Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu Jamal
Directed by Stephen Vittoria (2012)
This is a moving and beautifully made film about the journalistic career of Mumia Abu-Jamal, both before and after his 1981 incarceration. The film is narrated by a score of famous Black intellectuals, historians, writers, teachers, journalists, and activists. Prior to his arrest for the murder of Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner in 1981,* Mumia was a radio journalist for the NPR station at Temple University in Philadelphia. His interviews and news features were syndicated throughout the Delaware Valley. At the time of his arrest he was president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.
Thanks to a trial plagued with legal irregularities, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.
In 1992, after ten years on death row, a Pacifica** journalist organized for him to do regular Live from Death Row commentaries mainly focused on the immense sufferings of his fellow inmates (never on his own circumstances) under the barbaric US system of mass incarceration. He also used the broadcasts to draw public attention to the bomb the Philadelphia police (in collaboration with the FBI) dropped on the MOVE household in 1985 (see https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2019/08/03/the-police-war-against-move/).
The series was carried by Pacifica radio stations across the US and by Democracy Now shortly after its 1996 start-up.
Mumia’s Live from Death Row commentaries ended when state authorities banned all journalists from interviewing inmates in the Pennsylvania correctional system. The collected broadcasts were published as a book, Live from Death Row, in 1995.
After his radio broadcasts ended, Mumia worked on three more books:
- Faith of our Fathers (2003) – about the history of African and African American spirituality
- We Want Freedom (2008) – about the history of the Black Panther Party
- Jailhouse Lawyers (2009) – about prisoners-turned-advocates who have learned to use the legal system to assist fellow inmates.
He also published an article in the Yale Law Journal in 1991 about the inhumane treatment of death row prisoners.
All of his publications required major research, which Mumia carried out without benefit of Internet access, and were were written out longhand.
Despite the ban on journalist interviews, scores of political science and African studies teachers arrange for Mumia to present to their classes via conference calls.
In 2006, the Free Mumia Movement went international, with mass protests demanding his release occurring in all major cities. The same year a St Denis, a suburb of Paris named a street after him. In 2007 Paris proclaimed him an honorary citizen.
In April 2011 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the death penalty, and the Philadelphia District Attorney agreed to accept a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Because of a surprise December 2019 ruling (based on new evidence), Mumia now has a real chance of winning a new trial (see Counterpunch).
*In 1999, Arnold Beverley confessed to the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner. He maintains the Mob hired him and a friend to kill Faulkner due to the latter’s efforts to root out police corruption. See https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/how-abcs-20-20-framed-mumia-abu-jamal-for-execution-in-2001/
**Pacifica Foundation is an American non-profit organization which owns five independently operated, non-commercial, listener-supported radio station.