Activists seek to educate
community about death penalty
by Charles Brooks
Despite the massive inter-national support for Mumia Abu-Jamal to secure his freedom from Pennsylvania's death row, organizers say there has been a notable absence of protest coming out of the Black community.
While the Black press has afforded extensive attention to his case, to a large degree, the plight of Mr. Abu-Jamal as well as other political prisoners still remains unknown to many in the Black community, former political prisoner Herman Ferguson told The Final Call. This explains why the com-plexion of previously held demonstrations around the country have been over-whelmingly white, he said.
"With the execution of Mumia on the horizon, we have left the field to the white left. Blacks have supported the call for Mumia, but we haven't done any grassroots organizing in the Black community," Mr. Ferguson added.
Realizing this void, the De-cember 12th Movement and the New African Liberation Front (NALF) held a Black Umoja Long March in Brooklyn, New York, Dec. 26, the first day of Kwanzaa. Organizers sought to raise the Black community's awareness of political prisoners, the death penalty as well as the issues which surround Mr. Abu-Jamal's case. "We thought that Kwanzaa should not be just a cultural expression ... that given the current situation (with Mumia) and its urgency, the death sentence that Mumia is facing, we had to put an extra dimension to the Kwanzaa principle of Umoja, which means unity," march organizer and attorney Roger Wareham said.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Oct. 30 denied Mr. Abu-Jamal's appeal for a new trial, accelerating a massive in-ternational mobilization effort on his behalf. The mobilization also has been spurred on by the airing of ABC-TV's "20/20" program, titled, "Hollywood's Last Hero," which has been criticized by Mr. Abu-Jamal's supporters as biased and prejudicial, lacking genuine journalistic balance and credibility.
"We felt the need to develop more domestic support to counter the type of propaganda that is put out by the corporate media which attempts to criminalize Mumia. The only way to counter that is to go out into the community, so that's why we are marching today," said Mr. Wareham.
The Black Umoja Long March began at a busy shopping mall in downtown Brooklyn, as shoppers ventured in and out of stores seeking sales and post-Christmas bargains. Marchers, armed with flags bearing the liberation colors of red, black and green, handed out flyers and exhorted shoppers to be conscious of the issues surrounding the Abu-Jamal case.
While several shoppers ap-peared intimidated by the presence of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and were reluctant to take a flyer, others eagerly grabbed them as well as the Kwanzaa cards bearing Mr. Abu-Jamal's portrait. Some shoppers even cut their shopping short and participated in the demonstration with other pro-testers.
In 30-degree weather, marchers ventured into com-munities of African American, African, Latino and Caribbean residents. Police officers strug-gled to keep up with the fast-paced momentum of the march as demonstrators stopped in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and Brownsville. Activist/journalist Elombe Brath, along with Mr. Ferguson and Omowale Clay addressed the community at these key intervals, explaining the necessity of the march and how the death penalty and political prisoners issues impacts upon their very lives as Black people.
"I thought it was important that we begin to educate the Black community of the question of political prisoners and the Black liberation struggle. Unless we step it up in large numbers, it won't matter what is being done on the international stage in terms of support, the U.S. government won't pay attention," Mr. Ferguson said.
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