A Message to the Mumia Conference

March 30-31, Washington, D.C.

By C. Clark Kissinger

Revolutionary Worker #1097, April 8, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org

As we go to press a national conference is convening in Washington, DC to strategize on how to go forward in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and stop the execution. The call to the conference posed the challenge to all those fighting to stop Mumia's execution: "We have not yet reached the point where our power can make the price of Mumia's murder too high to pay in regard to a fundamental loss of credibility in the criminal justice system. This is the central task before us."

The following message was sent to the conference by C. Clark Kissinger, a leader in the fight for Mumia. Clark is a member of the executive committee of Refuse & Resist! and a correspondent for the Revolutionary Worker.

Greetings to everyone at this important conference! I'm finally out of jail and back on the front lines for Mumia, and I would be with you today if I were not still on probation and forbidden to travel. My thanks for your support, vigilance, and your spirited harassment of the authorities during the time I was held captive.

So let's get down on why we are here today. Our strategic goals are to prevent Mumia's execution, overturn his conviction, and set him free. My hope is that we will come out of this conference with heightened unity and determination as well as the understanding and plans that will enable us to do just that.

It helps us keep our focus when we remember just what is at stake here. First and foremost is Mumia's life. He is very precious to us. Mumia fought his whole life for the people. He was an organizer of the Black Panther Party at age 15. He organized in the streets and was a writer for the Black Panther newspaper. He went on to develop a form of radio journalism that told the truth by putting the voices of the people themselves on the air.

At the same time, he has stood with the struggles of people all over the world. He has been in touch with the youth, defending them, upholding their potential, and summoning forth the best in them. And despite his 19 years on death row, he has never, never given up on his principles or turned his back on the people. That is why we love him, and that is a major reason why so many people are drawn to his defense.

If Mumia were killed by the state, those who rule would gloat that it is now legally and morally just fine to execute such a political prisoner--a Black revolutionary--despite the blatant racism and injustice of his court proceedings. But more important for us, it would be an incalculable loss to humanity if they were to succeed in offing this beautiful brother. And we are here to say that they will not be allowed to do that.

That's why we have to make this case of Mumia Abu-Jamal into the measure of where people stand on the most fundamental issues of social justice, and demand his freedom.

Yet at the same time, we must have a clear-headed assessment of what it's actually going to take to do that. Following our conference last year, we made some amazing gains with rallies, marches, sit-ins, and published statements. Here I really want to salute the determination of youth who took to the streets of Philadelphia and Los Angeles. You could not be ignored! They were stung badly, and this is why they had to attack Mumia in Time magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Chicago Tribune.

Now we are preparing for Mumia's appearance in federal court. This is not only Mumia's last chance to present the evidence that has been suppressed, but it is also Mumia's last guaranteed appeal. We are prepared to rip apart the government's lying case in court, if we are given the chance. But at the same time, we know there is no legal argument that, by itself, will guarantee his freedom. Only the power of the people can save him.

This requires a movement in which tens of thousands feel their lives are bound up with the question of whether Mumia lives or dies, and millions more have grave doubts about the justice of such an execution --- to the point where the stability of society itself threatens to break down along the deep divisions lying just below the surface.

Building this kind of movement requires going out very broadly in society. We have to know how to distinguish our friends from our enemies, and then organize them. Everyone who honestly opposes the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal is an ally whom we must make welcome in our movement.

We will not all be doing the same things nor saying the same words. But we need all our potential friends, and that means reaching out to them with cooperation and respect, looking for the different ways each can contribute, and helping people grow in their understanding.

In short, we have to combine the increased determination of a solid core fighting for Mumia's freedom, with an increasing ability to activate far wider forces in society to take up this struggle themselves and in their own ways, speaking to people whom we might not otherwise be able to reach.

Then we have to bring it all together. I have said it before and I will say it again:

We must raise the specter of high schools and universities across the nation being shut down.

We must raise the specter of people of conscience chaining themselves to the White House gates.

We must raise the specter of labor actions and millions marching in the streets.

We must raise the visual specter of Mumia's face plastered across the walls of America.

We must raise the specter of teachers, artists, and influential writers losing faith in the system itself, and communicating their infection to others.

We must raise the out-of-control specters of Los Angeles and Seattle.

And we must make the United States a pariah in the international community, a country whose very name is synonymous with racism and legalized murder.

All this still remains to be done. THIS is the challenge to all who burn with the righteous demand that Mumia must be set free.

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