Antioch students, under attack from the Fraternal
Order of Police, prepare for Mumia's keynote commencement address
It is an honor to have the opportunity to present our words to
you on this historic night to demand a new trial for a man unjustly
on our campus in Southwestern Ohio it is April 24th One year ago
today thousands marched in Philadelphia and San Francisco in the
Millions for Mumia demonstrations, and the International Longshore
and Warehouse Union shut down ports from Tijuana to Vancouver,
encouraged by a two-hour strike of 150,000 Brazilian teachers
in Rio de Janeiro the day before.
day marked a turning point in the international movement for Mumia
Abu-Jamal. Much less significantly, it was also the day of Antioch's
1999 graduation, and some of the student speakers honored Mumia
Abu-Jamal in their speeches, and spoke of the other Antioch students
who missed their peer's graduation to join the marchers in Philadelphia.
year later, we are thinking about Mumia Abu-Jamal's case even
more. As you may be aware, Mumia was selected by students to be
our co-keynote speaker, sharing the graduation podium with Leslie
Fienberg, our other keynote speaker, who is speaking to you here
endured a most vicious and well orchestrated assault of hate-mail
and phone calls from the Fraternal Order of Police and agents
of racist terror like the National Association for the Advancement
of White People, and many other organizations and individuals.
the prospect of Mumia speaking at our graduation has struck anger,
even fear into those who advocate for his murder. Is Mumia Abu-Jamal
to be considered dangerous, even from behind the walls of a maximum-security
prison? What is there in this, a six-minute taped speech, that
has ignited such opposition?
think they are afraid of the truth. The truth about Mumia's political
railroading at his 1982 trial and the continued repression of
his commentary, living under the threat of death each and every
it's not just Mumia they fear. They fear the very truth about
our society that Mumia has so explicitly-and at his own peril-exposed
even from death row. The truth about a society that build's it's
jails faster than it's schools, that has awaiting for millions
of young people not the college education that we at Antioch have
been so privileged to receive, but prison.
truth about a society that would solve it's economic and cultural
problems not through social programs and education, but in police
repression, the incarceration of the desperate, and state-sanctioned
truth about a state, clinging to white supremacy, that now has
more Black men in prison that did South Africa at the height of
the apartheid regime.
truth about a nation, where, as the income gap grows wider still,
the pockets of the rich continue to be lined with the spoils of
a global economic empire, maintained if necessary by military
aggression or simply Third World debt. And for those here at home,
minimum wage, slashed benefits, prison labor, and for a growing
number, poverty and hopelessness.
know-and those opposed to Mumia's tape-recorded presence at our
graduation knowthat this graduation controversy goes far
beyond the innocence or guilt of one man who is but one among
so many thousands of others unjustly incarcerated in America.
It is an issue that speaks to one crucial question. What kind
of a society do we want to live in? What is the innocence or guilt
of the American political system?
the police and their supporters are right in a way. Mumia is dangerous,
dangerous to an unjust political system. We students chose Mumia
as our commencement speaker because he has been a courageous inspiration
to our political work both on campus and off.
believe Mumia Abu-Jamal must be heard, and we are honored by his
tape-recorded presence at our graduation, an event that will mark
for many of us the beginning of our engagement as activists in
the years to come. And we look forward to the day in the future
when not just Mumia Abu-Jamal will have a fair and just trial,
but all those under assault in this society, whether victimized
by poverty, racism, gender oppression, queerphobia, or religious
persecution will find the strength and wisdom to unite as a people,
across all so-called divisions, to forge a powerful and victorious
movement for radical social change.