Why You Should Know About Mumia Abu-Jamal
There are so many iconic people we can highlight and discuss on this site, but when talking about controversial figures who’ve had an impact on hip-hop culture few compare to Mumia Abu-Jamal.
From Snoop Dogg (who recorded a track with Massive Attack in 2008 called “Calling Mumia” recorded under the alias “100 Suns”) to KRS-One (whose song “Free Mumia” was on his self-titled 1995 album) Mumia’s plight has been a cause célèbre (French for “famous cause”) since the 1980s.
During a time in Philadelphia when race relations weren’t exactly peachy, Mumia Abu-Jamal—who was a member of the Black Panther Party, broadcaster (and President of the Association of Black Journalists) and part-time cab driver—was convicted and sentenced to death for the December 9, 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Having plead his innocence since the incident occurred, issues such as the appropriateness of the death penalty, whether he is guilty and whether he ever received a fair trial have been constantly debated for almost 30 years now. Mumia sits on death row to this day.
According to FreeMumia.com:
In 1981, Mumia worked as a cab driver at night to supplement his income. On December 9 he was driving his cab through the red light district of downtown Philadelphia at around 4 a.m. Mumia testifies that he let off a fare and parked near the corner of 13th and Locust Streets. Upon hearing gunshots, he turned and saw his brother, William Cook, staggering in the street. Mumia exited the cab and ran to the scene, where he was shot by a uniformed police officer and fell to the ground, fading in and out of consciousness. Within minutes, police arrived on the scene to find Officer Faulkner and Mumia shot; Faulkner died. Mumia was arrested, savagely beaten, thrown into a paddy wagon and driven to a hospital a few blocks away (suspiciously, it took over 30 minutes to arrive at the hospital). Mumia somehow survived.
FreeMumia.com also has a very detailed background on the ensuing trial, evidence, witnesses, sentencing, confessions and more.
Mumia’s story provides a deep look into just how divided people’s opinions can be when it comes to matters of justice. While many view Mumia as an almost revolutionary figure, others have branded him “the patron saint of cop killers.” Polar opposite examples of corresponding support have occurred throughout his incarceration; while the Fraternal Order of Police once called for an economic boycott against all individuals and organizations that support him, he’s also been made an honorary citizen of about 25 cities around the world, including Paris, Montreal and Copenhagen.
Mumia’s arrest and trial is a source of attention for celebrities, foreign dignitaries and human rights campaigners. Faulkner supporters, however, regard the controversy as an effort to obscure the truth about Faulkner’s death.
In late 2006, controversial filmmaker Tigre Hill commenced work on The Barrel of a Gun, diverged from earlier documentaries In Prison My Whole Life and A Case for Reasonable Doubt to present an alternative view of the crime and the historical events that led up to and may have caused it. It features on-camera interviews with people including widow Maureen Faulkner, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, actor Danny Glover and activist Pam Africa. The film’s release was scheduled for late 2009, but Hill announced it would be delayed to incorporate a “rare new insight” achieved while in production. In June this year it was announced the film’s premiere screening would take place in September. The ticket price will be $46.99, representing Officer Faulkner’s badge number.
Should you wish to do so, you can write to Mumia Abu-Jamal at the address below:
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370