The War Before: The Story of Black Panther and Political Prisoner Safiya Bukhari – by Laura Whitehorn
We’re delighted to have political activist and former Weather Underground member Laura Whitehorn back with us to talk about her new book titled The War Before. In the book about Laura introduces us to Safiya Bukhari, a member of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s. The War Before traces Safiya’s life’s commitment of organizing around the rights of the oppressed. Through Safiya’s personal writings, we hear her unique perspective of what had happened to the Black Panther Party and her personal insights into the incarceration of outspoken radicals. Safiya, herself a longtime political prisoner and jailhouse activist, died in 2003. It was at the request of Safiya’s daughter Wonda Jones that Laura assembled and edited The War Before.
Laura Whitehorn/Sundiata Sadiq:
- When I was first in prison there was no library. Nothing. Whoever we were as political prisoners, we would have met Safiya. When she got out of prison in 1983, she made it her business to go and fight for every political prisoner in this country, that she could get to who wanted to be part of a movement to free political prisoners.
- Safiya: The fight for the freedom of political prisoners can’t be separate from the fight against repression in general whomever that is affecting. If she were alive today, I’m sure she would have been at the rally for Fahad Hashmi and fighting for the rights of immigrant detainees.
- Safiya: Political prisoners will continue to arise if people oppose the government.
- This book began with Wonda Jones (Safiya’s daughter). Wonda in some ways has been working on this book for her entire life.
- Safiya was aware all the time that the “freedom and democracy” that this country promotes as its image only exists on the suffering of so many people. Her politics were a challenge to the government all along, her being was a challenge.
- Some of these are essays, some of these are speeches. Safiya was investigating, she was questioning, she was willing to look at herself, what each of us brings into a movement. There is a connection between her humility, her honesty and her commitment.
- Sundiata: I became close to Herman Ferguson and Safiya.
- Laura: I was in prison when Jericho was founded.
- Sundiata: I was asked to get Safiya into the Sing Sing Prison to talk to the brothers.
- They had to remove Safiya’s uterus because of fibroids.
- In the February issue of Monthly Review we have an excerpt of Safiya’s chapters. It’s about post-traumatic stress symptoms in the Black Panther party. When I was putting this manuscript together and re-read it, I thought, I would like people to read this book from beginning to end.
Guest: Laura Whitehorn – revolutionary ex-political prisoner and native New Yorker Laura Whitehorn. Since the 1960s Laura was active in supporting groups such as the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Movement, and was active with Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground. Laura also worked to expose the FBI’s COINTELPRO.
Guest – Sundiata Sadiq (Walter Brooks). He is a leading member of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition in New York City and was a close friend of Safiya Bukhari for many years. Sudiata has been politically active since the late sixties, and he was also the president of the Ossining, New York chapter of the NAACP.
Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal: Johanna Fernandez
The U.S. Supreme Court recently re-opened the possibility that Pennsylvania may execute award-winning journalist and world-renowned “Voice of the Voiceless” Mumia Abu-Jamal. The high court referred his case back to the Third Circuit to reconsider its 2008 decision that Mumia could have a new penalty phase hearing in light of the Court’s ruling in the Ohio case of Smith v. Spisak. Spisak’s jury-imposed death sentence had been reversed when his attorneys, like Mumia’s, successfully invoked a critical 1988 Supreme Court decision in the Mills v. Maryland case. Mills rejected the idea that jurors had to be unanimous on the mitigating circumstances that existed in a case. Before Mills, juries had little or no alternative but to impose death if even one juror blocked consideration of a mitigating circumstance. The high court’s recent decision in Mills will now make it easier to obtain death sentences in capital cases; Mumia’s attorneys will argue that his case is distinguishable from Spisak’s.
Mumia as many know, was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. A previous guest here on Law and Disorder, author/journalist J. Patrick O’Connor, who wrote The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, says the real shooter was Kenneth Freeman, a business partner of Mumia’s brother. Freeman was found dead in 1985, bound and cuffed in a Philadelphia parking lot.
Professor Johanna Fernandez:
- Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal emerged in the 1990s to build a profile for Mumia on college campuses among educators and students.
- We’re also making the movement mainstream in pointing out what’s wrong with the criminal justice system.
- We’re getting a hip hop show for schools for spring break (Pennsylvania colleges)
- We want to educate young people and students in a nation that incarcerates 3 million people. That’s the size of San Francisco.
- I’ve known Mumia for about five years. I have used Mumia in the classroom live through phone conference. He speaks on issues such as the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panther Party and the criminal justice system today. These live conferences are incredibly powerful.
- Conversations with Mumia are intense, we talk about politics, Obama. We talk a lot about what life is like on death row. His cell is the size of a small bathroom. He’s only allowed 20 books at any given time. His cell is messy because he’s a researcher, a writer.
- Mumia: food is horrendous. They’re allowed to buy food, MRE style pre-packaged dry food. The servicing of inmates in this country is a billion dollar industry.
- What’s interesting about his situation is the state has tried to strip him of his intellectual vitality–although they have failed; he’s written six books from death row, he’s got his radio journals.
- The first thing the movement is asking people to do is to arm themselves with the facts of the case. Then you can sign a petition. There’s another petition calling for Obama to make a statement on the case.
- If you’re a student or a university professor we are asking you to help us organize a large town hall meeting, for April 3, 2010 (likely in NYC). Mumia’s case should be taken up during Black History Month by colleges all over the city.
Guest – Educators for Mumia member Johanna Fernandez. Johanna Fernandez is a native New Yorker. She received a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and a B.A. in Literature and American Civilization from Brown University.
We hear another strong speech from Palestinian teacher and filmmaker Fida Qishta. Fida is from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Gaza Freedom March Commitments Include:
- Palestinian Self-Determination
- Ending the Occupation
- Equal Rights for All within historic Palestine
- The full Right of Return for Palestinian refugees
From: Waging Nonviolence blog. The Egyptian government didn’t let most of the over 1,300 protesters from around the world into Gaza for the planned march, but those at Judson said that they witnessed a new stage in the emergence of a global movement, facilitated by the Internet, that may well be poised to end the international support that makes Israel’s policies possible. The lynchpin of the movement, the Cairo Declaration of the Gaza Freedom March, was drafted by would-be marchers while they waited in Egypt.