The Struggle and the Speech: Mumia Speaks to the Students

Police Censorship Defied!

Mumia Speaks at Goddard College

But FOP Attacks On Mumia Escalate

October 7th, 2014 — World renowned revolutionary journalist and author Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent political prisoner known as the “voice of the voiceless,” was heard loud and clear Sunday at Goddard College, his alma mater. Though confined in a Pennsylvania state prison for life without parole for a crime he didn’t commit, Mumia’s recorded commencement address was heard because Goddard College students, having invited him to speak, defied the demands of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and right-wing politicians and media that his address be cancelled and he be silenced. Goddard’s Interim President, Robert Kenny backed up the students.

Mumia’s thought-provoking address was deeply moving, philosophical and generously considerate of the students he was addressing, as he urged them to work for progressive change. It was met with a standing ovation. (Credit: Thinkstock)As Noel Hanrahan, of Prison Radio, the organization that records and makes available Mumia’s commentaries, said in a report from Goddard:

“As I stood in the front of the packed Haybarn Theater, the electricity, tension, and courage was palpable. The students were graceful, celebratory, and committed. Faculty College Chair Dr. Herukhuti and College President Robert Kenny stood up to the death threats and pressure and defended their and Mumia’s right to free speech.” (see “Educate to Liberate,” at prisonradio.org)

Mumia’s presentation at Goddard is reprinted below in its entirety.

Students Defy the Mudslide of Lies

To make this speech happen, Goddard students and the College’s President had to withstand a veritable mudslide of endless lies and innuendo against Mumia. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the leading cop “union” in the US, blasted Goddard College for its failure to cancel Mumia’s presentation, and denounced Mumia as “a remorseless killer who murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.” The Vermont Troopers Association (Goddard College is in Vermont), and the PA Department of Corrections chimed in with similar denunciations, though the Corrections Department head John Wetzel was forced to admit that he couldn’t deny Mumia’s right of free speech, much as he would have liked to.

Perhaps the most vile and opportunistic attack came from PA’s junior Senator, Patrick Toomey, a right-wing Republican who opposes abortion rights and government regulation, sucks up to the barons of finance capital, and undermines public schools with support for privatization and charters, among other things. Toomey’s letter to Goddard’s President fairly reeks of the worst falsehoods about Mumia’s case, that he “never expressed any regret for his heinous crime” (he always maintained his innocence), that multiple witnesses saw him “shoot multiple bullets into Officer Faulkner’s back, chest and face” (all witnesses who claimed to see the shooting either admitted they lied under police pressure, or were discredited later for lying), and that “three other eyewitnesses heard Abu-Jamal brag that he had shot Officer Faulkner” (a total after-the-fact fabrication by cops and prosecutors, later admitted to be a lie by the civilian so-called “witnesses”).

Toomey even threw in the total fabrication that Mumia had “smirked” at Faulkner’s wife Maureen in court when Faulkner’s bloodied shirt was displayed—Mumia wasn’t even present in court at that time, having been exiled by the racist judge from his own trial!

The Worst May Be Yet To Come

Something even worse than Toomey’s lying rant is now being prepared. Philadelphia cops had the nerve to hold a vigil at 13th and Locust in Philadelphia, the site of the shooting of Officer Faulkner, which was most likely a police hit on one of their own (evidence shows that Faulkner was talking to the Feds about the famously rampant corruption of cops with the mob in city center Philadelphia). And a group of police officers holding pictures of Daniel Faulkner lined the entrance to Goddard on the day of Mumia’s address.

This sort of political mobilization of police has mushroomed repeatedly around Mumia Abu-Jamal (and others such as American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, also in prison for a crime he didn’t commit), and a major escalation is now in the works. Egged on by the FOP cops in PA, suddenly there is a proposed law in the Pennsylvania legislature designed to silence political prisoners like Mumia. As the Philadelphia Enquirer snarled,

“A day after Mumia Abu-Jamal addressed graduates of a Vermont college, a [PA] House committee advanced a bill to give the family of the police officer he was convicted of killing a way to shut him up.”

This blatantly unconstitutional bill would let crime victims or their relatives seek injunctive relief “if the criminals that harmed them seek publicity from the crime in any way.” The bill’s author, Republican Mike Vereb, said it would allow crime victims or prosecutors “to bring a civil action to halt conduct by an offender if it causes the victim or the victim’s family severe mental anguish.” (Philadelphia Enquirer, 06-7 October 2014)

Silencing Mumia Has Long Been the System’s Goal

These outrageous attacks on Mumia’s free speech rights, and callous misrepresentations of the facts of Mumia’s case are not an accident: they are part of a long-standing, orchestrated attempt to silence Mumia, if not by the death penalty—that failed—then by other means. This police-driven system is determined to defend its frame-up of a victim of police racism, corruption, and murder (including the attempted murder of Mumia himself by police, and the murder of their own, which was likely Faulkner’s actual fate).

In 1994, after months of recordings by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio, and several on air promotions by National Public Radio for “All Things Considered,” NPR executives abruptly cancelled Mumia’s “Live From Death Row” series of commentaries. NPR cancelled the planned series following an attack on the floor of Congress by then Senator Bob Dole, following an intensive lobbying campaign of lies by the FOP. Mumia’s commentaries were later taken up by Democracy Now, on Pacifica Radio, although the carefully recorded commentaries due to air on NPR remain locked in their vaults—silenced, by public radio! (See the book, All Things Censored, Seven Stories Press, 2000).

Oakland School Board Capitulates to Police Censorship

Earlier this year, the FOP struck again with an attack on the Oakland School system for a web site called “Urban Dreams,” which consisted of course material posted by teachers, and included one curriculum that compared the suppression of M.L. King’s last year of anti-war and other radical commentaries with the suppression of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s writings. Fox News snapped to attention with an on-air denunciation of the Oakland School Board, which was valiantly opposed by Johanna Fernandez of Educators for Mumia (EMAJ) in a Fox interview. Next, the School Board itself snapped to attention and took down the entire site (containing much course material from numerous teachers). Oakland teachers continue the struggle to reverse this atrocity of police censorship of the schools.

At bottom, these attacks on Mumia are an attempt to shore-up the fragile facade of the whole criminal “justice” system, which uses frame-ups, mass incarceration, militarization of police, and outright murder of black and Latino youth as the first line of defense of a racist, capitalist system. Just as it was (and still is) during the rise of the labor movement, these attacks are directed against the masses—all of whom are potential suspects and revolutionaries.

The Truth that Unravels the Lies

Today, FOP, media outlets like Fox News, and politicians of both capitalist parties are desperate to rescue the system from the bad publicity of police murder of young black and Latino males, such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa CA, and so many others. But, tagged from the beginning as a revolutionary danger to the system, Mumia Abu-Jamal stands for all these victims as a conscious and vocal survivor of every lie and injustice that could be thrown at him. To us, Mumia is a symbol of the truth that unravels all their lies.

The growing police state in the US is an essential part of an inherently oppressive and exploitative capitalist system, which is now increasingly on edge about its own survival. Officially sanctioned police review boards, petitioning the Justice Department for redress of grievances, and other reformist measures do not cut it. Working people and the oppressed must fight back with whatever means are available—photographing police in the act of crimes and abuses has proven useful. The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal uniquely sees action by the working class—such as the West Coast port shut down by longshore workers to free Mumia in 1999, and the unauthorized teach-in on Mumia and the death penalty held by Oakland teachers in the same year—as the way forward in the struggle to free Mumia, and others like him.

For the most thorough and up-to-date analysis of the fraudulent case against Mumia Abu-Jamal, see Rachel Wolkenstein, “The Issue Is Mumia Abu-Jamal: Innocent and Framed” found at http://www.rachelwolkenstein.net/

Rachel Wolkenstein, political activist, attorney and friend of Mumia Abu-Jamal since 1987. Co-counsel during post-conviction proceedings and evidentiary hearings from 1995-June 1999, in charge of the defense investigation. Most recently, Wolkenstein was legal consultant for Manufacturing Guilt, produced by Stephen Vittoria and Prison
Radio. Mumia


Transcript of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Goddard College Commencement Speech
10/4/14

Dear Fellow Goddard-ites, Students, Graduates, Parents, Professors:

I thank you for your kind invitation to join you in voice today. I’ve been away from Goddard College perhaps longer than most of you have been alive.

I last walked on campus during the late 70’s. But although it was undoubtedly quite a long time ago, it still sits in memory, and sometimes even visits in dreams of the funky atmosphere that suffused the campus like a cloud of exhaled marijuana smoke. What really moved me however, was the green life, the abundance of grass, trees standing like ancient sentinels. The majestic mountains of Vermont which possessed a beauty that was, to a guy from the city, simply breathtaking. I remember with crystal clarity walking through woods back to our dorms, Third World Studies, and feeling pure rapture in the presence of those trees. How many centuries had those trees stood on this earth? My mind looked back to Indians who must’ve trod through these very same woods; my steps touching the ground that once crunched under their moccasined feet. Not only have these surviving remnants of their once great numbers been vanished from the land of their fathers, but the reverence with which they held these lands, their collective embrace of Mother Earth, has been vanished as well.

That living immensity, more sacred than anything built by man, has never left me and rises up like a phoenix whenever I think of the campus. But of course what really matters here is not my experience, but yours. This is your commencement and as such, I will dwell on the world that you are about to enter into – in habit, and true to Goddard’s founding ideals, hopefully transform.

As we all know Goddard is rightfully famous for its non-traditional teaching methods focus. Here students stand at the center of the educational endeavor and they are urged and expected to follow that vibe in their hearts. That which gives them passion to determine not just what they will study, but how those studies can have impact and meaning in the larger society – Y’know, this aint a cookie cutter school. Goddard, deeply influenced by the ideas of John Dewey (1859- 1952), strives to reach that happy and singular medium between the teacher and the taught. With one exploring with the other how best to achieve a meaningful resolution to questions that arise in the life of the mind. Quoting Dewey: “Education is not preparation for Life. It is Life itself.”

Dear graduates, never have words such as these been truer to the hour that is upon us. For the nation is in deep trouble – largely because old thinking both domestically, and globally, has led us into the morass that the nation now faces. Which may be encapsulated by references to place names that ring in our minds: Gaza, Ferguson, and Iraq – again! These are some of the challenges that abide in the world, which it will be your destiny to try to analyze and resolve. As students of Goddard you know that these challenges are not easy, but they must be faced and addressed.

The Brazilian scholar Paulo Freire, and his groundbreaking Pedagogy of the Oppressed posits the power of literacy to transform psychology, to deepen and broaden ones place in the world. Moreover, when one seeks to interrogate ones radical beliefs, it draws one deeper into contact with the meaning of social change and social transformation. One is changed; the prerequisite to social change.
Goddard, because of its size and orientation, has given students the time and attention to find the focus to answer questions that few other places have even dared to entertain. In many ways it is issues such as these that make Goddard, Goddard. Questions of power, of politics, of race, of gender, of place. Questions about where one stands in the world, and how to move, act, interact in a world awash in complexity. Essentially how does a young person, or for that matter even an older one, looking at the vast wide world with a quiet sense of terror have a voice amidst that monstrous din? How does she find that voice that can create space to think? To be? To grow?

We know that it must come from the place within – that which moves you, that which stirs you. That which is your truest, deepest self. Goddard, unlike most such institutions of higher learning, quietly asks that you listen to and interrogate that voice, and when appropriate, amplify it. For who knows? Within that deepest you may dwell the very voice that is resonating within the nation if not the very world itself. Here social change and social transformation forms the raison d’etre of Goddard.

We need new questions for the world of the 21st century. But more importantly we need new answers. We live in a world where massive wars can be launched by rumors and innuendo. Where the material interests of corporations are superior to the interests of working people, and remember – corporations are people – so sayeth the Supreme Court. Where the ecological threats to fresh water supplies, clean air, and the environment in American cities, pulls challenges that seem beyond arcane.

Did I not say that we need new thinking? The present social, political, ecological and global course is, to say the least, unsustainable. Perhaps some of you, new graduates of Goddard, will think up ways to forestall some of the challenges facing the living and generations unborn.

I noted earlier my reverie in the woods of Goddard that exquisite freshness and the wintery air, the nighttime respiration of hundreds of magnificent evergreen trees has refreshed my mind even when miles and decades away from Goddard’s sweet cool earth. Our cities, built during the heights of the industrial age and now engulfed in post-industrial ennui badly need a greening. Areas should be set aside where children and mothers can breathe and remember air loaded with freshness delivered by green life, not air conditioned. Think of the myriad of problems that beset this land and strive to make it better. That’s Dewey’s vision, and Goddard’s.

Let me say something that I’ve never said before. When I came to Goddard, I was intimidated. Although teachers and adults told me that I could do the work, I rarely believed them. I felt woefully unprepared. But guess what? Goddard gave me confidence and I never lost that feeling. When I returned to Goddard many years later, I was a man on Death Row, with a date to die. I was able to transfer credits from Continuing Education and my final paper utilized the writings of Franz Fanon and Ignacio Martín Barό, to examine the concepts of both in liberation psychology and liberation theology. Only at Goddard. Only at Goddard!

Goddard reawakened in me my love of learning. In my mind I left Death Row to travel to France, where Fanon studied psychiatry. And on to Blida hospital, north of Algiers, where he practiced and later joined the Algerian revolution. By studying Martín Barό, I traveled to El Salvador, where he worked as a priest and psychologist, teaching literacy to peasants when the nation groaned under military terror, supported by El Norte, the U.S. Empire. Who were these figures? Well, Fanon was born in the Caribbean Island Martinique, then a colony of France. When he witnessed the oppression of the Arabs in Algeria he felt compelled to join the revolution on the side of what he called ‘the wretched of the earth.’ Ignacio Martín Barό was among six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper and her daughter slain by the U.S. trained Atlacatl Battalion, a notorious Salvadoran death squad.

Goddard supported those “trips abroad,” if only in the mind, and I thank the school and many of my friends and alums there immensely for opening a door closed for decades. Goddard allowed me to really study what interested and moved me – revolutionary movements, and through that doorway – history, psychology, politics, and of course economics. In one of the most repressive environments on earth, Death Row, Goddard allowed me to study and research human liberation and anti-colonial struggles on two continents: Africa and Latin Central America. I thank you for that grand opportunity.

For you graduates, your studies – visits to lands beyond your own – were done to give you both insights and confidence to work in the world, to try to create social change. Your job isn’t how to get a job. It’s to make a difference. I thank my friends at Goddard for inviting me back.

If it’s done for you half of what it’s done for me, I assure you, you will have been well served. Now take what you know and apply it in the real world. Help be the change you’re seeking to make.

I thank you all.

For the class of 1996, Goddard, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Voice recording of this speech is available at:
http://www.prisonradio.org/media/audio/mumia/transcript-mumia-abu-jamals-goddard-college-commencement-speech

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