by Zaire Saunders
On Monday, April 24, friends and family joined together to celebrate the unveiling of a new mural on the East Oakland Youth Development Center. The mural holds significance for many reasons – from the rich history of radical Black power the Black Panthers held onto to form their organization and to protect their community to the depiction of Black lovers.
The lovers in question are none other than Mumia Abu Jamal and his late wife Wadiya Jamal, who passed away last year near Christmas. Mumia Abu Jamal, the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Information for the Philly chapter, has been wrongfully imprisoned for 41 years. Despite the circumstances, Mumia, his family and his many international followers have maintained hope and courage in the face of cruelty.
Jamal Hart, Mumia’s grandson, has kept up the fight to bring his grandfather home. With his Love not Phear campaign, Jamal Hart has hit the ground running all over the nation with his grandfather’s story of resistance, dignity and love for humanity. Telling the stories of his grandfather and family, Jamal brought Mumia Abu Jamal’s spirit into attendance in the room.
When asked if he was certain Mumia would one day be free, Jamal responded with a stern but hopeful, “Absolutely.”
We packed ourselves into the auditorium while rocking to music highlighting love. Lauryn Hill’s “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind” softly played as food was passed out. Fitting words for an event that was meant to inspire and shed away our sorrows involving the imprisonment of a man who was on death row for 20 years and has kept up his role as minister of information through the various commentaries he has written throughout the years.
“East Oakland feels a deep sense of solidarity with our comrades from Philly,” said Selena. ceo of the EOYDC. “Just as a proverbial crack bomb was dropped by government operatives in our community to disrupt our social justice and liberation movements, a literal bomb was dropped as an act of state sanctioned domestic terrorism. We know all too well the legacy of corruption that leads to the unjust conviction and incarceration of those who speak truth to power like Mumia Abu Jamal, and we stand with him in the fight for freedom.”
Love also motivated Tim B, legendary Oakland artist, whose work stretches from the Bay Area to Africa and Costa Rica. “JR reached out to me and connected me to Mumia’s grandson, Jamal. That’s how I got involved. We discussed the details. I didn’t know much about Mumia Abu Jamal until I spoke to Jamal Hart about him and his case. That helped me become aware.” says Tim B.
Still in the process of adding the finishing touches to the work, Tim noted: “The event was a lot longer for me than just the one day. I wasn’t so much at the event as I was on the wall. I was supposed to depict his position and I took away from the work the survival piece of it all.
“As Black men in America, we are fighting for our lives. We are at war with so many different forces, so I like to call us warriors. Mumia was just at the wrong place at the wrong time – as a Black man anything is possible when it comes to us being at the wrong place at the right time. I took away survival and being aware of your environment.”
After soaking in the beauty of the mural, we all marched back inside. We were to watch the film “Justice on Trial” – a documentary film that goes in depth on Mumia Abu Jamal’s case – together.
We sat together in the teen center, crowded closely together watching the projected images of white violence, white fear and, ultimately, as prejudice is, white ignorance. Within 15 minutes, the audience winced in pain and rage at witnessing the repeated offenses done to Jamal – as well as to what police department, judges and citizens hold up as supposed “law.”
The absence of factual evidence and the blatantly racist rhetoric from the judge – seeing Mumia’s case caused many in attendance to shake their heads, to groan in disgust at the treatment of another human being whose only real crime was thinking this world couldn’t be, nor should be, the one we accept.
We sat and loved each other. Never frightened away from the reality of those meant to protect and serve us serving nothing but their investment in the white power system, but mourning the sacrifice it takes for every one of us to be free, to be covered in love.
How can anyone look at the mural of Wadiya and Mumia, the crowd of people who stood strong and mourned the heavy circumstances and not feel love, to not feel the hope of the people ready to move, ready to liberate themselves – and those next to us. Walking out of the EOYDC, with Mumia Abu Jamal fresh on our souls, we were ready to move forward to liberation “With love not fear.”
Zaire Saunders is the copy editor and reporter for the SF Bay View Community Journalism Program, which is funded by the California State Library.