of speech made
at Antioch College's commencement
do you admire?
death row, this
is Mumia Abu-Jamal
of speech made by Mumia Abu-Jamal
at Antioch College's commencement Saturday.
congratulations to you all here today. To the students graduating,
to teachers exhaulting in their graduates, to administrators rejoicing
in their professor's successes, to parents who secretly hope this
is the beginning of their children's financial independence and
an end to their bills, to you all at an extraordinary college
Antioch. I thank you for your gracious invitation and I
hope these words have worth and meaning to you all.
thought long and hard about your proposed query about an individual's
impact on the world. Against what passes or matters, I'll answer
a question with a question. Who do you admire?
course, in any huge student body, as I hope this graduating class
is, there is a wealth of perspectives, or should be. However,
on any given list, if logical, the following figures will be found:
Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Ella Baker, and W.E.B. DuBois.
a few folks, right? What are the common features of these people.
Of course, they were all radicals or revolutionaries but that's
not it. Add Paul Robeson to that list. Does that help? How about
Angela Y. Davis. Some quick wits out there in the audience might
well conclude, well, they're all communists. Close, but that's
not quite it either.
neither Malcolm X nor Ella Baker, to my knowledge, ever joined
the party. And, though that I'm not certain, I don't think Paul
Robeson was member of the CPUSA. When you look at these people,
you find folks who committed class suicide, who turned their backs
on the acquired class advantages and potential opportunities to
give voice and supportive presence to the most oppressed sectors
of their society.
Nelson Mandela, trained as a lawyer, then joined the armed
wing of the ANC or African National Congress to further the
African Liberation Movement in South Africa.
X, with a stellar intellect, could surely have joined any
profession that he set his mind tohe chose to work for
the dispossessed of the Black nation.
Baker, writer and organizer, worked in the Civil Rights
Movement and in exposing the sexual exploitation of poor women
who worked as domestics.
DuBois, despite his patrician-like bearing, was a genuine
radical and iconoclast who was constantly betrayed by his class
brethren for his radical opinions. He was purged from the NAACP.
lawyer, athlete and actor
Paul Robeson was vilified for his support of socialism and
had his flourishing career broken like DuBois before him. Robeson
had his passport illegally and unconstitutionally seized by
the U.S. government for his anti-imperialist beliefs.
Davis, as many of you no-doubt know, was chased across the
nation, captured, chained, jailed and almost imprisoned for
life for her support of the Black Liberation Movement.
admire these people because, at critical junctures of their lives,
they cast their lot with the oppressed, the poor, the worker,
or those in the third world.
they didn't do this because it was popular, quite the contrary,
it was quite dangerous for many of these people. All lived under
constant government surveillance. Some lost their livelihoods.
Others lost their lives. They joined, aided and/or formed the
movements that they did because it was the right thing to do.
Look at them. For there your answer lies.
one individual impact the world. Dr. Mandela lead a chained nation
from apartheid to multiracial political democracy.
X inspired the Black Nationalist Movement of the 1960s.
Baker was a key organizer who helped the Student Non-violent
Coordinating Committee called SNCC survive.
Dubois was a founder of the NAACP and a leader of the Pan-Africanist
Robeson's cultural and political contributions to people
the world over were, and remain, immense.
Dr. Angela Y. Davis' work furthered Black Liberation
and Prisoner's Rights Movements of the 1970s. Have those lives
lives have expanded the very notion of what freedom means in the
minds of millions. Although they are and were extraordinary individuals,
they worked with movements that truly transformed consciousness
and how we look at the world.
lives teach us all what it means to betray one's class, to contribute
to the movements that have meaning, and to work on behalf of the
at this commencement at Antioch, have the somewhat unique opportunity
to prove that old axiom, that man is made for more than meat and
life is more than bread. In an age where everything, even the
human gene, is commodified, it can't be denied that we are all
aren't we also social beings? If we say we are, then we must ask,
what is owed to one's class? What is owed to humanity? What is
owed to life, itself? Think of the lives of those people you admire.
Show your admiration for them by becoming them. For by so doing,
you give birth to movements.
live John Africa.
death row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal