Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

“That justice is a blind Goddess, is a thing to which we Blacks are wise. Her bandage hides two festering sores that once perhaps were eyes.” Poem called “Justice” by Langston Hughes.

Elmer Geronimo Pratt sits sweltering in a Northern California prison, no doubt angry over his latest judicial mugging by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to reconsider Pratt’s appeal solely because it was filed a few days too late. Pratt, a former high ranking Black Panther leader, has endured almost 20 long years in prison for a crime which even an ex-FBI agent insists he did not, and indeed, could not have done.

Why is Geronimo still caged? Because in his youth, nearly two decades ago, he dared stand up against the white racist power structure, and attempted to lend a hand to militant efforts to defend Black communities from racist cop terror. As party Deputy Minister of Defense, Geronimo did his job only too well, as evidenced by the fiery genocidal police raid on the Los Angeles chapter headquarters of the Black Panther Party in 1970, an onslaught that left much of Central Avenue in smoldering ruin, but from which every LA Panther emerged alive. Geronimo’s true crime then, was and is resistance, a crime for which Africans have historically paid the supreme penalty, and for which Pratt has paid with almost 20 years in California dungeons.

In a word, the reason why Geronimo is still caged, can be summed up with a sinister acronym, COINTELPRO, FBI speak for the shadowy malicious counter intelligence program, which shadowed, harassed, silenced and set up Black activists from the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to Geronimo. COINTELPRO files show Geronimo could not have committed the December 18, 1968 murder of Mrs. Kenneth Olson in LA. For the simple reason he was under FBI surveillance some 400 miles away in Northern California on the date and time of the crime. California Congressman Ron Dellums has introduced the resolution in the U.S. House calling for Geronimo’s immediate release and an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his arrest and conviction. The resolution noted in part, Federal Bureau of Investigation wrongdoing in the case of Elmer Geronimo Pratt has been established through exhaustive examinations of thousands of pages of official FBI documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and subsequently corroborated by the sworn testimony of a retired FBI special agent who has personal knowledge of the wrongdoing. The three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, composed incidentally of Nixon and Reagan appointees, close the courthouse door on press appeal, saying the attorneys failure to file press papers promptly. In a move that Black Supreme Court jurist, the late Thurgood Marshall, might call exalting form over substance, The Ninth Circuit Panel has apparently decided that innocence is irrelevant. Just as surely as the US Supreme Court careens rightward, so too do other federal courts, like the Ninth Circuit fast in lockstep. That a kind, decent, committed man’s life sifts away like sands through an hourglass is of no judicial concern.

Raised in the Bayou Country, Morgan County, Louisiana, and tempered in the steaming jungles of Vietnam, in youthful service to this government, one wonders on the irony of protecting the polluted status quo that now denies him his rightful day in court. It was a youthful idealistic Pratt, who emerged from the hills of Nam, only to behold the hills of Compton, California. That he chose to serve his people, as a member of the Black Panther Party, is a fact of which he can justly be proud. That he has denied the most fundamental rights to be free of government prosecution without deception, to be heard, by an impartial judge, based solely upon his BPP membership is a fact of which Americans should be ashamed. Even 3000 miles away, I hear his soft yet strong country voice saying, “come together, fight together, and rally together to see justice done.” Free Geronimo now.

From death row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.