Rattling the bars with Eddie Conway: H. Rap Brown, now Jamil Abdullah El-Amin, challenges his imprisonment

Kairi Al-Amin, the son of H. Rap Brown, now Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, talks about his father’s case and his appeal because of a prosecutor violating his right not to testify him by questioning during closing arguments. Al-Amin is 75 and with a sentence of life imprisonment

Eddie Conway: Thank you for joining me for this episode of Rattling the Bars. I’m Eddie Conway, your host.

There’s been a number of people in the American prison system for decades that were political prisoners, some of them has been forgotten. We want to look at some of those cases. Today, we want to look at the case of formerly known as H. Rap Brown, now known as Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. We’re going to talk to his son about his case and see what’s going on with him. Joining me now to talk about his father is Kairi Al-Amin. Kairi, thanks for joining me.

Kairi Al-Amin: No, no problem. Thank you for having me.

EC: Okay. I knew your dad as Rap Brown. He is no longer Rap Brown. Now he’s Imam –

KA: Jamil.

EC: Yes. Can you tell me a little bit about his life and why he’s still in prison?

KA: Sure. That’s a good one to start with because there’s a long answer for that one. What his life, as far as I know, he’s always been Imam Jamil, or just Jamil Al-Amin, or pops to me, but I’m well aware of the H. Rap Brown history and the rich history that that is. But as Imam Jamil or Jamil Al-Amin, he basically carried over what he learned in his experiences coming through the civil rights and activist movement, and brought them to Islam. In his early years as a Muslim, he established the same things he was trying to establish for the African American community of all those years— whether it be community programs and safety for the men, women, and children in his community, uplifting and building economic programs as well as agricultural programs, or just trying to make sure that everybody had what it is they needed and offer equal footing.

Aside from that, it was the West End community that he founded and developed here in Atlanta, Georgia – was one of the worst communities that the city of Atlanta had, whether it was prostitution or drug sales and things like that, before my father got there in the mid/late seventies. What he did was he cleaned up that community and made it a haven, a safe space for us as youth as well as anyone else who was a part of his community or not a part of his community, who moved to the area. That was the legacy or is the legacy that at this point he’s left behind. Everything that he touches, he’s benefited.

As for why he’s in prison, it’s a loaded question. It could be answered a lot of different ways. The one way that we now are trying to make sure people understand is not guilty of this murder that he was convicted of. My father has been a target for many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many years of the federal government. I think him being housed these last 10 years in federal penitentiaries without federal charges show that the vendetta is still strong. The federal government has not forgotten who he was as a H. Rap Brown or who he is as Imam Jamil Al-Amin.

EC: Okay. I was going to ask you, where is he now?

KA: Now, he’s currently housed in Tucson, Arizona, the federal pen there. It’s funny because the inmates have just now realized that he’s there— the entire population. He’s become a bit of a headache for Tucson now as well, not because of anything he’s necessarily doing, but just because the inmates dip their wing to him. It’s just out of respect. They respect who he is and what he’s done.

EC: Okay. There was just a recent court ruling not in his favor. What was that about and what was he challenging the state for?

KA: We actually just got that ruling back yesterday. We were in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. We just did our oral arguments on May 3rd actually. This part of the appeal was centered around the constitutional rights violations by the prosecution in the original trial. That’s the state of Georgia issue, but we took it to the federal government because the constitutional rights were violated. The federal government, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, they also admit that his constitutional rights were violated, and that the violations were egregious, and the prosecutorial misconduct was egregious. They put that in a footnote and let us know that they’re sorry they couldn’t do anything about that, but that they would be upholding or affirming the ruling in the original trial, which was guilty. Now, our campaign is twofold.

One, how can egregious constitutional rights violations not warrant a new trial, especially when they were done by the prosecution. Two, my father is innocent. The facts points to him being innocent, which is why we’re pushing for a new trial. We know that they can’t win this trial twice. The reason they won the first time was because of the gag order that was placed on my father, which didn’t allow us to fight in the court of public opinion, as well as the court of law. When you don’t have anyone watching, anything can be done without any repercussions. That’s kind of what just happened in the Eleventh Circuit as well. They’ve admitted wrongdoing, but decided that they won’t correct it. Unless we have people watching and people upset about that, they’re not going to change their tune any time soon. Our goal, again, is just to make sure that people understand and are watching because this has been going on for 20 years.

EC: Okay. He’s got life, and you’re saying he’s been inside now for 20 years. How old is he?

KA: He’s 75.

EC: He’s 75, so he needs some relief. What can people do to assist you and the family and the supporters in getting him relief, if they have an interest in that?

KA: If they have an interest in it, first and foremost, we have a website up right now that’s called, whathappened2, which is the number 2, rap.com, and we have all the facts on that website. We really want people to go to the website and read them for themselves because as opposed to trying to beat people over the head with, “Hey, my father is innocent, Hey my father’s innocent,” I’d rather just you read the facts. And if you come up with he’s not, then that’s fine, but I doubt it. Then we go from there and pass that information on. Writing to your congressperson is always an option. Even though he’s technically a state prisoner, he’s housed in a federal system. They’re not even following their own rules. For instance, he’s in Arizona, which is well outside— I forget what the exact parameters are— of the distance that he should be from his family.

EC: I think it’s 500 miles, but go ahead.

KA: The reasoning that they say they don’t have to follow that rule is because he’s not a federal prisoner. He’s a state prisoner and so they tell us, “If Georgia says that they want him back, we’ll send him back to Georgia. Otherwise, we put him where we want to put him.” Georgia’s response has consistently been, “We don’t want him back. He’s a security risk.” Even though he’s 75 years old, he has cancer, he just had a stroke. I don’t know what security risks he is, but that’s Georgia’s stance on it. Yeah, write your Congress people. Just be upset, be as upset as we are when our rappers get locked up, even if it’s for lawful reasons. Just be that upset when our heroes and the people we say we love are under the thumb of the people that they’ve been fighting. We can’t forget about them or throw them to the wayside.

It kind of feels like that’s what we do at times, even though we know our government and our systems are corrupt. Once they pass judgment on someone, we tend to go with that and let that be the end-all be-all. That just can’t be the case. We just want people to make noise at this time. We’re in the process, actually, of shooting—well, writing right now— a miniseries, so that we can deliver these facts and the entire story to people in a manner that’s easily digestible. We’re hoping for 2020 being able to release that. It’s an awareness campaign more than anything. We need people paying attention. If you’re interested in helping, tell more people. Tell more people so that they can look at what’s going on. I mean, this is getting ridiculous.

EC: Okay. If any new developments come up, please get in contact with us so we can have you back here and we can share that information with the public.

KA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I appreciate the opportunity to be on your platform and do that. Hopefully, we’ll be able to produce more updates and more developments quickly because, again, he’s a 75-year-old man and he has his own health issues and things like that that we’re dealing with. He’s stronger than most, but Father Time is undefeated, so we’d like to see him on this side of the wall before it’s over with.

EC: Okay. All right. Thank you for joining me.

KA: No problem. Thank you.

EC: Thank you for joining us on this episode of Rattling the Bars.