My name is Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. Mumia Abu Jamal’s deep and resilient voice has been silenced and censored! I will read to you one of his illuminating commentary’s written on the occasion on Nelson Mandela’s visit to Philadelphia, in 1993. Its message is still irrelevant today. These words were hand written in a solitary confinement cell, by a man waiting execution! Mumia begins with a passage from Mandela’s speech that quotes Fredrick Douglas. What to a Prisoner is 4th of July.
“At a time like this scorching irony, not convincing argument is needed. Oh had I the ability and could I reach the nation’s ear. I would today pour out a stream of bitting ridicule, blasting reproach withering sarcasm and stern rebuke. For it is light that is needed but fire, it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened, the conscience of the nation must be roused, and the propriety of the nation must be startled. The hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. What to the American slave is your 4th of July? I answer a day that reveals to him, more than all the other days in the year. The gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham, your boasted liberty an unholy license, your national greatness swelling vanity. Your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless. Your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impodence. To the slave your shouts of liberty and equality are hollow mockery. Your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity. Are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety and hypocrisy! A thin veil to cover up crimes, which would disgrace a nation of savages! There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, then are the people of these United States at this very hour”
end quote Frederick Douglas on July 5, 1852. July 4, 1993 saw African national congress president Nelson Mandela in Philadelphia quoting this Fredrick Douglas speech, as he accepted the Liberty medal along with South African State president F. W. DeKlerk. If the joint presence of Mandela and DeKlerk were not enough to stir controversy, then the award presenters Philadelphia mayor, Ed Rendall, and U.S president Clinton certainly stoked controversy amongst radicals. Hundreds of black Philadelphians, while certainly admireres of Mandela took umbridge at DeKlerks presence. Although we the awarders are known as we the people Philadelphia. The actual everyday people of Philadelphia had little say in choosing the Liberty medal awardees and less say in rejecting the widely unpopular honoree DeKlerk. The choice of Liberty medalists was not made by the people, but by corporate Philadelphia, big business. Why? Why were the people many of whom have worked for more than twenty years against apartheid and for Mandela’s release frozen out? Their protests against DeKlerk all but ignored! When the African majority takes power in South Africa, U.S big business wants friends there. If one reads the names of corporate sponsors of the Liberty medal, it sounds like roll call of the chamber of commerce: Unisons Corp, Pennsylvania Bell and the like. Mandela, who has not voted in the government election in seventy four years and DeKlerk President, by way of election counting only minority non black votes, has only the hope of Liberty no more! The white majority in South Africa has done its level best to stiffle African Liberty for three hundred years. The African majority even after the awards still isn’t free.