Mumia 911

"we will stomp the earth, lift our voices,
write, sing, act and paint the walls"

By Michael Slate

Revolutionary Worker #1021, September 5, 1999

"Every generation should have a moral assignment, and one of ours must be justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal."

Ossie Davis, actor

"We are all about to be launched into a new century whose benchmark appears already to be disruption, pain, and acute anxiety about the trustworthiness of leaders and of life itself....Who do we want to go with us? The so-called wise ones who believe you can stop a war by dropping a bomb? Or do we want, instead, to be holding the hand of our brother who clearly loves us--Mumia Abu-Jamal?"

Alice Walker, writer

"I noticed the reflection in the Plexiglas, guards in the distance walking back and forth. The thought occurred to me that they were small blue men patrolling his forehead. Because after all that's what they mean to do, they mean to lock up his mind, they mean to execute his mind, his brain. It's his ideas they want to kill...."

Martin Espada, poet,
after he visited Mumia in 1997

My dear friend, the oh-so-fine jazz pianist Horace Tapscott, once said that artists "all through the ages, when laws and times have changed, have been part of it somehow or another and in some way or form. You've got to have a song. Got to have something to dance to. You've got to have something to build up your courage, or your belief in yourself." Art helps prepare the ground for the people to change the world--it is drawn from life but higher than life. We celebrate and contemplate, we laugh and cry, we are perplexed, angered, and enlightened, healed and challenged, we are attentive and raucous, and we emerge from the journey together changed. In that spirit I joined with artists from every arena for an unusual endeavor--Mumia 911: National Day of Art to Stop the Execution.

We are collectively committed to disturb the air with a day of powerful and beautiful art--to help birth the kind of atmosphere we need to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Hundreds of artists--from hip hop to Hollywood--have signed the call for the Day of Art which reads in part: "We will not accept the grossly unjust trial that sentenced Mumia to death because of his political beliefs...We will not stand by as they try to silence a journalist known to many as the `Voice of the Voiceless.' On September 11, 1999, we will stomp the earth, lift our voices, write, sing, act and paint the walls. We will create a culture of resistance to stop the killing of Mumia Abu-Jamal."

Checking the website for the growing list of events planned nationwide, I find that NYC will host two hip hop shows; Gil Scott-Heron will play the Knitting Factory; and people will funk, samba, rock and move to their own beat at clubs hosting Mumia 911 concerts. A major spoken word event will take place at the Nuyorican Poets Café with Jessica Care Moore, MuMs, Sarah Jones and many more. New York alone will host 14 visual arts exhibits featuring work by Laurie Simmons, Laurie Anderson, Renee Cox, Kiki Smith, Fred Wilson, Bill Viola and many others. In Los Angeles, Michael Datcher, Jerry Quickley and other poets will dedicate a round-robin poem to Mumia at 12:01--the hour that many executions take place. The ArtSpeaks 1999 concert in Watts will bring the "Voice of the Voiceless" home to the voiceless--with an all-day festival featuring Ozomatli, Blackalicious, Jurassic 5, Cut Chemist, Oscar Browne Jr., and more. A "Matter of Life and Death" reading of Mumia's works will feature Edward Asner, Rene Auberjonois, Roscoe Lee Brown, Susan Anspach, Lou Myers, Ed Begley, Haskell Wexler, and the Watts Prophets. At Dartmouth College, the African Grove Institute for the Arts will host a reading of '60s revolutionary plays. In San Francisco a free concert in Dolores Park features Michael Franti, Digital Underground and the Coup. Events are planned in Minneapolis, Chicago, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, Asheville NC, Maine, Berlin, Germany, and more. Jackson Brown, The Wailers and others are dedicating concerts around the country to Mumia. Clubs, museums, theaters and other venues will display the Mumia 911 poster, a beautiful work of art created for the Day of Art by Malaquias Montoya. And a national radio PSA has been produced by Fab 5 Freddy.

With September 11 coming on fast we can feel the ground rumbling beneath our feet, promising a burst of art across the country for Mumia 911. We can also feel the hot breath of the enemy--with their lying media and "art police" intimidation. But as the letter from members of the 911 Advisory Board said: "We will create a culture of resistance to stop the killing of Mumia. This is our task. No sacrifice or risk shall stop us." As I write, I know that across the country artists and presenters are finding all kinds of creative ways to manifest on September 11 and, at the risk of high drama, I have to say it is an honor to be amongst them. When the gallery doors open, the concert lights go on and the curtains go up, we expect you to be in the house.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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