by Minister of Information JR
Dec. 9 will mark the 28th year that former Black Panther and present day political prisoner and prolific journalist Mumia Abu Jamal has been locked up for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer, although the evidence points to his innocence. After nearly three decades, many of Mumia’s supporters around the planet believe that he is closer than ever to being assassinated by lethal injection on Pennsylvania’s death row. We are asking everyone who reads this piece to get involved in freeing this man and so many of our other warriors behind enemy lines, people like Ruchell Magee, Hugo Pinell, Imam Jamil Al-Amin and Aaron Patterson, to name a few.
I did this interview with Mumia to talk about his own particular case, the changing of venue for the murder trial of police triggerman Johannes Mehserle, who murdered Oscar Grant on New Years 2009, and the resignation of Van Jones from the White House.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk about your situation. Where is your case presently? We hear that your case is awaiting the results of another case. Can you please inform us?
Mumia: Well, that’s true. There is another case, but that case differs from mine substantially and significantly, not just in terms of facts but also in terms of law. But the law is the tool of those in power so how they use it doesn’t depend on the law; it depends on power, doesn’t it? But ah, it is pending. I will say that.
M.O.I. JR: What case are we talking about specifically?
Mumia: What is known as the Spisak case, S-P-I-S-A-K. This was a fellow who was convicted of I don’t know how many homicides, but he was a white supremacist who made several statements while he was on trial that were viewed as racist, anti-Black, anti-gay, anti-Jewish, what have you. It is also significant evidence based on that case that the man suffered from severe mental problems, if not insanity – mental problems of a very severe sort. They were so severe, in fact, that if you read his circuit court opinion in the Court of Appeals in the Sixth Circuit, one of the judges would have granted him a completely new trial because of the refusal of the state court to allow mental health professionals to testify about his condition in his case. So that gives you some sense of how serious his mental problems were and are.
M.O.I. JR: What are conditions like for you and others on Pennsylvania’s death row currently?
Mumia: Well, they’re grim all over the United States. Death row is solitary confinement; that is, men are in their cells 22 and two – if they choose to go out and go into the cage. That’s 22 hours in the cell and two hours in the cage, if you do go. If not, then it is 24 hours in your cell – alone. That is the situation that most men experience. Given the weather or what not, most men do not go out into the cage or yard. So you’re by yourself all of the time. How you spend your time is based on how you want to spend it, in essence.
M.O.I. JR: How does that affect you mentally?
Mumia: Some men go mad. We’ve seen a spate of suicides in the last several months and weeks. Those who have heard me do pieces in the last several months recall the William Tilley case that I did a piece on. A couple weeks ago I did a piece on a brotha named Jose Pagan or June. These were men who spent quite a few years on death row and, unexpectedly to all who knew them, by the next morning they had committed suicide. I assure you, it is not easy to do in solitary hookup, but they found a way to succeed.
M.O.I. JR: Well, definitely let everyone know that they got our support and we are going to keep them in our thoughts and make sure we put this interview out as far as possible. Are you informed about the venue change for Johannes Mehserle, the triggerman and one of the police officers involved in the murder of Oscar Grant?
Mumia: I am indeed. I can’t say I was surprised, because if you read about cases similar to that, I mean you can go to New York and find the same thing. It is very interesting that police officers who serve in certain areas, cities, districts, counties and localities, shall we say, once they get charged with something, they can’t wait to get out of that locality that they claim to serve. I mean if you serve the locality, why not be tried there, you know? These are the people that you “serve,” right?
But not only do they petition for change of venue, there are very few cases where that’s refused. We don’t have to go very far. You’re in California; you remember Rodney King, where they went from L.A. to Simi Valley, right? I think, not Louima, but the other brother, Amadou Diallo, in New York – the cops that shot him in his doorway, they went to Albany I believe, as far away from New York City while staying in the state. So what does that tell you about what they think of the people that they work amongst?
M.O.I. JR: What role do you think class plays when you look at the resignation of Van Jones from the White House and look at all of the hoopla in the so-called progressive media that was defending this former non-profit administrator and, in my opinion, social vampire? Van Jones denounced his earlier communist beliefs and became a part of the capitalist Obama administration.
THIS CALL IS FROM THE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION S.C. GREENE AND IS SUBJECT TO MONITORING AND RECORDING.
Mumia: Well, if we’re honest, class of course plays a very telling and important role in how people live their lives – how they think, how they interact, how they deal with others, of course. But when it comes to Black folks in the United States, I think, the most honest term is caste. A lot of people may disagree with that, but there is a difference, a profound difference, between Black people and other people. And it doesn’t matter what role you function in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer or a scholar. Look at Henry Louis Gates in his home. Now if you analyze them by class, you would say the upper class, right, the professional class and all of that. To the cop that came to his house, he was a nigger who was making too much noise.
M.O.I. JR: But Barack Obama spoke out on it and didn’t speak out on Oscar Grant.
Mumia: Well, he spoke out on it, but then what did he do? He says let’s get together and have a beer. He didn’t say that with the cat with Oscar Grant, did he?
M.O.I. JR: He didn’t say anything about Oscar Grant.
Mumia: Dig what I’m saying?
M.O.I. JR: Yeah, but I’m saying what role does class play in people addressing cases, specifically with Van Jones and Skip Gates, since you brought it up?
Mumia: See, we have – that’s what I mean about an illusion about class, because the history of the United States is so profoundly negro-phobic or racist when it comes to Black folks that it doesn’t matter what class you are in, because you could lose that class advantage at the drop of a hat. Class is that the president could say that that is my homey. You dig what I’m saying? He didn’t say that about Oscar; he didn’t know him, and his name has never passed his lips, I believe. Am I correct?
M.O.I. JR: Right.
Mumia: Also, if you think about it, think about how the media treated Oscar and treats all of the poor people and Black people all across this country. It’s not a big story, and it would not have been a big story if people did not organize, protest and make it a big story.
M.O.I. JR: If they didn’t rebel in the streets …
Mumia: Exactly. It would have been one day or two days’ news, you see?
M.O.I. JR: I’m asking you in particular, why did the progressive press run to the side of somebody like Van Jones, who doesn’t have a history of doing much in the Oakland community? But when it comes down to the real people’s struggles, people who are fighting here on the ground, such as the Bay View newspaper, you don’t see that kind of hoopla made to defend something that is actually used as force against the state on behalf of the people?
Mumia: I didn’t see a lot of defense of Van Jones, to be perfectly honest. I’m surprised that I didn’t see more. I saw a few articles maybe in The Nation or something, but there was no real groundswell, in fact …
YOU HAVE 60 SECONDS REMAINING.
Mumia: the truth be told, there is very little protest on any issue, whether we are talking about Iraq or Afghanistan or Black prisons or anything, you see, so one must question if there is a truly progressive media in this country.
M.O.I. JR: I agree 100 percent. Thank you once again, and I definitely will be in contact with you.
YOU HAVE 30 SECONDS REMAINING.
Mumia: Well, thank you too, Broham, and keep on keeping on. You doing some hellafied work, and give my love to the peeps. Ona Move! Long live John Africa!
M.O.I. JR: Free ’em all!
Mumia: Free ’em all! Foreva! Ona move, y’all!
M.O.I. JR: Yes, sir.