CREATING A MUMIA ABU-JAMAL CURRICULUM

By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (Februaru 23, 2012)

 

 

Several years ago, I received an e-mail from a group of teachers from Oakland, California and New York City suggesting that the world renown case of political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal become a part of the regular lesson plans in elementary and high schools throughout America.

Mumia was convicted of the murder of a Philadelphia police officer in 1982 and has been a prisoner on death row for seventeen years. He has maintained his innocence and supporters have gathered and presented evidence that �calls into question the verdict and the entire conduct of the courts and the police in his case.�

The educators stated in the e-mail that �We are public school teachers from Oakland, California and New York City. Between January and May 1999, educators in dozens of schools in the Bay Area and New York offered lessons on issues raised by the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We found that our students benefited enormously from these lessons. We are asking other educators to join with us this Fall in presenting pro and con readings, discussions, debates, writing assignments, video showings, rap / poetry workshops, art projects in the public schools and other educational sites.� This curriculum strategy needs to be updated and implemented at this time in history.

As an educator myself, I think this is an excellent idea that all educators, particularly African in America educator�s, should incorporate into their lessons throughout this school year. By incorporating the case of Mumia into educator�s lesson plans, it could provide a creative way to expand the lessons into the study of the Criminal Justice System in America and the devastating trend of warehousing African in America men in the prisons of this country.


For starters, teachers can raise the question, �Who is Mumia Abu-Jamal?� Mumia Abu-Jamal is an African in America journalist and long-time advocate for racial and economic justice. In 1969, he was a high school student and a writer for the weekly newspaper of the Black Panther Party. In 1980, he was elected president of the Association of Black Journalists in Philadelphia and was well known for his writings and radio commentary on the racism and brutality of that city�s police force.

Mumia�s case has generated a worldwide movement aimed at stopping his potential execution and freeing him from the hands of the white supremacy political system in the state of Pennsylvania.

By examining the Mumia Abu-Jamal case, inquiring students will probably ask the question, what is a political prisoner? The most accepted definition of a political prisoner is a person who in incarcerated because of their political beliefs and actions that are in opposition to the policies of the United States Government.

These lessons could also introduce students to cases of other African in America political prisoners who have been languishing away in America�s prisons for years such as: Sundiata Acoli, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and Sekou M. Abdullah Odinga. Students could be given research assignments political prisoners and others. Also, students could be assigned to research the clemency and release of the Puerto Rican FALN political prisoners.

Mumia�s case has reached a critical junction and the expansion of educating students about his case could serve to help mobilize more young people to get involved in the enormous support work taking place around the world to help free this courageous African in America man.

The legal team assembled to aid Mumia explained that �All appeals by Mumia Abu-Jamal in the Pennsylvania court system have been denied, and he is about to begin his appeals in the federal courts. Under the restrictive terms of the Effective Death penalty Act of 1996, Mumia must file his petition for a writ of habeas corpus before the end of October 1999. Habeas corpus is simply the technical legal term for asking the federal courts to review whether Mumia has been sentenced legally by the state courts.

Mumia�s lawyers contend that �In general, action in the federal courts will go much faster than it did in the state courts. Thus, we are now entering the final phase of the battle to save Mumia�s life. This is why we must proceed with a greater degree of urgency and

determination.�

All freedom loving educators have a duty, in my judgment, to infuse lessons of Mumia�s case in the classrooms of America to help students factually understand the gross injustices of this so-called white supremacy Criminal Justice System that is committing rampant genocide against our people. At this moment in history, it is imperative that will address the issue of Mumia�s case, and others, in our struggle for freedom, justice, independence, and liberation.

As Mumia has pointed out, �Conventional wisdom would have one believe that it is
insane to resist this, the mightiest of all empires, the victor in the Cold War, the empire that
devastated Iraq, and all that. But what history really shows is that today's empire is tomorrow�s
ashes. That nothing lasts forever, and that to not resist is to acquiesce in your own oppression.
The greatest form of sanity that anyone can exercise is to resist that force that is trying to repress,
oppress, and fight down the human spirit.�

 


National Chairman
National Black United Front (NBUF)


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