[Pnews] Mumia Abu-Jamal’s spiritual advisor confronts DA Krasner and the FOP

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat May 22 11:10:37 EDT 2021


*Mumia Abu-Jamal’s spiritual advisor confronts DA Krasner and the FOP*
https://sfbayview.com/2021/05/mumia-abu-jamals-spiritual-advisor-confronts-da-krasner-and-the-fop/ 



      *An interview with Mark Lewis Taylor, founder of Educators for
      Mumia Abu-Jamal*

<https://sfbayview.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Crown-Mural-Pam-Ramona-Africa-more-activists-across-street-from-Philly-City-Hall-on-same-block-Frank-Rizzo-statue-once-stood-unveiled-051121-by-Joe-Piette-Jamal-Journal-1400x734.jpg>

This new mural featuring Pam and Ramona Africa alongside other Black 
women community activists was unveiled on May 11, 2021 directly across 
the street from Philadelphia City Hall, on the very same block where the 
infamous statue of Frank Rizzo once stood. Photo: Jamal Journal staff 
photographer Joe Piette

*/by the Jamal Journal/*

/May 21, 2021 – /Mark Lewis Taylor has been a 
<https://www.blogger.com/>professor in religion and society at Princeton 
Theological Seminary since 1982 <https://www.blogger.com/>. He is also 
the founder of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ), which was first 
known as Academics for Mumia Abu-Jamal (AMAJ). In recent years, he has 
also been working as Mumia’s spiritual advisor.

In this new interview, Professor Taylor covers many topics including his 
personal observations from Judge Sabo’s 1995-97 PCRA (Pennsylvania Post 
Conviction Relief Act) hearings. Taylor also confronts Philadelphia 
District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Feb. 3 brief filed in opposition to 
all of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeals. In support of the critiques made 
previously by Pam Africa <https://www.blogger.com/> and Dr. Ricardo 
Alvarez <https://www.blogger.com/>, Taylor now makes his own response to 
DA Krasner’s continued defense of Mumia’s unjust 1982 conviction.

If you have not yet done so, please sign our Color of Change petition to 
DA Krasner <https://www.blogger.com/>.

A shortened version of this interview will be featured in the Jamal 
Journal Newspaper Issue #2. We are now fundraising 
<https://www.blogger.com/> through the end of May for both printing and 
postage costs. Please consider making a donation here 
<https://www.blogger.com/>.

*Jamal Journal*: How did you first learn about Mumia’s case?

*Mark Lewis Taylor*: I still remember a rainy day in 1994 when I was 
just back from a summer of research and connecting with Maya activist 
groups in Guatemala, struggling then as it long had against European 
colonization, now against the neocolonialism of U.S.-backed governments 
in Central America. At the time of that 1994 trip back to the U.S., I 
was also taking up again some of the prison activist work I had done 
even earlier in the 1970s when working in the Virginia State 
Penitentiary investigating prisoner complaints.

So in the midst of all this, on the way into a New York City coffee shop 
to wait out the rain, I purchased a thin newspaper sold by a grassroots 
homeless organization – Street News, I think it was. There I read my 
first column by Mumia. I’m quite sure it was “War on the Poor,” which 
was also recorded by Prison Radio 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NA_CI_1hiE&ab_channel=CaseyHolcomb>.

“War on the Poor”

Afterwards I began using many of Mumia’s writings in graduate-level 
classes. His writings ignited student thinking on the politics of 
imprisonment, policing and the death penalty. I resolved that if 
officials ever signed a death warrant to silence Mumia, “I couldn’t live 
my life as usual” (at least that’s what I found myself muttering to 
myself then).

Why that resolve? I often ask myself that. The answer I give is that by 
committing forthrightly to the movement to keep alive and release Mumia, 
I would be involved at the same time on multiple political fronts of 
liberation. I had already found that to support any one prisoner in the 
archipelago of U.S. mass incarceration demanded one’s utmost. It is to 
face a kind of abyss of human need.

While I’ve had to maintain some work for other prisoners too, the work 
for Mumia was such that by working for him, I felt, I was also working 
for so many more, and also on the larger fronts of national and 
international social change and liberation. (I do not accept the current 
squeamishness of U.S. academic culture making them reluctant to use the 
word “liberation,” even though I believe we should define it and use it 
carefully.)

Being at work as a full-time professor, in work that itself required far 
more than 40 hours a week, I needed every hour of my “outside” movement 
work to count politically in as comprehensive a way as I could imagine. 
Work for Mumia enabled that. That’s what I felt.

So, when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge signed Mumia’s death warrant in 
1995, I requested educators’ support for Mumia. I learned that many 
other educators had been using Mumia’s writings. And they too found his 
execution intolerable. My fax machine and email inbox blew up with 
responses from colleagues who wanted to go to work.

Thus began years of struggle to find ways to build educators into the 
larger movement for Mumia headed by International Concerned Family and 
Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We undertook years of organizing press 
conferences, newspaper ads and seeking other ways to build educators’ 
contributions into the larger movement.

We immediately took out ads in the Philadelphia Daily News, holding 
press conferences in Philadelphia. It was struggle, and we often 
faltered, got too busy with academic meetings and minutiae, with career 
advancement and more. But our moments of struggle went forward, and we 
continue. Our largest ad campaign culminated in a Sunday New York Times 
full page in the “Week in Review” section in May 2000 
<https://web.archive.org/web/20161229164820/http:/www.emajonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/NYTad.pdf>. 
So, we were launched.

*JJ*: Why did you decide to attend the 1995 PCRA hearings in front of 
Judge Albert Sabo?

*MLT*: Well, I don’t remember any “deciding,” really. It was just a 
necessary stage of the movement work at the time. Besides, there was 
urgency in the air since Gov. Ridge had given Mumia an execution date. 
We joined the many who Pam Africa organized to pack the courtroom. I 
cannot recall who all among educators were present. I’m certain that 
Cornel West was (more on that below). There were other Philadelphia 
educators who had stepped forward for our ad campaigns and press 
conferences, who may also have been there: Achille Mbembe 
<http://wiser.wits.ac.za/users/achille-mbembe>, E. Ann Matter 
<https://live-sas-www-history.pantheon.sas.upenn.edu/people/associated-faculty/e-ann-matter>, 
Ann Farnsworth-Alvear 
<https://live-sas-www-history.pantheon.sas.upenn.edu/people/faculty/ann-farnsworth-alvear>, 
Farah Jasmine Griffin 
<https://english.columbia.edu/content/farah-jasmine-griffin>(all four, 
then at UPENN), also Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak 
<http://english.columbia.edu/people/profile/409> of Columbia University.

Cornel West, Angela Y. Davis 
<http://feministstudies.ucsc.edu/faculty/singleton.php?&singleton=true&cruz_id=aydavis> 
and Manning Marable 
<https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/07/manning-marable-marxist-civil-rights-socialism> 
had already been to the fore of the struggle for Mumia long before me. 
They supported EMAJ (Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal) in very helpful 
ways. Manning Marable once told me, for example, “Always use my name in 
support of your events.” I am not sure if Davis and Marable were at the 
PCRA hearings or not. Marable at Columbia was a formative teacher for 
Dr. Johanna Fernández who assumed so many leadership roles in EMAJ and 
now coordinates the campaign to Bring Mumia Home 
<https://bringmumiahome.com/>.

I remember so much about those PCRA hearings: Pam Africa and MOVE 
organizing the seating in the courtroom and the rallies outside, Mumia 
coming into the courtroom in shackles and greeting us with raised fist, 
two of Mumia’s lawyers Rachel Wolkenstein and Len Weinglass drawing the 
ire of Judge Albert Sabo who cited each at least once for contempt.

*JJ*: What do you think of Kiilu Nyasha’s description of Sabo’s 
courtroom in her essay, “Witness to a Lynching 
<https://jamaljournal.blogspot.com/2021/02/from-archives-witness-to-lynching-kiilu.html>”?



 From left, Dr. Ala Stanford, Ajeenah Amir, Sajda “Purple” Blackwell, 
artist Russell Craig, Pam Dr. Ala Stanford, Ajeenah Amir, Sajda “Purple” 
Blackwell, artist Russell Craig, Pam Africa, Krystal Strong, YahNé Ndgo 
and Kezia Ridgeway stand in front of the East side of the Crown mural 
that pays homage to their social justice work at Philadelphia’s 
Municipal Services Building. – Photo: Kimberly Paynter, WHYY 
<https://www.blogger.com/>

*MLT*: I still find Nyasha’s write-up to be accurate, especially in its 
description of the general ethos of humiliation and intimidation that 
Judge Sabo stoked and allowed prosecutors to inject into the 
proceedings. I personally did not see Sabo nod off, but he ran the 
courtroom indeed as the notorious “hanging judge” who had sent so many 
other Philadelphians to death row and long prison sentences with the 
racially biased demeanor that so many of us have long denounced. Even 
reporters working for established news venues in Philadelphia recognized 
this bias to be in operation.

Sometimes you wished Sabo would have fallen asleep more. What was so 
enraging was his continual denial of Mumia’s lawyers’ motions and his 
affirmation of the prosecutors’ objections. Sabo would also make 
off-hand remarks about Mumia’s plight, almost taunting him with 
references to the pending execution date.

I remember in one of the earlier hearings, when the antics of Sabo were 
so egregious, as he made so many off-hand racist comments and ran such a 
one-sided prosecutors’ courtroom. I was sitting beside Dr. Cornel West, 
then during his first stint at Harvard. At one point after a Sabo 
comment, Cornel rolled forward in his seat and gasped in loud whisper, 
“Mississippi 1955!”

Only toward the end of the hearings did Sabo finally relent and issue a 
stay of execution, precisely because of the large rallies in 
Philadelphia at the courthouse then and the presence in the courtroom of 
key dignitaries. On the day of the stay 
<https://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/08/us/black-journalist-granted-stay-of-execution-by-the-judge-who-sentenced-him.html>, 
I think the movement had helped facilitate the presence of Rev. Jesse 
Jackson in the courtroom among Mumia’s many other supporters. The stay 
came during one of the later hearings of the PCRA in 1995, really only 
10 days away from the execution date in August.

*JJ*: In light of your experience observing Sabo, what is your response 
to DA Krasner’s Feb. 3, 2021, brief where he puts his stamp of approval 
on literally every single decision Judge Sabo made at both the 1982 
trial and the later PCRA hearings?

*MLT*: Well, Krasner has to know what establishment reporters in 
Philadelphia know: All of Sabo’s courtrooms show at least a potential 
for racial bias as well as many comments that offer clear evidence of 
racial bias. Krasner also knows that the bar for tolerating racial bias 
in courtrooms is set exceedingly low. This “low bar” has been confirmed 
more than once, in a 1986 case (Batson v. Kentucky) and a 2008 case 
(Snyder v. Louisiana).

This means that the smallest amount of racial bias is often grounds for 
ruling in a defendants’ favor. One U.S. circuit court judge, Thomas 
Ambro of the Third Circuit, thought the low bar should be extended to 
Mumia, in keeping with the precedent confirmed by the Snyder case just a 
few weeks earlier. (See Ambro’s dissent in Abu-Jamal v. Horn et al, p. 78.)

But in the case of Mumia, who is often forced to labor under what Linn 
Washington has termed “The Mumia Exception 
<https://www.freemumia.com/2011/08/the-mumia-exception-by-linn-washington-jr/>,” 
the bar for proving racial bias was set so high that he is denied 
redress for what he has suffered. Krasner shows no interest in lowering 
the unfairly raised bar against Mumia. To perpetuate the state’s 
performance of that exception is to fail to be a prosecutor “for the 
people” of Philadelphia.

Krasner has a tendency to cite “the many other legal cases similar to 
Mumia’s” and the “many other problems and issues” that he wants to 
address progressively. He and his supporters often speak as if Krasner 
cannot keep up this “progressive” agenda, that he does need police 
cooperation to a certain extent to enact his reforms and can’t afford to 
alienate them.

The idea is that if he goes too far in challenging the FOP (Fraternal 
Order of Police), such as by releasing Mumia, the Philadelphia police 
will simply refuse to cooperate with anything and the whole city will 
shut down. Therefore, Krasner is sacrificing Mumia “for the greater 
good.”  This way, it’s like an unspoken deal with the FOP that he gets 
to enact some positive reforms, so long as he doesn’t free Mumia.

I suggest, though, that with this kind of approach, Krasner risks losing 
even his more modest and comprehensive gains regarding other legal cases 
and issues. Remember, Mumia and his death remain a comprehensive aim of 
the FOP. Mumia remains the FOP’s “public enemy number one.”

If Krasner does not challenge the FOP at their own declared front-most 
battle line – on Mumia Abu-Jamal – then he really has not challenged the 
FOP fundamentally. He may achieve some short-term gains for 
“progressive” prosecuting, and indeed he has, but he has not really 
challenged the police power of the state that wants to kill Mumia and 
defeat the revolutionary and more humane form of the state for which 
Mumia fights.

*JJ*: In their recent SF Bay View newspaper articles, both Pam Africa 
<https://sfbayview.com/2021/03/the-new-krasner-brief/> and Dr. Ricardo 
Alvarez 
<https://sfbayview.com/2021/04/mumia-abu-jamal-is-scheduled-for-open-heart-surgery/> 
criticize page 5 of the Feb. 3 brief where Krasner endorses the official 
police version of Mumia’s arrest by writing that Mumia “resisted arrest” 
and “refused to walk” into the hospital. Dr. Alvarez writes: “The 
presumption that Mumia violently resisted arrest and then confessed is 
wrong, can be easily proven wrong, and is a form of harm that denies 
Mumia’s humanity.” What is your response to this section of Krasner’s 
Feb. 3 brief?



This is one segment of the original artwork created by longtime Mumia 
supporter Seth Tobocman 
<https://worldwar3illustrated-blog.tumblr.com/post/643775200954089472/a-comic-strip-about-new-developments-in-the-case> 
to support our petition campaign. It is the centerpiece of Issue #1 and 
can be viewed on the Jamal Journal website here 
<https://jamaljournal.blogspot.com/2021/02/new-artwork-by-seth-tobocman.html>. 


*MLT*: Well, I think that both Pam Africa and Ricardo Alvarez make their 
cases quite well for disproving these points as they occur in Krasner’s 
brief. Also, Pam’s and Ricardo’s claims have been underscored numerous 
times by several of Mumia’s attorneys.

What is further concerning about Krasner’s arguing these points is that, 
to my knowledge, while his brief introduces no new characters or events 
into prosecutors’ view of the crime, it does rephrase the story in 
slight but significant ways. In the brief, the DA’s Office is not 
recreating a new story, but the arrest scenario is tweaked so as to 
emphasize many of the excuses that we now receive from police who handle 
protestors or who rationalize their killing of Black, Brown and 
Indigenous peoples in the U.S. Doesn’t this language sound familiar – 
“resisting arrest,” “would not walk” or was “reaching for a gun”? This 
language is consistent with current state power’s attempts to 
rationalize and describe police beatings and killings of protestors and 
others.

The police have still not provided an account for the evident physical 
battery that Mumia suffered at the hands of the police upon his arrest. 
Mumia was so badly beaten, said his sister, Lydia, that she hardly 
recognized him. Mumia has recounted how, after being shot, he was also 
beaten and rammed into a street light pole. In all likelihood, he was 
beaten more in the back of a paddy wagon headed for the hospital before 
being dumped on the floor of its ER. Instead of considering any of this 
as possible, Krasner’s brief foregrounds notions about Mumia “reaching 
for a gun” that an Officer Shoemaker reports seeing “eight inches away 
from Mumia’s hand?”

Krasner knows 
<https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/larry-krasner-philadelphia-police-tainted-misconduct-secret-list-20180306.html> 
cops have been found lying and has himself spoken out about police 
disinformation and perjured testimony. So, why not consider them to be 
lying about this story? The brief says Mumia was “resisting arrest” and 
then is reported to have “refused to walk”? This language is especially 
passable and plausible for that part of the public – still all too many 
– who today buy into cops’ arguments designed to rationalize racialized 
police violence.

*JJ*: Returning to the topic of lynching, what do you think of Pam 
Africa’s assertion that police attempted to lynch Mumia on the morning 
of Dec. 9, 1981?

*MLT*: Well look, we know that the young journalist Abu-Jamal had 
received threats from the police long before they found him at the curb 
of Locust and 13th on that early morning of 1981. Terry Bisson’s 
biographical reflection on Mumia, entitled “On a Move: The Story of 
Mumia Abu-Jamal,” cites more than one occasion when Philadelphia police 
would drive slowly by Mumia making hand gestures of a pointed gun and 
moving trigger finger, as if they had him targeted for killing.

The 1981 police attack on Mumia occurred well after Mumia had served not 
only in the Panthers, but also after he had written to expose police 
practices against MOVE and other residents and after he had directly 
challenged the Rizzo pro-police regime. So, after all this, finding 
Mumia vulnerable and shot on a curb on Dec. 9 was an opportunity for 
attack the police could not pass up.

And yes, battering Mumia as they did that morning qualifies as an 
attempted lynching. If we recall the history of lynching, we know that 
those actions were not carried out only by mobs of general citizens. 
Lynching participants also included such officials as police, lawyers, 
even judges and local pastors, clad in Klan costumery or other disguise. 
And some felt emboldened to turn up and take pictures for posterity with 
no disguise at all!

Sure, maybe the early morning beating did not have the same status of 
spectacle that the “burning and hanging lynchings” had, but surely, if 
you add on Mumia’s later very public trial and death sentence, the 
function of Mumia’s overall brutal treatment is indeed that of a 
lynching. Lynching in the USA, like crucifixions in Rome were intended 
as a kind of public service announcement to the poor and repressed: “Act 
up like this one hanging before you now, and this too will become your 
fate!”

*JJ*: What do you think about the Medical Professionals for Mumia 
petition co-written by Dr. Alvarez?

*MLT*: The petition was a great thing to see. Even more, I think, is the 
way the group, “Medical Professionals for Mumia 
<https://www.blogger.com/>” is mobilizing the conscience of 
medically-trained personnel to act on the myriad health issues posed for 
the increasing numbers of infirm and elderly who are incarcerated and on 
the ways white supremacy is at work in the profession and in the U.S. 
healthcare establishment. Elite higher education is also often rife with 
pervasive white supremacist postures and practices.

Moreover, it is so important that Dr. Ricardo is taking the advocacy and 
work for Mumia into his own profession. Of course, he has been a 
participant in the larger diverse movement. But his instincts are so 
right, it seems to me, to attempt to integrate the broader movement for 
Mumia and for all political prisoners and the incarcerated into the 
work-world he inhabits. I think all of us need to attempt something like 
this in whatever be our places of work. Not everyone can take the 
movement work into their work-world, into their everyday spaces of 
employment. I know that. It is important, though, to try where we can.

Our founding reflex of Educators for Mumia was to integrate the broader 
movement into the daily educational labor of teachers, as well as to 
enable teachers to participate in and support the larger national and 
international work of the movement. So, I view the petition and its 
vision to be an exciting development as it seeks to take the concerns of 
our movement into the medical profession.

*JJ*: A central piece of evidence cited by our Color of Change petition 
to DA Krasner is the 2010 ballistics test conducted by Dave Lindorff and 
Linn Washington <https://www.blogger.com/>, where they concluded that 
“the whole prosecution story of an execution-style slaying of the 
officer by Abu-Jamal would appear to be a prosecution fabrication, 
complete with coached, perjured witnesses, undermining the integrity and 
fairness of the entire trial.” Pam Africa has now issued a public 
challenge 
<https://sfbayview.com/2021/04/pam-africa-as-mumia-awaits-heart-surgery-i-am-issuing-a-challenge-to-cnns-michael-smerconish-and-da-larry-krasner/> 
to both Michael Smerconish and DA Krasner to try and disprove the 
conclusions of the 2010 test. How significant do you think are the 
conclusions of Lindorff’s and Washington’s test?

“Test Shows Missing Evidence and Falsified Testimony from Key Witnesses 
in Abu-Jamal Trial”

*MLT*: Very significant indeed. Here are two investigative journalists 
who know the case inside and out. Neither of them can be dismissed as a 
naïve advocate who might quickly throw out claims that have no evidence. 
On the contrary, both have a thorough knowledge of the trial 
transcripts. Linn Washington has written and researched the case 
continuously since he visited the crime scene within one hour of the 
incident. Dave Lindorff has written a detailed, book-length and fair 
analysis of the entire case. And here, in the video of their 2010 
ballistics test, they raise serious questions about the veracity of 
prosecution claims that Mumia stood over Officer Faulkner lying on his 
back and executed him with a shot to the head with other shots hitting 
the sidewalk. So Pam’s challenge is right-on. Let DA Krasner and media 
talking head Smerconish respond to the video.

The Lindorff-Washington ballistics test joins other forms of exculpatory 
evidence that need revisiting in the form of media attention and more 
adequate judicial review. Among these forms I would include the 
following: (a) the argument for racial bias in jury selection that 
emerged with training-tapes by prosecutor Jack McMahon advising young 
prosecutors about how and when to keep Blacks off juries, (b) Veronica 
Jones’ 2008 recantation of her being pressured by cops to lie against 
Mumia at the original 1982 trial and (c) court stenographer’s sworn 
affidavit that during the trial she heard the notoriously racist Judge 
Sabo say out of court in another room, “Yeah, and I’m gonna help them 
fry the n***er.” Some of these have been reviewed quickly under judicial 
review, some totally ignored.

None of these forms of evidence for Mumia will see the light of day, 
much less receive serious judicial review without public pressure. And 
that’s why Pam’s challenge to Krasner and Smerconish on the ballistics 
test is so significant.

*JJ*: Let’s shift to looking at your role as Mumia’s spiritual advisor. 
What can you tell us about that? How has it been communicating with 
Mumia in recent months, since the COVID and congestive heart failure 
diagnosis in late February <https://www.blogger.com/> and then heart 
surgery in April <https://www.blogger.com/>?

*MLT*: Yes, I had been in to visit Mumia about once every month, often 
for visits as long as 3-4 hours, for four years prior to the arrival of 
the COVID pandemic. I saw him in January 2020, and then didn’t have a 
visit until video visits of 2021.

Obviously, I value every minute of any visit with Mumia, whether in 
person or on video (limited by the DOC to 45 minutes). Moreover, I try 
to make the visits count for the movement, by facilitating communication 
between Mumia and other family members and the movement when I can.

I visited by video once with him, between the time of his COVID 
diagnosis, and then his going into the hospital for surgery. It is 
especially enraging to experience Mumia’s “being disappeared,” as he was 
when taken in for heart surgery. To deny his family and friends – as 
well as outside medical advisor – knowledge of his whereabouts 
exacerbates the medical trauma for everyone. This is part of the state’s 
violence against the incarcerated and their families, which the state 
seeks to justify with its concerns for “security.”

I put a minister’s collar on and searched out some nearby hospitals and 
eventually confirmed where he was hospitalized. But of course, neither I 
nor Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, with whom I was in touch about this, were given 
any kind of access (even by phone). Ricardo and I sent a communication 
into the hospital, urging its supervising officials to keep the shackles 
off Mumia and to open all necessary communication between Mumia and his 
family and key supporters.

We received nothing but denials from hospital security that Mumia was 
even there. After much phoning of the prison, the governor’s office and 
the hospital, I did receive a brief call from the PA DOC’s (Pennsylvania 
Department of Corrections) special counsel saying that his lawyers would 
make sure that Mumia could call his wife 15 minutes a day. That did 
happen, as I understand it, because two of Mumia’s lawyers, Bret Grote 
and Bob Boyle, kept pressure on DOC officials.

I don’t view the role of a “spiritual advisor” in prison to be primarily 
that of a sharer of words from sacred texts or the imparting of 
religious wisdom per se. Maybe there’s a place for that at times when it 
is requested by prisoners. But recall, the notion of “spirit” in most 
languages refers to breath, to breathing that makes for life. To work 
spirit, to facilitate spirit, then, is to open up passages that allow 
life to occur and grow. In that sense, fostering connections and opening 
passageways between Mumia and his family, his friends and his necessary 
advocates – all this is spirit work even as it is also very material, 
often also a kind of political practice.

The established religions of colonizers and imperialists have regularly 
instilled in people the idea that spirit is somehow antithetical to 
body. In fact, the spirit is the life of the body, the life animating 
our struggle to liberate all realms of material creation that suffer 
from oppression and injustice.

*JJ*: How does Mumia and your work with him relate to your scholarly 
interest in “liberating spirit?”

*MLT*: Well, as your question indicates, you know I’ve explained this 
notion of “liberating spirit” elsewhere, as at my website 
<http://marklewistaylor.net/#text-7>. Liberating spirit creates freeing 
ways of being amid global and local structures and during the daily 
practices that grind us down, that destroy humanity and earth – that 
oppress. Liberating spirit names a way being “political” in the broadest 
sense of engaging the powers that subjugate us. It is material life 
struggling and fighting, acting up creatively through the many arts and 
mobilizing new community with a steady relentless, resilience in our 
social movements to revolutionize our lives against a state that represses.

I guess that in the U.S. my participation in the work for Mumia has been 
a way to observe and feel “liberating spirit” to be at work in a 
profoundly full sense. Consider how many political issues and fronts are 
encountered through the movement for Mumia. The U.S. white supremacy 
that rationalized and then grew stronger in the wake of the slavery that 
built the U.S. capitalist system – well, Mumia writes in a way that 
remembers and foregrounds all that. He has been a vocal critic of the 
surveillance and police state that enforces the alienation of labor and 
protects the rule of capital.

He has been a spokesperson for the earth – “mother earth” as he writes 
with MOVE – the earth that nurtures us all. He has written my class with 
special commentary on the frequent erasure of women’s leadership from 
Christian and other religious organizations of colonizers and empire 
builders. He dreams, writes and works for futures free from empires and 
capitalists and for “the return of nature” and of a genuine “socialism 
and ecology.” (These latter phases are from the work of a writer whom 
both Mumia and I appreciate, John Bellamy Foster 
<https://monthlyreview.org/product/the-return-of-nature/>.)

This fullness of liberating struggle, across so many issues and up 
against so many fronts of resistance, has been evident from the time of 
Mumia’s earliest columns to his most recent writings. See for example 
the collection edited by Johanna Fernández in “Writing on the Wall 
<http://www.citylights.com/book/?GCOI=87286100084200&fa=preview>.” Note 
the breadth of concerns covered in the three-volume work Mumia authored 
with Stephen Vittoria, “Murder Incorporated 
<https://www.prisonradiostore.com/shop-2/murder-incorporated-book-3-hardcover-pre-order-available-may-2020-s6r5s>.” 
Again, one person cannot take up all that “liberating spirit” demands of 
thought and practice, but to work through the movement for Mumia 
Abu-Jamal is to find oneself at work, directly or indirectly on so many 
of the important challenges of our time. This is one of the reasons that 
even though I cannot be involved in as many actions of the movement for 
Mumia, I continually introduce my students to Mumia and the movement.

Let me give just one example of the way those struggling for and with 
Mumia have impacted others. In my video visit that occurred between 
Mumia’s COVID diagnosis and his heart surgery, he mentioned to me how 
deeply moved he was by words from his relatively new prison doctor, Dr. 
Baddick. That doctor had read Federal District Judge Robert Mariani’s 
decision 
<https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/20170104_Federal_judge_orders_state_to_provide_Mumia_Abu-Jamal_with_hepatitis_C_treatment.html> 
in favor of Mumia in 2017, allowing him to be treated with antiviral 
meds for his Hepatitis C infection. Mumia with the help of the movement 
and legal work was not only saved, but something more happened. As Dr. 
Baddick said to Mumia: “You saved thousands of other lives.” (Indeed, 
Missouri is just one other state where I understand that Mumia’s case 
for his Hepatitis cure has since become precedent-setting for many other 
prisoners).

In a revised version of my 2015 work, “The Executed God 
<https://www.fortresspress.com/store/product/9781451492675/The-Executed-God-The-Way-of-the-Cross-in-Lockdown-America-Second-Edition>” 
(397-450), a book which I dedicated to Mumia, I added a new final 
chapter on Mumia, explaining his importance. I borrowed literary Marxist 
critic Walter Benjamin’s notion of the “great criminal” to explain that 
the terrorizing and repressive state often makes certain figures into 
“great criminal” figures. They do this to demonize them to the fullest, 
because the state sees them as especially threatening, able to expose 
the founding violence of the state and also to stoke popular revolt and 
revolution against the state.

This is why the struggle for Mumia has been so hard. This is also why 
the struggle for Mumia remains so necessary: Mumia exposes the state’s 
violence and equips our comprehensive resistance to it.

/The Jamal Journal is published by the International Concerned Family 
and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Visit www.jamaljournal.com 
<http://www.jamaljournal.com/>./

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