Strategizing for Mumia
Critical Thinking for MUMIA
On 8/9/08 we had a Town Hall meeting for the MOVE 9 and Mumia in Philly. Unfortunately, I, like many others hit traffic and only made it to the second part on Mumia. The room was crowded with such good people. I was so happy because I felt like I really had a chance to speak, at least for a minute, with pretty much everybody.
Here are the minutes of the meeting:
Summarization of key Campaigns:
New NY Times Ad highlighting Ambro's dissenting opinion (sponsored by EMAJ)
Letter writing campaign to John Conyers (and possibly others) demanding a judicial review into Mumia's case (sponsored by NYCFMAJ)
Reinvigorating public figures support (such as E.L. Doctorow).
Targeting Juan Gonzalez and Bob Herbert to use their public media position's to educate about Mumia's case.
Strategic media campaign highlighting Ambro's dissenting opinion (sponsored by Journalists for Mumia).
Day after Demonstration in the event of a decision on Mumia's appeal.
Massive Civil Disobedience organized by participants on a need to know basis.
Calendar of upcoming events to support and organize (sponsored by ICFFMAJ).
Building for international day of action on Dec. 6th. We will push for a week of events to follow, specifically on Dec. 9.
Seeking commitments from cities internationally and nationally to hold solidarity events on Dec. 6.
Seeking commitments from organizations internationally and nationally to sponsor Mumia events between now and Dec. 13 (the end of the Dec. 6-13 week for Mumia).
On Dec. 6th coordinating media (such as radio) to commit to a day of Mumia related programming.
Detailed account of meeting:
At 1199C, in Philadelphia, a panel convened to discuss the recent decision in Mumia's case and how the movement can strategically build toward his release.
Bahsiymah moderated a discussion between Johanna Fernandez, a professor from Drexel (?) and member of Educators for Mumia, Mark Taylor, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and founder of Educators for Mumia, Dr. Suzanne Ross, co-coordinator of New York Coalition to Free Mumia Abu Jamal and longtime revolutionary, and Monica Morehead, (president? Chairperson?) of International Action Center, along with feedback from supporters in the audience.
[I was jotting notes until Suzanne asked me to formally copy the minutes. Unfortunately, due to that, my notes become much more detailed when she begins to speak.]
Johanna Fernandez made a compelling argument for a change in consciousness. Not only do we individually need to work on rejecting the complacency and tolerance for injustice that plagues us, but we need to work on national outreach to truly and fundamentally educate others about Mumia's case, and how it can teach us to be assertive in our work for true justice. She gave an example of how recently Desmond Tutu visited Mumia, behind plexiglass, in a concrete cell, and was outraged that Mumia was shackled. He then wrote the prison asking what possible threat Mumia could pose behind so many walls that he needed to further be shackled? Since that time the prison has discontinued shackling death row inmates during visits. Johanna pointed out that many people have visited Mumia in the twenty plus years before Tutu's visit. Our complacency and acceptance of such brutality causes us to often not even notice things like Mumia being shackled behind plexiglass, insult added to injury. Radical reconceptualizing of our own power is necessary to create the campaign that brings Mumia home.
Mark Taylor: Among other illuminating points and contributions, Mark offered that he would love to see small groups of people within the movement gathering to have brainstorming sessions about the characters involved in the obvious conspiracy behind Mumia's incarceration. Coming up with those who are concretely in power, names, positions, etc. can be potentially very useful in upcoming campaigns.
Mark also created an incredibly useful flyer outlining Judge Ambro's dissent. Find the link at http://www.emajonline.com/.
Suzanne Ross: The movement needs to demand and investigation into these courts. They have changed their own rules. Despite the court's continual change of precedent, the movement has our own precedents: in 1995 we demanded a civil right's investigation. In 2000 we built on this.
Suzanne then offered several concrete and dynamic proposals to the group:
A letter writing campaign demanding judicial review in Mumia's case initially targeting John Conyers. Perhaps we will extend the campaign to include more broadly the Congressional Black Caucus, other black leaders, and other political leaders. NY Coalition is creating a model letter at freemumia.com and will also post contact information so that people can easily plug into this campaign.
On a related note, on www.freemumia.com, people can read a powerful letter written by Sundiata Saadiq, explaining commitments made by the Congressional Black Caucus, NAACP, and other black leaders to the Free Mumia movement and their failures of accountability.
We need public figures to speak out. In 1995 we had many, including E.L. Doctorow. Many of us have connections we rarely consider. It's time to exhaust every possible possibility. Contact public officials and demand accountability to the Mumia movement.
Media. Strategically targeting Juan Gonzalez, who knew Mumia. Mumia campaigned for Juan to become a member of the National Black Journalists Association at a time when the membership was exclusively Black. Juan now has a column in the Daily News and is co-anchor on Democracy Now. We need to pressure him to write and speak about Mumia's case.
Also, Bob Herbert at the NY Times. [I believe he published a review of J.P. O Connor's recent book on Mumia?]
Suzanne suggested Educators for Mumia contact thinkers like Cornell West. We need to force the media to do more than it's doing.
On a related note, during the following discussion, Hans Bennett, of Journalists for Mumia, informed the audience that after a successful campaign of getting Matt Lauer on the Today Show and some print journalist to discuss the Polakoff photos, they will now campaign on getting media attention on Ambro's dissenting opinion.
Bill Bachmann briefly took the mike to propose a day after demonstration in the event of a further ruling from the courts. He reiterated to the audience that there are still two ways in which Mumia could be murdered. Firstly, the State could convene a new penalty phase hearing and reinstate the death sentence. Secondly, the State could appeal the current sentence of life in prison without a penalty phase hearing.
Over the next six weeks there could be a further decision and the death penalty is not at all out of the question. We could begin publicizing a location and time for a day after demonstration and encourage other organizations to endorse and join us.
If the State takes no further action in Mumia's case the life in prison sentence would stand, barring total political upheaval in Pennsylvania. This is a real possibility, so we should think about how to create the conditions for Mumia's release.
Suzanne spearheaded a dialogue that many audience members echoed to really create feasible and meaningful ways of incorporating High School age students into the movement. Suzanne has drafted a curriculum that meets state requirements, maintains respectability and legitimacy while introducing Mumia's case to the classroom. It incorporates videos and other media and can be broached from many possible angles, such as a Social Studies course on the Civil Rights or a Government course on the Constitution. She is working with school administrators and teachers to hopefully begin offering this curriculum in September. Any interested educators should contact her at email@example.com
Massive Civil Disobedience. We do have examples in the Free Mumia movement to draw from, such as July 3rd, 1999 when over 100 people were arrested at the Liberty Bell and in 2000 when many were arrested at the US Supreme Court. If we are to pursue this strategy we need lawyers, activists, planning, and commitment. We are not sitting and waiting for Mumia to be released. We are being proactive and pursuing all means.
Bahsiymah: Bahsiymah reminded the group of people power, and the people's response to the incarcerated Revolutionaries ten years ago in forming Jericho and marching on the UN. At the ten year anniversary, October 10, 2008, we will do it again. All those in support of Mumia and the MOVE 9 should be in NYC to build and march in support of this event.
Pam and Hans also mentioned Critical Resistance's anniversary Sept. 26-28. Hans will be attending and there will be workshops on Mumia.
Bro Saadiq also mentioned the upcoming NAACP anniversary. They need to be pressured to uphold their resolution on behalf of Mumia.
Monica Morehead: Monica confirmed the International Action Center's steadfast support of Mumia. Mumia is a Revolutionary who links his case to the criminality of the system. There is a deepening crisis in this country that is causing people to question this system. There are two upcoming important demonstrations: the Democratic and Republican conventions. Tens of thousands of people will be there and we should have a presence there as well. As IAC has always done, they will provide taped messages for every protest.
Also, people are still confused about Yohn's decision and think that Mumia is now in general population. Despite Mumia's life in prison sentence he remains in solitary confinement on death row. Monica advocated for more fact sheets and grassroots campaigning in the community, on campuses, in union halls. She pointed to the recent examples of Jena 6 and Sean Bell. Black workers in NYC shut down the city in response to the police being acquitted for murdering Sean Bell. Pam added that we have pulled more people than were involved in both of those actions for Mumia. We can do it again.
Monica recommended using Dec. 9th as an international day of action. It's important to be in Philly on that day, but out of respect for the dedicated supporters who can't get to Philly, we will be asking for solidarity actions and commitment from around the globe, but ESPECIALLY nationwide within the U.S. We placed the emphasis on the U.S. in recognition of the uphill battle that often surrounds work on behalf of Mumia. The international community has shown such steadfast commitment, that is appreciated beyond words. Due to this ongoing support, we can put our focus on organizing nationwide, which is often much more challenging.
We should begin identifying which cities can have teach-ins, protests, and actions. A national day of coordinated action could potentially break the media blackout, or at least penetrate local medias.
At this time Attorney Leslie Jones, an extremely committed Mumia supporter, offered a related suggestion: a day of radio programming dedicated to Mumia. It's been done, in fact, WBAI's equivalent in Atlanta did a day of strictly Mumia programming which Leslie heard and has been involved ever since. A campaign to reach radio, perhaps in concert with the Dec. 9th actions, should be launched.
Leslie also brought up internet organizing, such as blogging, MySpace, and Facebook. We do have all these outlets in place, but she asked the audience how we can energize and really utilize these tools. The youth she works with were really galvanized by Michael Beyson.
Pam responded that both Michael Beyson and Reverend Al Sharpton had invited themselves to Town Hall meeting and neither showed. But, it's never too late. People should contact them and hold them accountable. Tell them to set a date and show up.
Pam continued that we have done everything we're supposed to do. We've appealed to every court. We've gotten written resolutions from every organization, such as the NAACP, and the CBC, demanding that they each take action in the case of Mumia Abu Jamal. Now comes the accountability. What have they done to honor their resolutions? Where are the churches who committed their support?
Attorney Safiyah Elijah [sp?] also wanted to attend but was caught in traffic with other supporters on the New Jersey Turnpike.
At this time members of the audience began voicing their suggestions. One brother encouraged bringing more artists into the movement.
Betsy Piette suggested extending the actions on Dec. 9th to a possible week of coordinated actions.
People also said it was time for another ad in the NY Times, this time highlighting Judge Ambro's dissenting opinion.
Johanna proposed civil disobedience at the end of September. She will be unable to spearhead this action, but suggested that Students for a Democratic Society, or other student groups, take on this responsibility. Also, with the recent police beatings of young black men there may be a deeper connection made between Mumia's case and the communities' reality.
At tonight's ICFFMAJ meeting we determined to set Dec. 6 as a date to begin building with. A save the date flyer will be forthcoming to use in grassroots organizing and outreach.
Also, we are building a database of organizations (with key contact people!) so we can begin reaching out and asking for contributions to this campaign. We are asking all sympathetic organizations to hold at least one (if not more) Mumia supportive events by Dec. 13. If you are a part of an organization, or know of a specific person (and have their contact information) at an organization, please contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Betsy at email@example.com, to coordinate this effort.
We are also seeking commitments from other cities to hold solidarity demonstrations on Dec. 6th. We have heard tentatively from several cities in Germany as well as Barcelona, Spain, and are seeking more. If you can commit to holding an event in your city and/or endorse please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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