Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

M: Hola!
LF: Hola Mumia! Hey!
M: Hola!
LF: Hey, how are you doing?
M: Good!
LF: Thank you so much for calling us.
M: The pleasure is mine.
LF: My name is Eric. And I’m Cori. We’re two members of the Liberation Frequency Independent Media Collective, just so you know who we are.
M: Okay. Sup Eric, Cori?
LF: We were wondering, have you been following the election right now?
M: I have. I’ve been watching debates, and of course reading news articles and listening to news reports and so forth.
LF: Yeah, what are your thoughts on that right now, since it’s approaching soon?
M: Well you know, I pay a lot of attention of course to published accounts but also broadcast accounts and I’m critical of how the media is covering this. For anyone that is paying attention to this, this is more about style than substance. That’s because while you hear both candidates talk about jobs, jobs, jobs, and the economy, I would bet you, that you would heard none of them mention the term NAFTA. NAFTA stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement. It governs everything. It is the reason why manufacturing jobs left the United States back in 1996, 97, and thereafter for decades and why we have such small manufacturing today. You know, considering… It affected the kind of wages people made. If affected the lifestyle of people who considered themselves middle class. They weren’t, but they considered themselves middle class. The point is, that it changed the American economy. Unless and until you hear a politician talking about repealing or at least amending NAFTA then everything else is meaningless.
LF: I thought it was interesting that during the debates nobody was talking about NDAA or the use of drones.
M: But that’s precisely the reason why I say, that this is more about style than substance. You know on all the big issues, in fact there is more agreement than disagreement. There’s a difference in style but it’s like the difference between say, rap and reggae. It has a different beat but its essentially very similar music. Because both of them are corporate politicians, and they represent the interests of Wall Street and the wealthy. They don’t represent middle class people, and they certainly don’t represent the working class or the poor.
LF: We were wondering also what you thought about the Dream Act, and what you thought about the current struggle of undocumented youth in the United States.
M: Well, that’s interesting that you would ask that kind of question. I’ll tell you why. For years, that is for the last four years or so, you heard the very far right wing question the citizenship of one of the candidates, suggesting that he was born in Kenya and therefore not a true American, and point of fact: I know in the last debate, you heard, one candidate* say that he was born in Mexico, and then he rushed to say, “of American parents.” That was Romney. Now there is never even a question, about his origins because of course he’s white.
LF: Naturally.
M: You know, and we don’t get into the very substance of truth; that the reason why you have the immigration booms into America, is the long train of oppression, that’s happened throughout Central American and Latin America by the efforts of the U.S. government, supporting right wing dictatorship, and military governors all throughout the region. So people were fleeing a pattern of oppression in their homelands, and they thought that it would be safer, shall we say, to come to the United States.
LF: And then they come here and have to show their papers everywhere they go.
M: And then you come here and have to show your papers, and its almost like, we get the line, “show your papers,” from movies showing the second WW and the Nazi era. Well it’s now becoming the American era.
LF: We were wondering particularly about where you think the place, the historical place, of the undocumented youth struggle is, because we see a lot of similarities with that, The Panthers, The Freedom Riders… We see a lot of similarities in terms of how the undocumented struggle resembles the first steps into a new social movement, with radical elements.
M: I think we’re in the beginning era of that, and point of fact, look at this: Why do you think republican governments, all across the United States, automatically began cutting down on voting qualifications… and people needed passports, and they needed federal I.D. and that kind of stuff. You know, it’s about what a republican strategist named, Rollins, Ed Rollins, said a few years ago. He said, “We,” speaking of the republican party, “are too old, too white, and too fat.” So how do you kind of resolve that contradiction? You create new rules that excludes, millions and millions of people from the voting booth.
LF: …from being a part of the political process.
M: Absolutely! This is a long held strategy of the right wing all around the world. You know you uphold how precious the right to vote is, and then you make fewer and fewer people able to access it. This is essentially a recipe for repression in terms of the right to vote. So if you can control who comes out to vote, you can control the outcome of that vote. We’ve had, let’s be honest, stolen elections in the United States, certainly in 2000, perhaps in 2004. Well, why not have it in 2012? It worked before.
LF: Do you think that the undocumented youth struggle, right now, is kind of like the beginning steps, similar to SNCC’s involvement and where they started out?
M: No. I don’t, because I don’t really analogize it to past movements. I think while it has certain vibrations from past movements, it is an original movement in that sense. I mean if you look at American history, there have been waves of reactions to immigration, many of it negative. When people came from southern Europe, that is Italy and parts of that part of the world, they were treated horrifically in the United States, you see. And they were relocated to the worst slums, the worst jobs, the worst living conditions. In the early part of the 20th century, you had what they called Zoot Suit riots in L.A., where Mexican-Americans were forcibly deported in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, because it was kind of white anxiety about brown men coming to the land of their ancestors; California, Texas. So this is not a new thing, but we’re looking now at the beginning of a movement, that’s beginning to have a vast impact, far beyond itself, because it’s younger. It’s smarter and it’s able to take lessons from past movements, and build movements outside of that. But I think it’s unique.
LF: Also I was wondering what your opinions were on Ethic Studies being made illegal in Arizona and the La Raza/Mexican–American Studies Program was shut down, and that even one of your books** was one of the books that has been banned in Tucson?
M: We’ll my first reaction is, thank you. I’m proud to be banned in Arizona. I love it! If it weren’t saying anything, then no one would dare ban it. The other thing is, the correct reaction to American history, is certainly not to ban other histories and run away from it. The real deal is that American history is more beautiful, more horrific, more wonderful and more terrible, than most of us would like to admit to know. That is actually a quote, not verbatim, but certainly in the spirit of James Baldwin. I read a book recently called, American Holocaust. It talks about how the invaders from Spain and from England came to the Americas, and created one of the most horrific holocausts in human history. That was the eradication of the indigenous people of the Americas. When we talk about holocausts, we’re usually talking about the destruction and the erasing of some six million people, during the period of the second WW, by the Nazis. We do not even think about the almost 100 million people who were exterminated to create what the Nazis called, lebensraum, or living will, for whites from Europe, because they were not white people, the eradication of these people is not considered a holocaust. It’s considered a gift from God.
LF: Like “manifest destiny,” right?
M: Right, so when we talk about manifest destiny, when we talk about what can only be called a holocaust to any fair-minded person, why is it illegal now in Arizona, or anywhere else to study that history? Because they don’t want you to know that history, because history, as Malcolm used to say, it’s best used to open up our minds. “History best rewards our research,” is his direct quote. When we learn about true history, it transforms how we see today, not yesterday. It affects our lives today, not yesterday. And that’s why they don’t want millions of Chicano kids, millions of black kids, and millions of white kids to know true American history.
LF: What advice would you gives as independent journalist, in terms of making sure we do everything in our power to get what corporate, mainstream media leaves out, and making sure we represent people properly?
M: Well, pay attention to peoples’ movements. Pay attention to peoples’ history. Pay attention to peoples’ struggle for justice of today. Those are the kinds of things that corporate media does not give to its “customers”. Only in America could they have sold the Iraq war for example, as weapons of mass destruction. Really it was “weapons of mass misinformation,” given to millions of people, by a corporate media that could care less that it was supporting a war. They were just supporting their corporate masters. They were supporting their advertisers. They were supporting the state, the government, and ratings. They were playing “patriotic” music. They were wearing flag lapel pins. They were doing everything but dressing up in uniforms, but perhaps that’s for the next war, maybe the one in Iran. The media serves a certain class. You have to understand that. Peoples’ journalism has to serve other interests. That is: peoples’ struggles, peoples’ true history, and enlighten to people as apposed to sell them out.
LF: So since we’re almost out of time I want to thank you again and let you know that we’re recording from the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective in the South Bronx.
M: Thank you Eric, and thank you Cori.
LF: The whole family hear gives you a shout-out and we’re starting a radical library in January. For April we’re going to be reading We Want Freedom***.
M: That’s what I’m talking about! It gives me great pleasure to hear that.
LF: That was our inspiration for journalism.
M: Thank you! Thank you, that’s a beautiful thing to hear. I wrote “We Want Freedom” for young people. So I know it’s a challenging read, but I put a lot in to it and I hope people read it, enjoy it, and pass it on… as “illegal” as it may be in Arizona.
LF: Well thank you so much, brother. We love you! Stay strong! We appreciate it.
M: Thank you, I love you too. Onamove! Long live John Africa! Viva —
LF: Hasta luego!