Host: You’re at the People’s Forum in Manhattan. It’s organization-movement central, and you are the man of the hour right now. I’m going to pass you over to Dr. Robin Spencer who’s the host tonight.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Very well, thank you.
Dr. Robin Spencer: Welcome Mumia! We’re so happy to hear from you this afternoon.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Thank you Robin, how are you?
Dr. Robin Spencer: I’m good. I want to describe the scene maybe since you’re not here with us yet. There are about 80 of us in here from all walks of life. We have come in from the cold New York winter on a frigid day with Donald Trump as president of these United States, and we are here to hear more about your freedom, dreams, and the struggle, and how we can support you.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Excellent! Well, what you’re doing today despite this Arctic cold we’re experiencing, it’s a damn good beginning, because, the solution to repression and oppression is organization and movement-building. Those are the only real solutions. When people get together and organize and fight, that’s when change happens. When they don’t do that is when repression happens. You know, we need to think about this in fundamental ways, about force and counterforce, about repression and struggle against that. I think it was Frederick Douglas who said, “Without struggle, there is no progress.”
Dr. Robin Spencer: Right on, right on!
Mumia Abu-Jamal So, you know, you’re doing what you’re doing, and you’re doing what needs to be done. It seems to me that most of the people here are activists and organizers. Well I’m again, a “great black leader.” This is Kwame Toure, formerly known as Stokely Carmichael, who wrote the book Black Power: “Organize, organize, organize.” He ended every speech he ever gave in his adulthood with those words, and we must learn from that.
Dr. Robin Spencer: Definitely. Well, we’re here today in particular to find out about new developments in your case. We want to be informed so we can take the word back to the movements and communities that we’re accountable for. How are you feeling now with the potential of the doors opening?
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Well, you know, I think I’ve probably joked about this, but it’s not a joke because, damn it, ain’t funny. But this was probably the first time I’ve been before a state judge of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who was not paid by the FOP. That means something, you know. I want that to settle in your minds. He was a former life member of the FOP. And we know from the appeals from his decisions that we went to the Supreme Court and we complained about a man who would be later the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, we said he should remove himself and recuse himself. He said, “Well, if taking money from the FOP disqualified me from sitting here, then what about all the justices around me? At least four of them took money from the FOP, including me.” I didn’t know that until he wrote that in his opinion rejecting our call, but I was like, damn, maybe all of you need to remove yourself! But all of them were paid by the FOP because they said so, so, you know, the newest developments come from a judge who hears and decided based on what he heard as opposed to the kind of money that was being slipped into his pocket, and that’s a new development.
Dr. Robin Spencer: Definitely. And I want to say that we are in a room full of people who are long-distance runners in the movement to free political prisoners and prisoners of war, so I wanna acknowledge Pam Africa from the Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia, Johanna Fernandez. We have Glen Ford with us today who’s going to bring the word of radical journalism to us. I also want to acknowledge that we are in the People’s Forum. We are in the People’s Forum. So we have one of the organizers of this space [inaudible] to come and share some words with you and welcome you. Dr. Joseph Harris wants you to know that he’s in the house.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Joseph Harris, yes, right. Pam Africa, Glen Ford, all of you, welcome, thank you, on the MOVE!
Unknown: Well, we want to just say to Mumia and to all our comrades who are here today that doing this activity today is part of the long-term commitment that the People’s Forum and our collective have to the liberation of our people. We’re not doing this because we just want to defend Mumia. We do this because we believe in the same liberation process that Mumia believes in. And this is not a struggle for today, but a struggle for all our lives. When Mumia is out, we will be happy to receive him here for the ongoing party, but also for the continuing work to transforming our society. Thank you for having us here.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Well said, sir. Well said, thank you. You’re absolutely correct. The movement is, you know, a lifetime movement. I don’t think I really understood that when I was 15 and then in the black Panther Party, but you know, life presents opportunities to us and life teaches us and, you know, to quote the late Kiilu Nyasha, a Black Panther from New Haven who transplanted to California and spent most of her life in California: “Freedom is a constant struggle.”
Dr. Robin Spencer: Definitely. And I was a good friend of Kiilu Nyasha. Thank you for bringing her up. She was an advocate for all political prisoners, especially Hugo Pinell. I wanted to talk to you about what your freedom and what this movement to free you means to people who are struggling against mass incarceration. How can we connect that larger struggle to your struggle? We know it’s not an individual struggle.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: That’s right. Well, it’s not an individual struggle. It’s an institutional struggle. It’s a systematic struggle. And in order to understand it, we’ve got to go through the fundamentals. How did this thing come to be? And back in the 1990s, right, when we were in the throws of the first Clinton administration, Bill Clinton sent billions of dollars to states and gave them billions of dollars to build prisons, not to build homes, not to send people to school, not to teach them trades or professions that they could raise their families with other than prison guards, because that’s what they feel. And, you know, the old saying is if you build it, they will come, well, if you build it, they will send them there. And that’s where mass incarceration was constructed on a level and scale that those of us who were fighting in the sixties and seventies could not comprehend, right? We used to talk about the system in the sixties and seventies as fascistic and racist, all of those things. But if you look at the prison population in that time, right, it’s probably 300,000 people, a high number to be sure, all across the country in prisons. Now we’re looking at millions of people and then millions more held on probation and parole for most of their lives as the Meek Mill case showed you. We are looking at something monstrous right now, right? Well, it was built by a democratic president who was what we called a neoliberal. He did everything but set the bricks, right? Because when you send money to the states to build prisons, what do you think they gonna do? They going to build prisons, and once they build it, what will they do? They’re going to stock them with human beings, right? And they’re going to create an industry, right? And that’s what they’ve done. That’s what they’ve done. And these things need to be brought down just like they were built up: brick by brick.
Dr. Robin Spencer: Okay, thank you. Thank you. We agree right on. Another connection that oftentimes is not made is this connection between immigrant detention and mass incarceration. Right now we’re in the midst of a devastating crisis, and I wanted to know if you could share a few words with us on the crisis of immigration as you see it happening in the United States. Your analyses are always so incisive.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Well, you know, what we’re looking at when we look at the immigrant situation is really the promulgation of fear, right? You see it at the very top in the office of the president of the United States, but you also see it in various parts of the country, and why is this so, why? The people that are being made scapegoats and who are demonized tend to be people from Latin America, from Spanish America, brown people. And that’s the crux of the opposition against them, because the truth of the matter is, in the last few years, the birth rate has reversed and white people feel under pressure because one of the fastest growing populations in the United States are brown people, are Latinos, right? And that terrifies them, for Latinos, many of them, especially if they’re Mexican Americans, they’re returning to the lands that were stolen from them during when Lincoln was in Congress, right, and a false war was waged against Mexico to steal almost half of that nation and make it part of the United States. There’s something like 13, 14, 15 states in this country that, 200 years ago, were Mexico. Well, they’ve not forgotten that, so that’s where all of this border nonsense is really coming from, and it’s being expressed in white terror, white terrorism—remember what was happening in the south about a year ago—and white fear, and it’s being directed at brown people. We should oppose that, resist that, and fight that as hard as we can. There’s a historical reason for that. And I want to say this as clear as I can. When black people united with Indians in Florida, in the south, and they got attacked by the United States of America—remember the Seminoles had at least two, maybe three wars against United States—this was a tribe that took an African people and made them their brothers and sisters and parts of their tribes and clans. Those who survived those wars, where did they go? They went to Mexico, because Mexico, a hundred years before the United States, had outlawed slavery. You know, there was a black president in Mexico almost a century before the Barack Obama thing happened in the United States. So the people of Mexico are our brethren. They’re part of us, and they fought for Indian freedom and African freedom before that became popular during the 1960s and so forth. So history repeats itself.
Dr. Robin Spencer: Thank you. It’s so powerful. I love the way that you bring in history. Oftentimes those, the connections between … Well, we have one minute. They don’t know that we have many minutes left here today.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Thanks to you all, that is so true.
Dr. Robin Spencer: Yes, and we are so excited. Thank you so much for your continued love for the people. Thank you for your commitment. We are with you. What can we take away in just 10 seconds as we move from this room into our movements, into our families, into our lives, what takeaways should we take?
Mumia Abu-Jamal: That resistance works, that organizing works, that movements work, and to quote John Africa: “When you’re committed to doing that which is right, the power of righteousness will never be true.” I thank you, I love you all, on the MOVE, long live John Africa, revolution forever, freedom is a constant struggle.