On Aug. 26, a “Redeem the Dream” march was held in Washington, D.C., against police brutality and racial profiling. Most of the speakers urged the crowd to vote for Democratic Party candidates. Only Mumia-in a taped message reprinted below-warned against support for the Democrats.
Ona move! Long live John Africa!
Thanks for your kind invitation for my participation in “Redeem the Dream 2000.” I think it’s more than appropriate that I participate, for it is perhaps the only voice you’ll hear from the American gulag.
There are over two million men, women, and children in prisons and jails across America. Think of it: two million! Did you know that there are over 400,000 more prisoners in the U.S. than there is in China? What is this saying about America?
Now what does this have to do with “Redeem the Dream”? I’ll tell you. They can’t seriously discuss redeeming the dream without taking account of the dreamers. And when you examine the life of Black America today, what do you see? A dream or a nightmare? And if you do see a nightmare, how can you not ask, “How? Why? “
Let’s look back briefly at the thoughts of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Now, I won’t quote from his famous Aug. 26, 1963, “I Have a Dream” speech. Others will no doubt do it far better than I.
I refer to a speech given by Dr. King some four years later, a few months before his assassination in April of 1968. Here, King spoke to his colleagues of the SCLC and not to the nation as a whole. Here, he spoke not of his dreams, but of his growing insights into reality.
He said: “We’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace, but one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. Who owns the oil? Who owns the iron ore? Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?”
Are these the sounds of a man dreaming? Or the thoughts of a man coming to grips with social and economic injustice at the heart of America?
What Dr. King was questioning was the economic infrastructure and the political superstructure of capitalist America, which in his words, “produces beggars.” So what does that mean now? If you truly want to “redeem the dream,” then follow his example: ask questions about the whole society.
Why are there billions of dollars to build prisons, but not a nickel to build a school? Why does the government pay a prison guard more than a college professor? Why do parents need to work two jobs or more to feed and house their families?
Why do you support politicians who support repression against you and your people? Why do we call cops who beat, maim, and kill us “public servants?” Whom do they serve?
Why vote for conservatives even if they wear the label of Democrat? When will Blacks demand respect from a party that treats them like stepchildren? When will African Americans learn that the two major parties are both parties of white supremacy and corporate control?
Hey, look at the tickets! Ask questions.
Here’s another one: how can you truly consider yourself free when you can’t walk down a city street, hail a taxi, or drive anywhere in America without the threat of a humiliating search or, as Amadou Diallo demonstrated, an execution while standing in your own doorway? How can you be free while judges in black robes rival Klansmen in white robes in their contempt for Black life and liberty?
I know that many of you may not appreciate what I’m saying about Democrats, but I must. When you’re being pulled out of your car for the unwritten effects of DWB, or “Driving While Black,” why not flash your voter’s registration card to the cops?
When your son or daughter goes in front of some racist or sellout judge, why not send him or her a xerox copy of your voter’s registration card? When you’re about to get evicted from your home because you’re broke, whip out your voter’s registration card, okay?
Does your political party affiliation protect your property, your liberty, your life? Okay, tell them that you voted for Bill Clinton, okay? Tell them that you plan to vote for Gore-Lieberman, all right?
Your politics is but an illusion, isn’t it? Now don’t give me that old chestnut that Dr. King died to give Blacks the right to vote. Nonsense. People don’t fight for a vote. A vote is but a means to an end. What end? Power. The power to protect and enhance one’s life, liberty, and property. The power to protect one’s person from official oppression. The power to be let alone.
What politician is speaking about this power, and why not? The legendary revolutionary teacher, John Africa, said, “It is insane not to resist something that gives nothing but sickness to you, your mothers, your fathers, your babies, your family.”
Are you getting power from this political system? Or sickness? Ask yourselves: are you, your babies, or your families better off today than they were eight years ago? Or worse off? If this system give you sickness, well, why support it?
No doubt, you’ll hear many climb to the rostrum and preach to you of the value of voting. You may even have some politicians come to you today promising the moon. But look at history. Bill Clinton, what some have called the nation’s first Black president, savaged habeas corpus for the first time since the Civil War. So-called “welfare reform,” his idea, has been a war on the poor. From Lani Guinier to Joycelyn Elders, what you saw was an example of the politics of betrayal.
The last eight years have brought us an explosion in the prison-industrial complex. And who in all of America is most likely to be cast into those steel and brick hells? You know the answer. Why vote for your own oppression? Why vote for death row? Why vote for DWB? Why vote for the prison-industrial complex?
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ask questions. These have been some for you to consider. I thank you. On the move! Long live John Africa! Free the MOVE 9! From death row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.