Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mick: This is Mick from the Colombia Encampment. It’s an honor to have you on here.
Your message was so powerful. We played the recording at the encampment. I guess I’m just wondering if you have any words of wisdom or advice for students going forward a we kind of think about the future and the future of our organizing work.
Mumia: I would just say this, that it is I who am honored by how Colombia students have really politically analyzed the situation and proceeded to act with grace, class, and class consciousness. And by that I say that many of the people who were charged with criminal offenses have refused to take deals unless those same deals were extended to the students from CUNY, the University of the City of New York. I know that Colombia is the premier university in New York and that CUNY is really a working class university. For Colombia radicals and students and protesters to take that position is profoundly noble and human, as is the actual work of protesting what can only be called geographical violence in Gaza, genocide. That’s a principled position, and you’re responding as human beings, feeling and sharing with the suffering people of the occupied lands that we call Gaza, that we call Palestine. So keep on doing the work you’re doing. You guys are walking along the right path of history. I admire you. You’re doing a great job.

Steph: Brother Mumia, may I ask a question?
Mumia: Yes.

My name is Steph Reed. I’m a grad student at Union Theological Seminary, and in preparing for this moment I read some of your work including “Message to the Movement.” In that, you talked about the importance of music in social movements and political struggle. My question for you in today’s context, in some ways similar and in some ways different, is about your thoughts on music, arts, culture, and spirituality in our current political climate. Could you speak more on that?

Mumia: Different times require different musics. And different musics exist in different periods and rhythms of history. You know, during the Civil Rights Movement the great Negro spirituals were used and transformed that movement. The Black Panther Party (a lot of people don’t know this) but the Black Panther Party during the Black Liberation Movement had their own band. They had a funk band and the name of it was The Lumpen, and they were fantastic! What they did was they took the great hits of that period, changed the lyrics, and kind of radicalized them. They were a great band, had great musicians, great singers, but not very many people heard them because they were rarely on radio. They would perform at Black Panther functions, mostly in Cali, and they were fantastic. This is a new period, this is a new time with a new technology. What that means is that you have access to music that you did not have back in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. So you’re going to be listening to different kinds of music. But every movement needs music to move people. Right? To give them validation, but also to project the stories and the spirit of resistance that is sometimes encoded in music. So find what turns you on, and turn that shit up.

Young woman student: Mumia, what did it feel like to speak to students at the encampments?

Mumia: It was wonderful. Wonderful. I felt something I haven’t felt in a really good long time. I felt like these encampments and protests were a throwback to the 60s. That was a long time ago, right? Back in the 60s people were protesting against the Vietnam War, the great imperial war of the United States against a third world country. This is not the same situation now, but it’s very similar because it’s settler colonialism against an imprisoned people. You know, people call Gaza an open-air prison. Never is that more clear than when people cannot escape the F18s, the bombs, the weapons of empire really being used against what is essentially an unarmed people. Ain’t no F14s in Gaza flown by Gazans, right? That’s not happening. It’s an imperial power play. So in that way the situation is similar, and I just had a wonderful feeling seeing students speak out against this kind of settler colonial violence. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. I felt energized.

Secía: Hi. May I ask a question?

Mumia: Please.

Secía: My name is Secía and I’m a student, a recent student at the MIT encampments and, again, just expressing so much gratitude that I’ve been able to be in this space. It truly is an honor. One thing I’ve been kind of thinking about and we talked a bit on the panel about the sustainability of these movements and, you know, how we’re all going to be able to to organize beyond this moment. I know you’ve participated in and born witness to many movements over the years, and some movements have their times when there’s kind of a flare up and more attention to them and a lot of energy, then sometimes things die down. Then things flare up, then they die down, and we’ve kind of had this same kind of cycle that we’ve seen in the past. So I’m wondering if you have any advice on how we can kind of think critically about how do we have sustainable movements, whether fighting against cooptation, fighting against new state tactics, or even just fighting against the natural ebb and flow of organizing if we’re not being intentional about it.

Mumia: Ok, what that takes is something that we do rarely see, and that’s to really organize. That means to talk about ideology, talk about how to resist the tactics of the state. Think about Occupy. Some of you probably don’t even remember Occupy Wall Street, haha. I do. And what people have forgotten is that these people were attacked, not just in the dead of night, but in the early hours of the morning when everybody was asleep, and the media turned off its cameras, and the police came in and beat people and intimidated people and ran them out. And that’s because they were occupying the most powerful entity in America: Capital! Wall Street! So who works for Wall Street? Well, the cops do. They will
use any tactic whatsoever to intimidate and break people, one from another. But the antidote to those tactics is unity – really talking with each other, listening to each other, and working to continue the unity of action that is rocking this country, and believe it or not, having repercussions around the world. People are studying this movement all over theworld, not just eggheads like me and Dr. Fernandez. People are studying it because it’s a moment of freedom amidst repression. So keep your voices loud and firm. Affirm your friendships with your comrades and brothers and sisters. And keep struggling because
you’re doing something incredibly noble for a people who cannot do it for themselves.

Young woman student: Mumia, thank you for coming to speak with us today. I’m going to ask my question real fast. Is there advice that you would give the student movement, like things we can do better. And where do you think the student movement is going?

Mumia: Well you know what? Because of your media (if Huey and Eldridge of the Black Panther Party had had the social media that you have, we might have won, haha.) But because many of you are journalists, citizen journalists, and you have access to thousands and thousands of people, you have your own media. You cannot rely on the corporate media. You know this. You have your own. And that means using your ability to reach out and touch people and tell them the stories of your daily lives, your daily work, so that people outside the circle of students and grad students can learn and hear and support the
work you’re doing, because what you’re doing is wonderful. I commend you all, whether you’re at MIT, whether you’re at Colombia or Penn or any university doing this kind of work. It will be difficult. It will be hard. It will be challenging. Sometimes it may be terrifying. But what you’re doing is wonderful. Never doubt that. I commend all of you, and I thank you for the work you’re doing.