Your first thought was probably not– Rhode Island! Many of you are asking yourself, what continent is that on? I know better than most, because, yes, I grew up there. Abolitionist revolutionaries come from everywhere. I grew up on the shores of Narragansett Bay near the Annawamscutt Trail, Wampanoag territory. Some day, ask me to code switch to my “wicked thick” working class Rhode Island accent.
Join me. Save the date September 27-29th 2023. It is a worthy pilgrimage to the historic opening of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s archives. On the evening of September 27th at Brown University (Providence R.I.), join Angela Y. Davis, Johanna Fernandez, Pam Africa and Julia Wright for the opening keynote The Feminist Fight to Bring Mumia Home. You can also join by zoom– this event will be illuminating and fascinating. I will be there for the entire three-day symposium, staying nearby at my mom’s house. Join me as we stroll through the exhibits and attend the in-depth seminars.
As an investigative journalist, private investigator and attorney, I know there is always a backstory. Here is mine as it relates to the archives:
Many of you know that I first recorded/visited Mumia in July of 1992, and brought Live From Death Row out of prison in 1994. Mumia and I have been colleagues ever since.
Mumia Abu-Jamal sent the entire contents of his death row cell and his storage lockers to my home in Philadelphia on December 17th, 2011. It was everything he had kept through the decades inside. I will never forget opening the front door to 28 really heavy boxes. They filled the hallway and spilled into the living room. Those boxes contained all of the material that he could not take with him as he traveled across Pennsylvania from Greene County, coming from death row to life row and SCI Mahanoy. Mumia knew how valuable these materials were and are. We talked about it extensively before he shipped them, and he asked me to put money in his account so that he could ship them out to me.
I want to take a moment to extend our thanks to Johanna Fernandez and Brown University for finding these important and historic materials a home at the Pembroke Library archives at Brown University.
Come visit, or zoom in. You will be able to peer into Mumia’s creative process and see how Mumia penned his 13 books and literally thousands of radio commentaries. You may be able to touch the flex pen that he wore out handwriting his first 10 books. I bet he has kept his trusty plastic typewriter with him at SCI Mahanoy and will give it to the archives when he is free. You will see drafts of each book. You will see the thousands of postcards from France and around the world.
tools of revolutionaries.
You might see his drafts of music scales as he and his opera teacher Bariki Hall practiced. Mumia taught himself to write music, entirely by singing without ever touching an instrument. You will definitely see his “notebooks”. Mumia was never “allowed” to have more than 7 books in his cell at one time, (he had more but they often shook him down and made him send them out). He would create hundreds of notebooks over the years that meticulously outlined and pulled quotes with page numbers from every book he ever read! It is a library of Mumia Abu Jamal Cliff notes. That is how he was able to retain information for his further research, when he was not allowed a word processor, computer, or even a real pen: just the cartridge of the inside of a pen. Imagine not being able to keep a copy of the book you had written, because you had written more than 7 books and you were not allowed to keep more in your room. Over the years I has sent him dozens of copies of There is a River by Vincent Harding and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, just so he could re-read them, touch them have them even for a moment.
Mumia had never seen the paperbacks of his master piece written with Stephen Vittoria and published by Prison Radio Murder Inc, Empire, Genocide and Manifest Destiny. He had only seen a hardback, but when he was at the prison library, the librarian asked him if he would like to see a copy. They were available for other prisoners to check out on loan. He held them, like a baby. Turning them over, feeling the spine, the weight (and they are heavy – 500 pages). Mumia has served 41 years of a LWOP Life Without The Possibility of Parole at SCI Mahanoy. This Schuylkill County town name, comes from the Lenape Native American word “Maghonioy,” or “the salt deposits.”
Let’s delve together into what it means to be Mumia. A man who is willing to reach out to us, by radio commentary and through his writing, each and every day. He has never stopped growing, singing, and believing in a future for all of us. And believing in a future where he is free.
When We Fight, We Win
When We Love, We Win
When We Survive, We Win
Noelle Hanrahan, Esq. P.I.
Co Founder, Prison Radio