Evergreen College students asked Mumia Abu-Jamal to address the theme, “A Life Lived, Deliberately.” The following excerpts from Jamal’s June 11 speech are indicative of his desire to present his revolutionary views without equivocation.
Welcome, students of Evergreen, and thank you for this invitation. On the MOVE. Long live John Africa.
I feel privileged to address your chosen theme, not because I’m some kind of avatar, but because a life lived deliberately has been the example of people I admire and respect, such as Malcolm X; Dr. Huey P. Newton; … the MOVE Nine, committed rebels now encaged for up to 100 years in Pennsylvania hellholes despite their innocence, solely for their adherence to the teachings of John Africa.
These people, although of quite diverse beliefs, ideologies, and lifestyles, shared something in common: a commitment to revolution and a determination to live that commitment deliberately in the face of staggering state repression.
No doubt some of you are disconcerted by my use of the term “revolution.” It’s telling that people who claim with pride to be proud Americans would disclaim the very process that made such a nationality possible, even if it was a bourgeois revolution.
Why was it right for people to revolt against the British because of “taxation without representation,” and somehow wrong for truly unrepresented Africans in America to revolt against America? For any oppressed people, revolution, according to the Declaration of Independence, is a right.
Malcolm X, although now widely acclaimed as a Black nationalist martyr, was vilified at the time of his assassination by Time magazine as “an unashamed demagogue” who “was a disaster to the civil rights movement.”
The New York Times would describe him as a “twisted man” who used his brains and oratorical skills for “an evil purpose.” Today, there are schools named for him, and recently a postage stamp was even issued in his honor.
Dr. Huey P. Newton, PhD, founded the Black Panther Party in October of 1966 and created one of the most militant, principled organizations American Blacks had ever seen. J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI targeted the party, using every foul and underhanded method they could conceive of to neutralize the group, which they described as the “number one threat to national security.”
Sister Ramona Africa of the MOVE organization survived one of the most remarkable bombings in American history, one where Philadelphia police massacred 11 men, women, and children living in the MOVE house and destroyed some 61 homes in the vicinity.
She did seven years in the state prison on riot charges, came out, and began doing all she could to spread the teachings of John Africa, the teachings of revolution, and to free her imprisoned brothers and sisters of MOVE from their repressive century in hellish prison cells.
These people dared to dissent, dared to speak out, dared to reject the status quo by becoming rebels against it. They lived-and some of them continue to live-lives of deliberate will, of willed resistance to a system that is killing us. Remember them. Honor their highest moments. Learn from them. Are these not lives lived deliberately?
This system’s greatest fear has been that folks like you, young people, people who have begun to critically examine the world around them, some perhaps for the first time, people who have yet to have the spark of life snuffed out, will do just that: learn from those lives, be inspired, and then live lives of opposition to the deadening status quo….
The great historians Will and Ariel Durant teach us that history in the large is the conflict of minorities. The majority applauds the victor and supplies the human material of social experiment. Now, I take that to mean that social movements are begun by relatively small numbers of people who, as catalysts, inspire, provoke, and move larger numbers to see and share their vision.
Social movements can then become social forces that expand our perspectives, open up new social possibilities, and create the consciousness for change.
To begin this process, we must first sense that (1) the status quo is wrong, and (2) the existing order is not amenable to real, meaningful, and substantive transformation. Out of the many here assembled, it is the heart of he or she that I seek who looks at a life of vapid materialism, of capitalist excess, and finds it simply intolerable.
It may be 100 of you, or 50, or even 10, or even one of you who makes that choice. I’m here to honor and applaud that choice and to warn you that, though the suffering may indeed be great, it is nothing to the joy of doing the right thing….
I thank you all, and wish you well. On the MOVE. Long live John Africa. From Death Row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.