themselves …


Mumia: … and how they could change themselves into political people. You know Malcolm’s transformation began in the prison in Massachusetts. Huey’s began really in the streets. He used to write about how he would get busted for a theft or something like that and he would go to court and, because he studied the law somewhat, he saw what was happening in court and he internalized it. And he began challenging it and representing himself and stuff.

So there is a thin line, a very thin line, between those of us who are political and those of us who are not. And events sometimes change people, literally in the snap (of the fingers), in the blink of an eye.
Mao used to say, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” He meant the spark in the mind – the insight, the realization, you know? And that is why I say that there are millions of Malcolms. They just don’t know it yet.

Mumia-on-death-row-at-Graterford-Prison-Pa.-1995-by-April-Saul-Phila.-Inquirer-1, Another world is possible: Boots of the Coup interviews Mumia Abu Jamal, Abolition Now! Archives 1976-2008
Although Mumia Abu-Jamal ranks among the wisest and most astute, informative and influential commentators on current affairs, his physical world is a bathroom-sized cell on Pennsylvania’s death row. This photo was taken in 1995 at Graterford State Prison.
– Photo: April Saul, Philadelphia Inquirer

Boots: All right, going along those same lines, many times when I’ve been involved with various organizations or even doing the music that I do, I’ve heard this comment, one that cuts to the core of me, from people in my neighborhood or whatever; it’s “I really like what you are doing, but, you know, I got to pay the bills.”

It has often caused me to think that possibly that the Movement in general doesn’t have its finger on the pulse of the people because it seems that people should say, “I need to be involved in the Movement because I got to pay bills.”

Mumia: Well, I would agree with that, but I would even take it a step further. The fact that people have to expend more and more of what little and little they have on paying the bills, on buying gas, on buying food, on paying the rent, more and more now, is because more and more people are not involved in the Movement. Let me explain.

Almost all of us who work in the world, especially those of us that have “nine to fives” if such a thing even exists any more, they have those jobs, they have those “nine to fives” because 40, 50, 60, 70 years ago people organized something called unions and fought for 40-hour weeks. If they had not done that, the norm would have been 80 hours.

I mean they used to have children working in factories, babies, you know what I’m saying? If people didn’t organize and say, “Hold it, hold it!” – weren’t they working to pay the rent? Weren’t they working to pay their bills? But they were also organizing to make the day better and their lives better for their children and people coming after them.

And you better believe if people were really politically and economically organizing, they could demand that the speculation be taken out of the oil prices, and instead of $4 or $5 soon, it would be what it should be, $2.70 or $52 a barrel, instead of $135 a barrel. People forget that when the Iraq War started, oil was $30 a barrel, now it’s $135 the last I checked, and it might be $138 today.

But it’s like that because people essentially did protest against this war, (but) many people after it started went back home. “Well, we can’t demonstrate in a time of war, that’s Un-Amerikkkan.” Well, damn it, if they had organized more, if they had continued fighting, then we would be closer to ending this war as opposed to changing the management of the war so that it continues on and on and on or goes to another place – or they bomb Iran next week, you know what I’m saying?

This interview, arranged and recorded by POCC Minister of Information JR, can be heard in its entirety at