Wednesday, July 27, 2016

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Mumia Abu-Jamal Calls From Prison to Comment on DNC, Black Lives Matter and Mass Incarceration

Mumia Abu-Jamal Calls From Prison to Comment on DNC, Black Lives Matter and Mass Incarceration

Wednesday, 27 July 2016 00:00 By Amy Goodman and Juan González, Democracy Now! | Video Interview
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As the Democratic National Convention enters its third day here in Philadelphia, one of the city's most famous native sons is observing and covering the proceedings from inside a state prison facility. Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal is a well-known prisoner and also an award-winning journalist whose writing from his prison cell has reached a worldwide audience through his Prison Radio commentaries and many books. Abu-Jamal was convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, but has always maintained his innocence. Amnesty International has found he was deprived of a fair trial. Mumia Abu-Jamal joins us on the phone from the SCIMahanoy state prison in Frackville, Pennsylvania, along with two of his supporters, actor Danny Glover and Larry Hamm, chair of the People's Organization for Progress.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, We are "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We're broadcasting from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, broadcasting outside that convention, so people who aren't credentialed can also join us on the set. We are broadcasting from PhillyCAM, from Philadelphia's public access TV station. Still with us, Larry Hamm, chair of the People's Organization for Progress, and actor, activist, director Danny Glover, as we turn now to a surprise guest who has just called in to Democracy Now! Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we are joined by radio from inside a state prison in Pennsylvania by Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former colleague of mine here in Philadelphia. We were both journalists together here in the 1970s, perhaps the most well-known political prisoner in the United States, an award-winning journalist, whose writing from his prison cell has reached a worldwide audience through his prison radio commentaries and many books. Abu-Jamal was convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, but has always maintained his innocence. Amnesty International has found he was deprived of a fair trial. Mumia Abu-Jamal joins us now on the phone from SCI Mahanoy state prison in Frackville, Pennsylvania.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Mumia.

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: Hola, hola, Juan, everyone, Larry, everyone. On a move.

LARRY HAMM: Hey, Mumia. On a move.

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: How you all doing?

DANNY GLOVER: All right, brother.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Mumia, we're interested in your thoughts on the convention occurring right here in your hometown.

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: It's a hell of a show. But it is a show. And, you know, I mean, it has writers and directors and stage managers. And it's a hell of a show. But never forget: It's just a show.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of not only what's happening on the inside -- I mean, we just broadcast today --

OPERATOR: This is a call from Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution Mahanoy. This call is subject to recording and monitoring.

AMY GOODMAN: That's the recording that comes on over the call. So, very quickly, Mumia, there's not only action on the floor of the Democratic convention, but thousands of people have been marching in the streets.

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: I think that's extraordinary. And I think that's where the real action is. While I said the convention is a show -- and who can doubt that? -- what's happening in the streets of Philadelphia, that's where the real story is, because those are the voices you won't hear throughout these four days of gala, extravaganza, lies and illusion, because you're hearing the pain of the people, the real concerns of the people, and, really, the desperation of the people to be heard by the rich and the powerful. You look inside, you'll see the powerful. You'll see millionaires, right? We have an incredible system right now -- millionaires running against billionaires. Well, who's not in that picture? And that's the 99 percent, the rest of us, you know.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Mumia, I'm sure you also monitored the Republican convention that occurred last week and Donald Trump emphasizing that he is the law and order candidate. And I'm --

OPERATOR: This is a call from Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution Mahanoy. This call is subject to recording and monitoring.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I'm sure that it reminded you of a person that we were familiar with right here in Philadelphia, the mayor of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo, who was the ultimate law and order candidate. For those of the younger generation who are not familiar with Rizzo, any similarities between some of the stuff that you remember from him and Donald Trump?

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: I mean, Frank Rizzo was authentically working-class. You know, he rose from the bottom of the police department to become its commissioner and then was elected mayor. And, you know, I thought about Frank Rizzo when I first heard that Donald Trump was running, and I had the same reaction when I heard that Frank Rizzo was running for mayor: I laughed. I'm like, here was a guy, high school dropout -- nothing personal, but it's true -- and here's a guy who is like dumb as rocks about everything other than making money -- or taking money, I should say. But, you know, I stopped laughing. You know, I thought about when Ronald Reagan ran for president, this grade-B actor. I laughed. I stopped laughing. And when you look at this guy, he's like Frank Rizzo with billions and billions of dollars in his pocket. But if you kind of turned off the screen and listened to the words, it's the same message: fear, fear, fear, fear of the other, fear of blacks. "And only I can save you." It's kind of a mixture of Frank Rizzo, Goldwater, Spiro Agnew, Dick Cheney, you know, and Hitler.

AMY GOODMAN: Mumia, you recently did a commentary on the killings of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas. Share your thoughts on this.

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: Well, I think one of the lines I used in that commentary is: Why should any of us be surprised? Whenever that happens, what you'll hear, especially among elite opinion on TV, is that this was a madman, this was a crazy person. If he was mad, how did he get accepted into the Army? How did he serve tours in Afghanistan or Iraq? Both of these men displayed military training that they acquired from the U.S. government and as they became killers in the Third World. When they came back to the United States and they saw their reality, do you think that drove them crazy? And, you know, something like 22 veterans commit suicide every day in America. And that's because of the horrible things they've been asked to do by empire abroad. And, you know, when you look at the condition of black people in America -- mass incarceration gone crazy, ghettos being policed as if it is Fallujah or a foreign nation -- why would you be surprised? They were trained by the state to do exactly what they did. And they did it.

AMY GOODMAN: Mumia, we are speaking to you from Mahanoy state prison. You used to be on death row for two decades. I think, ultimately, perhaps, though it was the judicial system, it was enormous international pressure that led to you being taken off of death rope. How is your health now? For a period of time, we didn't know what was happening -- diabetes, eczema. How are you being dealt with? How is healthcare there? What are you asking for?

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: Well, for a while there, I didn't know what was happening. I had diabetes. I had extreme high blood pressure. My skin was falling to my feet. I was itching in an insane degree. What we learned through this litigation is that I had hepatitis C, that to this date has not been treated. I've probably been given more treatment for my symptoms -- right? -- than perhaps any other prisoner in Pennsylvania. That's true. But I've yet to be treated for that disease.

And the state, in their latest brief to the court, said if the plaintiff prevails, it will cost the DOC over $600 million. I can't make this up. It's probably online. That's only because they claim there are some 6,000 men, and probably women, in the Pennsylvania system who have hepatitis C, and very few of them are treated, though, understand, we asked them -- the head of the DOC's medical division, Dr. Peter Noel, "How many people are being treated with these new antiviral medications?" And he said, "I don't know." We said, "Well, can you give us your best guess?" He said, "Hmm, five or six." Five or six out of 6,000.

What we also learned is they have a protocol. It was a secret protocol that we learned about at that hearing, that men and women who have hepatitis C must wait until something called esophageal varices are detected. That's when you're bleeding from your esophagus out of your mouth, which means, of course, that your liver is, for all intents and purposes, dead. That's why you're bleeding out of your mouth, because you can't process -- your liver can't process your blood. It's rejecting it. That's when you'll be considered to be put on a list for treatment. That's stage 4 liver disease.

AMY GOODMAN: Danny, any comments you want to share with Mumia Abu-Jamal?

DANNY GLOVER: Well, first of all, I was just thinking about his health. And essentially -- and I think, for us to be practical, they're trying to kill him, right there, before our eyes. Certainly, his analysis on what has happened and what is happening here is right on point.

I was at an event at a church on Broad Street, where men and women were there. Particularly women were there. And certainly, it was for them and the voices of women. One of the women who was there, her father had been a political prisoner for 42 years. So, that's the place where everything is happening. CodePink had a sign saying "feminism, not militarism." They were promoting that. That's where the real convention is. They were the people who are still fighting, who want their voices to be heard. And our responsibility, the work that Larry does and the work that we have to do as progressives, is about that.

I was just thinking also about what W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in his 1953 reissue of The Souls of Black Folk, after 50 years, when he talked about how his thinking at that time was that the question of the century was race. The question of the century, he said, is still race. But what he didn't know then is that how people would be able to manage to live and to go on with their lives, go on with their lives in the midst of all of the pain, in the midst of all -- in the midst of all the wars. That's the thing that we have to consume ourselves with, in terms of whether it's the war in our cities or the war abroad or the destabilization of governments, etc., etc.

AMY GOODMAN: Mumia Abu-Jamal, I know we just have 15 seconds. Do you believe the issue of the 21st century, the problem of the 21st century, is still the color line?

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: I think it's the color line, but it's also the class line. We've just experienced a black president. But black Americans, in the words of Young Jeezy, for the most part, are still living in hell.

OPERATOR: You have one minute left.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for joining us, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Your last 20 seconds that we have for this broadcast?

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: I would urge anyone who has a computer or a way to acquireThe Nation of February 10th, 2016, the article by Michelle Alexander entitled "Why Hillary Clinton Doesn't Deserve the Black Vote." It is incredible. I thank you all. I love you all. Larry, a pleasure hearing you again, brother.

LARRY HAMM: It's good to hear you, Mumia.

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: Everybody, I love you. Thank you for this time with you. On a move.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much. Imprisoned former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, speaking to us from prison in Frackville, Pennsylvania. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Special thanks to Danny Glover and Larry Hamm and all the team that made this broadcast possible.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Juan González

Juan González co-hosts Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. González has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years and a staff columnist at the New York Daily News since 1987. He is a two-time recipient of the George Polk Award.

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on more than 1,100 public television and radio stations worldwide. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its "Pick of the Podcasts," along with NBC's "Meet the Press."

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Toyin Falola
Department of History
The University of Texas at Austin
104 Inner Campus Drive
Austin, TX 78712-0220
512 475 7224
512 475 7222 (fax)



The Civil Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, calls on the National Assembly to come clean on the various scandals continues to bedevil and distract her and continues to dent her image in the estimation of citizens.

CISLAC views the recent revelations by the erstwhile Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives as further exposure of the institutional fraud that has characterized the NASS over the years. We note that such practices have been going on for a long time as the NASS has been known, in the past, to in addition to padding the budget at the point of defence, made dubious inclusions of Constituency Projectsas well as have demanded and received inducement for sectorial allocation, the Fabian Osuji calls to mind. They are also known to have, at some time, alledgedly received or demand for gratifications in exchange for ministerial confirmation and extorted money from MDAs under the guise of oversight functions. 

We find this allegations coming at a time when issues of Senate Rules forgeries are still on-going as one scandal too many trailing the legislative arm and endangering integrity, confidence and honour that is crucial for the legislature to perform and deepen our democracy. The reference to occupants as Honourable and Distinguished is gradually becoming a mere appellation that is stripped of the attendant respect.
CISLAC expresses her disappointment at the belated revelations and allegations coming from the ousted Chairman as it has become an afterthought and renditions from a disgruntled and outplayed lawmaker who was at the forefront of defending the House when the allegations of budget padding were first made. This calls to question his credibility, patriotism and loyalty to the Nigerian people who remained silent when he had the opportunity to blow the whistle and now only speak because he has lost out from benefiting from the process.

We find the practice of Constituency Projects unnecessary, in conflict with the principle of Separation of Powers and a channel for legislative corruption and distraction which can be avoided by simply strengthening relevant institutions and systems for project implementation and service delivery.

CISLAC recalls that, in spite of repeated promises and express commitments from the President of the Senate and Chairman of the NASS to disclose the details of the budget of the Legislature, Nigerians are yet to have access to this information. We find it ironic that elected representatives are unwilling to make information on how funds appropriated from tax payers' money are allocated and spent, are made available to the citizens who elected them into office.

We note that these events are a product of failed recruitment process and flawed party processes that have resulted in the emergence of leaders who are unprepared to undertake the challenging art of governance in a diverse environment.

CISLAC laments such fraudulent occurrences in the budget processes have been made possible because the nation has abandoned the practice of developing viable Rolling Plans to underpin the budget process and the zero-budget approach and Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF) process envisaged under the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 have become either ineffective or completely collapsed, creating the loophole for corrupt practices.
CISLAC calls on the ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau and other related statutory bodies to undertake further inquest in the allegations with a view to carrying out in-depth and vigorous investigations within the framework of their enabling laws to get to the root of this matter and bring culprits to book where possible to serve as a deterrent for the future. This is because it is doubtful if the NASS could summon the required courage to investigate herself and sanction erring members and bring such people to book. 

We call on the National Assembly to take advantage of this latest revelation to undertake self-introspection and urgently rise up to cleanse itself and make efforts to redeem its image and reputation which is presently in its lowest ebb. We also call on them to revisit the issue of having members adhere to the Code of Conduct for members as a means of self-regulation of behaviour within their ranks.  CISLAC reminds them that the NASS is a major symbol of democracy and as representatives of the people, they should lead by example.
CISLAC calls for an independent audit of all previous Constituency Project allocations and expenditure to determine impact and value for money as a means of accountability to the Nigerian people.

We call on the NASS to disclose the details of her budget as promised, intensify capacity building for her members on the budget process and quickly pass the NABRO bill into law to provide professional support for the NASS on budget issues.  They should introduce a framework for Constituency Accountability for public participation as well as, working with the executive arm to establish a participatory budgetary process based on actual needs assessment and citizens' input

We call on Political Parties to reorganize and commence a process for leadership recruitment and internal party democracy that will facilitate the emergence of persons with integrity, patriotism and a mind-set of service, who will be adequately prepared to occupy leadership positions and lead Nigeria to meet the aspirations of her people and occupy her place among the Committee of Nations

Auwal Ibrahim Musa
Executive Director (CISLAC)

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USA Africa Dialogue Series - Professor Rasheed Yesufu

The sad news of the passing of Professor Rasheed Yesufu has just been passed to me by his daughter. Those who knew Prof. Yesufu would be greatly saddened by this news. Rasheed was what I always called him because he was a brother-in-law who became a good friend.  He was one of those rare souls sent to remind us that there is a purpose to life on this earth, a purpose we would discover if we were to embrace the virtues of decency and humility in spite of our brilliance, hard work and achievements.  Rasheed exemplified these virtues and was a very devout muslim who faithfully adhered to the rituals of the faith while also embracing people of all faiths. He was a peaceful, kind and gentle person.  

Rasheed did his doctoral studies at the University of Indiana and was my next door neighbor while we taught in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Benin in Nigeria. The 1980s Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), imposed on Nigeria by the West, dispersed Nigerian intellectuals and other middle class categories to various parts of the world.  Rasheed landed in a teaching position in South Africa while I came to the US. Rasheed later returned to Nigeria and taught at the Open University where he served as dean. Professor Yesufu concentrated his scholarship on East African poetry and his published essays are characterized by classical thoroughness, insightfulness and laconic expression. He was loved by students and colleagues. He will be missed most dearly.

Submitted by Professor F. Odun Balogun, 
Delaware State University, Dover, DE 19901; 302-222-6944   

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