Tag Archives: film

We Are Not (Yet) Free

mandelaLast month I went to go see the new film about Nelson Mandela. It was a powerful film and ver much impacted me, but not in the way I expected. I actually left the theater seething with anger. Now I would never say or do anything to dishonor the legacy and memory of the great Mandela. He was a master activist and spiritualist and is now a legend.  However, I think we are kidding ourselves if we sit back in light of this film and has passing and proclaim that justice has been served. Justice has not yet been served.

Did you know that in the US  there are political prisoners in our jails?  Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal and numerous other activists have been targeted for being effective, outspoken, mobilizing forces for justice in their communities. Until they are free, we are not free and until then I refuse to participate in celebrations that proclaim racism and injustice as things of the past.  Instead I am going to use this time to write about two political prisoners who, in my mind at least, are indisputable heroes.  I feel just sick that they are both still in prison after decades of being wrongfully imprisoned and having both now become movement grandfathers.  They are both people of color from marginalized and oppressed communities who stand on the right side of history.

Mumia Abu-Jamal
Mumia was an outspoken activist and radio personality that called out the police sponsored oppression against the Move 9 community in Philadelphia in the early 1980’s. He was framed for murder, convicted to death row and has grown old in jail. A movement to free Mumia has been working tirelessly for decades to free him from incarceration. He is an incredible writer, poet and visionary. I had the honor or working on his campaign back in the late 1990’s. We organized a 24/7 drum in at SCI Green, where he was then on death row. He sent us a written message that he could hear our drumming and felt our solidarity. I wish I could say that I’ve worked full time and tirelessly on his campaign since then, but that would be a lie. I had the choice to work on other things and I did. Mumia doesn’t have choice in his life and this pains me, though I will never know the kind of despair and captivity that he must feel. He is no longer on death row, but he still lives behind bars. Until Mumia is free, we are not free.

Leonard Peltier
Leonard is an Lakota Native American activist from the American Indian Movement.  He was framed for the murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Incident and he’s been imprisoned for decades. He is a grandfather, a painter and dear gentle soul. I had the good fortune to speak to him on the phone at Leonard Peltier Defense Committee headquarters in the late 1990’s.  I simply cannot believe he has not been pardoned by now and it only serves as a testimony that the systemic oppression that was dismantling movements for change in the 1970’s is still alive and at work.  I carry such a love for this grandfather in my heart and a prayer that today or someday very soon that he will get to go home. I cannot begin to imagine the suffering he has encountered behind bars.

So if you are reading this, please take it upon yourself to lend your voice to the campaigns to free these amazing activists. And know that we live in a society where activists like Nelson Mandela live behind bars for simply calling for a better and more just world. Until they are free, we are not free.


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