Several years ago, I read a masterful and remarkable book titled Hammer and Hoe by the acclaimed historian Robin Kelley. It’s a fascinating history of black workers in the 1930s working in Alabama who tried to organize unions and get a few pennies more for their labor, often agricultural work.
The landowners, angry that their labor wanted more pay, unleashed really terrorizing repression, state violence against these people, often accomplished with the open aid of groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
I thought of that dismal history when I heard just recently of cops beating, clubbing, and breaking bones of UCal grad students who are only striking to get the ability to pay their rent. This is especially problematic due to increasing high rents in California.
Obviously, one can’t equate the grotesque racist violence visited upon the black workers during the thirties. Yet what unites these two periods is the presence of state violence against people ttruly trying to live better lives. In their case, trying to pay rent. A movement is growing in Cali, a movement that may grow to touch all of us.
From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.