Meet Mumia on Saturday Night December 8th at Temple University
Meet Mumia by Linn Washington, Jr. Philadelphia Tribune
There’s a rare opportunity to meet Mumia Abu-Jamal on Saturday, Dec. 8.
Yes, meet the author/activist whose controversial conviction for murder 30 years ago is a driving element in this man’s achieving extraordinary international recognition as a symbol of systemic injustice in the United States.
Many Philadelphians and millions around the world know Abu-Jamal from the “Who-done-it” contentions surrounding his case, centered on the slaying of a Philadelphia cop on Dec. 9, 1981.
Yet few really know the “Who” of Mumia – the substance behind the symbol, the man who is a grandfather and/or the man respected as an intellectual for his scholarly works from an isolation prison cell.
That “Who” is what makes the opportunity this Saturday truly unique because it will provide insights about and exposures into Abu-Jamal beyond the simplistic characterizations of opponents bashing him as a murderous monster and supporters lauding him as an inspirational martyr.
People participating in the scheduled Saturday opportunity will get to see and hear the real Mumia… not in person, unfortunately, but through an interesting documentary movie – “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal”.
Abu-Jamal remains imprisoned, now serving life-without-parole following the December 2011 decision by Philadelphia’s district attorney. Last year Philly prosecutors stopped fighting the December 2001 federal court ruling vacating Abu-Jamal’s death sentence that cited judicial errors during the imposition of that verdict for execution.
Unlike all previous movies that have focused primarily on either strong evidence of Abu-Jamal’s innocence ignored by authorities (shamefully including appellate judges) or asserted evidence of his guilt, the principal focus of “Long Distance Revolutionary” is Abu-Jamal the person.
The film probes the personality/person of Abu-Jamal before, during and after his arrest/conviction for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner.
Full disclosure: I am one of the on-screen interviewees featured in this film.
Fuller disclosure: I have been interviewed for every major movie on Mumia made in the 21st century, including the film released in 2007, produced by English actor and now Academy Award winner Colin Firth, and the 2010 work released by Philadelphia filmmaker Tigre Hill that purported to prove Abu-Jamal’s absolute guilt.
Abu-Jamal and I worked together as news reporters before his arrest and I have followed his case closely since 1981.
This “Long Distance” film, written and directed by respected Hollywood industry documentarian Stephen Vittoria, details critical dimensions missing from most news media coverage about ‘The Mumia Matter.’
Mainstream news media coverage on this contentious case since December 1981 is best described as a mile wide but only an inch thick, because little of that coverage fully examines the glaring flaws (evidentiary and procedural) in this case and even less coverage presents anything about Abu-Jamal the person.
The mainstream news media’s mangling of ‘The Mumia Matter’ is a dynamic well known to a producer of “Long Distance Revolutionary” – Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.
Hanrahan is the person responsible for recording and disseminating Abu-Jamal’s poignant weekly commentaries on a wide-range of subjects that have elevated his stature worldwide.
While these commentaries receive regular broadcasting and publication from the Bay Area of California to Berlin, Germany, his works, including over a half-dozen books written by him, receive blacked-out treatment in Philadelphia.
His commentaries, for example, provide a core for a play currently receiving wide acclaim in France from award-winning Paris playwright Alain Fox. The mid-October ceremony naming a street for Abu-Jamal in the Paris suburb of Bobigny included presentation of an excerpt from Fox’s play.
“This play is a testament to what the world needs to do for justice…making people in power understand a sense of justice,” French actress Mariann Matthews said during an interview in Bobigny after participating in that Bobigny ceremony.
Abu-Jamal’s mother Edith, who died in February 1990, once told a Philadelphia Tribune reporter her son got into journalism largely from his need to help people who needed help.
A July 1975 Tribune article credited then-radio reporter Abu-Jamal with getting desperately needed food and other supplies for a grandmother caring for two grandchildren, including one child with a heart condition.
The first article Abu-Jamal published after his December 1981 arrest exhibited the concern for others his mother praised. That February 1982 account presented his perspective on police severely beating him on 12/9/81 plus harassing his family, including threatening his mother.
However, the bulk of that article contained extensive reportage about the suspicious death of a Puerto Rican inmate inside the same Philadelphia jail that held Abu-Jamal.
Abu-Jamal wrote about prisoners telling him that this inmate died from a beating by guards. He reported prison authorities categorizing that the inmate’s death as a suicide, mysteriously hanging himself while restrained on a prison hospital gurney. “As a nigger or a spic, there is no semblance of justice,” Abu-Jamal wrote in that article he headlined, “A Christmas Cage.”
The screening for “Long Distance Revolutionary” at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday will be in Room 17 of Anderson Hall, 1860 N. 11thSt. on the campus of Temple University. The sponsor for this screening is the African-American Studies Program at Temple.
Abu-Jamal’s opponents proclaim this prisoner has no right to write because he is a convicted cop-killer – a posture rejected by a federal appeals court in 1998…one of the rare court rulings in Abu-Jamal’s favor.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.