My media literacy class and the case of Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia-Abu-Jamal-Philly-Black-Panther-Party-Min.-of-Info-1970-age-15-by-Philadelphia-Inquirer, My media literacy class and the case of Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, Culture Currents Local News & Views
Mumia has been a working journalist all his life since he joined the Black Panther Party at the age of 14. In 1970, he had been named minister of information for the Philly Panthers and was featured in the mainstream Philadelphia Inquirer at his desk in party headquarters. By 1981, when Officer Faulkner was killed, he had become a well-respected radio reporter and president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. Radio journalism was not well paid, however, and Abu-Jamal supplemented his income by driving a taxi at night. In prison, his journalism has only intensified as he has written hundreds of brilliant commentaries and many books that made him world famous. – Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer

by Minister of Information JR Valrey, Oakland Bureau Chief 

There’s always a lot of talk about helping Black youth to become more media literate, rightfully so. But the type of media literacy that the government and corporate amerikkka is trying to prepare Black people for is one of techno-servitude, where we are taught rudimentary skills to keep the digital matrix going. They want us to solely be the wage earning slaves for the technocrats at digital plantations like Meta, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce and more.

The media literacy that is needed in the Black community is the kind where our people are educated on how, since the beginning of this nation, mass media has been dominated with propaganda to denigrate or straight out call for the genocide of Black people in subtle and not so subtle ways in the newspapers, the music, radio, films, television, memorabilia, photography, physical art and more.

As a community, we have to be able to recognize, mentally barricade against and counter the media attacks against us. So instead of just talking about it, I teamed up with the East Oakland Youth Development Center and just finished my first six months of teaching “The Weaponization of Media” class to Deep East Oakland youth. We had a number of different speakers from Black media, we went on numerous field trips to media organizations, we watched “The Wiz” and “Bamboozled,” we talked about the history of different forms of media, as well as analyzed how Brittney Griner, Ye and Kyrie Irving have been handled in the mass media recently.

EOYDC-Weaponization-of-Media-class-with-JR-Valrey-1122-1400x1050, My media literacy class and the case of Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, Culture Currents Local News & Views
Black Panther Saturu Ned spoke at the Weaponization of Media class at the EOYDC and told the children about the need for them to get involved in empowering their communities. – Photo: EOYDC

Most importantly, “The Weaponization of Media” class gave the youth a multi-media political education, where they not only learned how Black people have been attacked in the mass media but also how we have a history of using the media to our advantage, to fight back. The youth studied Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, also the media and cultural contributions of the Oakland-born Black Panther Party. The students studied a Kathleen Cleaver speech, which can be found on YouTube, on the Black Panther Party’s role in the “Black is Beautiful Movement” of the ‘60s and ‘70s. We also studied the plight of Black Panther political prisoner and internationally known journalist and author Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is famous for his current, in-depth, highly analytical weekly commentaries on current events and international affairs on Prison Radio. He was the Philly Panther’s Minister of Information when he was 16, according to “We Want Freedom.”

Although Mumia has been in the U.S. concentration camps for over 42 years, after being framed for the murder of a cop, his work is some of the most thought provoking that I have ever witnessed. His political understanding and historical analysis is what the government is scared of him spreading. His commentaries are able to break down high level political ideas into layman’s terms, where the average person can understand. 

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case crystallizes why the government has always maintained a  counter-intelligence program against the Black community, especially ghetto youth, because it is well known that information is power. The quicker that Black youth are politically educated to see how the Black community is being held back, the quicker they will organize themselves and use every technology to their advantage to free themselves and our community, in much the same way that Mumia did when he was the Philly Panthers’ minister of information.

Until Mumia – just like Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Kamau Sadiki, Veronza Bowers, Ruchell Magee, Ed Poindexter and our other political prisoners – are home with their families, we will be screaming “Free ’em all!” And although the government is wasting Mumia Abu-Jamal’s life away unjustly, we are creating more politically-educated, revolutionary journalists and social critics like Mumia right here in the Bay Area with our “Weaponization of Media” class. There’s a war going on for the minds of the Black community, and we are very clear where we stand. 

On Dec. 16, the judge will announce whether or not Mumia Abu-Jamal will be freed on the grounds of the D.A. hiding evidence from the defense for decades. In 2018, six boxes of files previously hidden and relevant to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case were found in the D.A.’s office, and on Dec. 16, the court will decide how to handle this miscarriage of justice.

JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau and is founder of his latest project, the Ministry of Information Podcast. He can be reached at and on Instagram.