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SIMONE! By Mumia Abu-Jamal (english)
by Mumia Abu-Jamal
Email: steveargue2 (nospam) yahoo.com
16 May 2003
"She sang songs with bite, and grit, and pride and longing... and rage. Deep, down, boneset rage, at how cheaply life was lived for Africans in America."
In this post:
1. "TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED, AND"... SIMONE! By Mumia Abu-Jamal
2. Yet Another Witness Comes Forward and Refutes The frame-Up Of Mumia Abu-Jamal! (updated version) By STEVE ARGUE
"TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED, AND"... SIMONE!
[Col. Writ. 5/7/03] Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal
"...Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought."
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), 'To a Skylark'
When the historical record of the Twentieth Century is finally written, a special chapter will have to be penned about the remarkable and talented singer, who was called Nina Simone (1933-2003).
In any true history, words, no matter how skillfully crafted, or masterfully molded, will fail to capture the brilliance of the woman. Some recording must be appendixed, so that the student will be blessed to hear her thrilling contralto, dark, full, rich as earth in the promise of spring.
Also required, will be a collection of her lyrics, so that no one may miss the words that she dared set to music and bring to life, with a fury, a passion, and sheer artistic courage that continue to dazzle years, decades even, after their creation.
She was an Artist (with a capital 'A') in every sense of the word, but she was far more than that term now suggests. She was proud, imperial, majestic and deliciously arrogant as say, the late jazz great Miles Davis was, in his prime.
The writer remembers her appearing in the late 1970s, in an outdoor, mid-day concert at the Bell Tower at Temple University. She looked out at the crowd with nervous irritation, not fear driven by the uncertainty of her performance, but a barely suppressed anger that there were only hundreds of people gathered to hear her, not thousands.
She sang songs with bite, and grit, and pride and longing... and rage. Deep, down, boneset rage, at how cheaply life was lived for Africans in America. Her "Mississippi Goddamn" was an anthem that stirred, not merely the Civil Rights Movement, but also the Black Liberation Movement: "You don't have to live next to me, just give me my equality!", she demanded. Her songs could also be tender, loving odes to the multi-flavored beauty and spirits of Black women, as in her signature "Four Women", which spoke of the various moods and hues of her sisters.
Decades before Erykah Badu would wear the head wrap Simone did so, and walked as regally as the Nubian princess that she became.
Although she was born in the Jim Crow South, the apartheid way of quiet acceptance was never hers, and she spoke out boldly, in her art, and in her interviews, against the injustices suffered by her people.
When the Nixon-era began, she bid her homeland adieu, and like a generation of other brilliant Black Americans (like the writer, Richard Wright) who could not abide the nastiness, meanness, and racial indignities of the time, she migrated to live with dignity in France.
Some reviewers have pronounced her career essentially over when she left the U.S. during the '70s, never to rise again.
But great artists, like great music, have a habit of resurrection.
In the early '90s, an American film emerged that was a borrowing from the French. Bridget Fonda portrayed an alienated, drug-addicted, youngster who got caught up in a failed drugstore robbery, turned killing. She was spirited into a shadowy spy agency where she worked for the government. The character, when she was alone, invariably played Nina Simone records in the background to reflect her moodiness. The film was titled "Point of No Return" (a U.S. remake of "La Femme Nikita.") A generation of young filmgoers were thus exposed to the wonder and power of Simone's magnificent instrument.
Where are the Simones of this generation? They are there... in the shadows, perhaps; but they are there.
They are perhaps afraid of giving as much as their recently departed ancestor. For, even they know that she sacrificed a good deal to sing the songs that moved her great heart. Such a prospect is no doubt scary.
Yet, one wonders, who among the madding throng will be remembered, not to mentioned revered 30 years from now? How much of what is produced now furrows its way into the heart, or rings the deep bell of recognition in the soul? Who will sing of the wonder, the terror, the beauty, and the madness of Black life in this new century?
Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Yet Another Witness Comes Forward and Refutes The frame-Up Of Mumia Abu-Jamal!
By STEVE ARGUE
Under oath, and with a man’s life on the line, hospital security guard Priscilla Durham testified that she heard Mumia Abu-Jamal yell out as he lay bleeding in the hospital, "I shot the motherf---er and I hope he dies."
In the original police report by Officer Gary Wakshul, who was with Mumia the entire time through his arrest and medical treatment, Wakshul stated, "during this time the Negro male made no comment." Yet Gary Wakshul stated later that he heard Mumia confess that night. Gary Wakshul didn't "remember" this confession until almost three months after Mumia's arrest when prosecutor McGill met with police asking for a confession. Officer Wakshul absurdly stated that he didn't think the confession was important at the time he wrote his original report. Despite the importance of this evidence a jury has never been allowed to hear Wakshul’s original report.
Security guard Priscilla Durham’s testimony has now been refuted by yet another eyewitness. The half- brother of Priscilla Durham, Kenneth Pate, submitted a declaration through Mumia’s lawyers in the U.S. Court of Appeals and in the Third Circuit Court on April 24, 2003 stating that, “I read a newspaper article about the Mumia Abu-Jamal case. It said Priscilla Durham had testified at Mumia's trial that when she was working as a security guard at the hospital she heard Mumia say that he had killed the police officer. When I read this I realized it was a different story from what she had told me.”
Instead Kenneth Pate asked her, ‘"Did you hear him say that?” [I shot the motherf---er and I hope he dies.] " Priscilla answered, "All I heard him say was: 'Get off me, get off me, they're trying to kill me."
In the affidavit Kenneth Pate also states, “She said that when the police brought him in that night she was working at the hospital. Mumia was all bloody and the police were interfering with his treatment, saying ‘let him die.’ Priscilla said that the police told her that she was part of the "brotherhood" of police since she was a security guard and that she had to stick with them and say that she heard Mumia say that he killed the police officer…”
Despite the importance of this new affidavit, directly contradicting testimony that put Mumia on death row, a court clerk is refusing to file the new evidence and its accompanying remand motion for the evidence to be heard in a lower court. As Mumia’s attorneys have stated in a press release, “the clerk's refusal to file the motion was ‘an unlawful act of bureaucratic usurpation’ which violated Mumia's rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
In response on May 7, 2003 attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal were forced to file a motion in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court asking the court to order its clerk to file the remand motion. This clerk's obstruction of justice is just the most recent refusal by the courts to hear evidence of Mumia's innocence, but in the past these decisions had been made by judges.
The statement of Kenneth Pate is only the latest testimony that comes together to prove that Mumia Abu-Jamal is a political prisoner and the victim of a government conspiracy to frame him and put him on death row in 1981.
The frame-up trial of Mumia 21 years ago included the testimony of three eyewitnesses (Veronica Jones, William Singletary, and Robert Chobert) who later said they were threatened, coerced, or made promises by the police to get them to give false testimony against Mumia.
Facing protest and international pressure in support of framed political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal Federal Judge Yohn threw out Mumia’s death sentence on December 18th 2001. Judge Yohn's ruling, while possibly sparing Mumia the death penalty, did not overturn Mumia's conviction or grant him a new trial based on new proof of his innocence.
This decision is under appeal by the State of Pennsylvania, which is trying to reinstate Mumia’s death penalty sentence. In addition, political pressure is being applied by Pennsylvania Governor (D) Ed Randell for the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Ed Randell, a racist Democrat Party leader, promised the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal when he ran for governor.
Mumia’s attorneys have also appealed Yohn’s ruling and continue to fight to have the evidence heard and Mumia freed.
In earlier sentencing Mumia had been given the death penalty largely based on arguments that he had been a member of the Black Panther Party. This sentencing, based on political beliefs, was in violation of Mumia's 1st Amendment rights. Former membership in the Black Panther Party was used against Mumia effectively. This is largely because of the way the Black Panther Party was falsely portrayed in the corporate media while the FBI, working with local police departments, carried out a systematic campaign of murder and frame-ups against the members of the Black Panther Party in 1969 and 1970 killing 39 members.
While Mumia Abu-Jamal survived that period of bloody political repression in American history, he was later framed up for a 1981 crime he did not commit.
As a freelance journalist Mumia exposed the murderous police brutality and political repression carried out by the police against the MOVE organization in Philadelphia. That murderous repression was then directed at Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981 when the Philadelphia Police shot Mumia, beat him, and interfered with his medical treatment. Failing to murder Mumia in the street and in the hospital the Philadelphia Police and DA then framed him on the false charge of murder on Police Officer Faulkner.
In May of 2001 Mumia's attorneys dropped a legal bombshell by submitting into court a sworn affidavit that contains the confession of Arnold Beverly to the murder that Mumia is accused of committing.
The new evidence that both state and federal courts have refused to hear include the confession of Arnold Beverly who states in his sworn affidavit, "I shot Faulkner at close range." Beverly also states very clearly, "Faulkner was shot in the back and in the face before Jamal came on the scene. Jamal had nothing to do with the shooting."
Arnold Beverly's confession is corroborated by eyewitness statements and forensic evidence. Beverly says he was wearing a green army jacket the night he shot Faulkner. William Singletary was there the night of the shooting. He says he saw a man shoot Faulkner and it was not Mumia. He also states that the actual killer was wearing a green army jacket.
Four eyewitnesses, including two cops, put a man wearing a green army jacket on the scene. Five eyewitnesses described a man fleeing the scene the way Beverly describes he did. Mumia of course was not running anywhere, he was lying on the ground with a bullet in his chest.
According to Arnold Beverly, Mumia arrived on the scene after Beverly had already shot Faulkner. Beverly says that Mumia was then shot by an arriving officer. The prosecution claims that Mumia was shot by Faulkner in self defense as Faulkner laid on the ground dying. Yet Beverly's story does fit with forensic evidence and the report of a cop at the scene that night. The cop stated that Mumia was shot by an arriving officer. The downward trajectory of the bullet into Mumia's chest also makes it physically impossible for Faulkner to have shot Mumia from the ground. In fact five hours after the shooting a police medical examiners report states that Mumia "was shot subsequently by arriving police reinforcements."
On every level Arnold Beverly's sworn confession to a capital offense is in fact backed up by evidence, while the prosecutions version of events is not. This, however, has not been cause enough for the prosecution to reconsider pushing for the execution and jailing of an innocent man. Instead they have successfully argued in court that the new evidence was not brought forward in a timely manner.
Ramona Africa spoke on this point at demonstration of 3,000 for Mumia on August 17th 2001 stating, "Judge Dembe has said she wants, in three weeks, some briefs to determine whether or not it's too late to prove his innocence, whether or not this information comes too late. We're saying it's never too late! What is she talking about, too late?… We aint interested in legalities. We're interested in what's right. Slavery was legal, but that wasn't right! Apartheid was legal but that wasn't right! The murder of Shaka Sankofa down in Texas, despite his innocence, was legal but that wasn't right! We don't care about legality. We care about justice and what is right."
In State court Mumia's attorney, Eliot Grossman put forward important legal arguments on why the 60-day limit should not apply to Beverly's confession, which was first made in 1999. He pointed out that Mumia's former, and fired, legal team of Leonard Weinglass and Dan Williams misinformed Mumia that they were investigating Arnold Beverly's confession when in fact they never had any intention of presenting it for evidence. Williams makes this point clear in his new book "Executing Justice" where he states that he doesn't believe the Beverly confession and that he doesn't believe the police would ever frame up an innocent man. These attorneys allowed the 60-day time line to expire without Mumia's permission or knowledge.
Mumia fired Weinglass and Williams after Williams betrayed attorney client confidentiality in May 2001 by publishing the money making book, "Executing Justice," purported to be an insiders account of Mumia's case. The publication of the book at a critical time in Mumia's appeal process shows that Williams was not looking out for Mumia's legal interests. Weinglass also knew the book was coming out, but did not inform Mumia. This, like their treatment of the Arnold Beverly confession, was a betrayal of the interests of their client and shows that they were not adequately representing him.
In federal court Judge Yohn has ruled that Beverly's confession is inadmissible citing the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. The act, among other things, sets a time limit of one year for death row inmates to present new evidence. Yohn echoed the prosecution by falsely stating the "petitioner chose not to present his claim to the state court or even to this court until May 2001."
Yohn's chilling decision also cited the infamous 1993 Herrera decision that proof of innocence is no bar for execution.
These rulings and statements of both Judge Dembe and Judge Yohn, along with those of Judge Sabo before them, are in effect saying that an American capitalist court of law is no place for evidence proving innocence.
On September 4th of last year Terri Maurer-Carter, an official court stenographer in the courts where Mumia was framed, came forward with more information on the state of mind of Judge Sabo during the trial. She states in an affidavit submitted last year, "Judge Sabo and another person were engaged in conversation. Judge Sabo was discussing the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. During the course of that conversation, I heard Judge Sabo say, "Yeah, and I'm going to help them fry the n______." There were three people present when Judge Sabo made that remark, including myself."
Judge Sabo presided over Mumia's original frame-up trial, but he didn't just do that. He came out of retirement to rule against Mumia at subsequent appeal hearings on whether or not Mumia got a fair trial. At these hearings Sabo ruled that Sabo had not violated Mumia's legal rights by denying him legal representation of his choice and denying him the right to attend his own trial.
Judge Sabo also ruled for the prosecution against the admissibility of the testimony of a key eyewitness in the original trial, Veronica Jones, who stated that she was coerced through threats from the police into giving false testimony against Mumia in the original trial. Jones was a prostitute who says that the police threatened her with prison on warrants and of taking her children away if she didn't say what the police wanted. She was later arrested off of the witness stand on a petty warrant while she told the truth testifying at a hearing for a new trial for Mumia. This testimony was important evidence of the fact that a frame-up had taken place. Yet Sabo did not allow a new trial based on this information or any of the other evidence brought forward.
In addition Judge Albert Sabo barred Mumia Abu-Jamal from his own trial claiming that Mumia was barred for being disruptive. Yet court records have now revealed that Sabo barred Mumia from his trial at the request of Mumia's incompetent and now disbarred defense attorney at the time, Anthony Jackson. This court appointed attorney made his request on the grounds that Mumia was about to fire him and would if Mumia wasn't barred from the trial. Sabo's granting of Jackson's request was a clear violation of Mumia's right to legal representation of his choice and of his right to be present at his own trial.
Another key ingredient missing in the prosecution's case against Mumia is a motive. Beverly's confession, however, does contain a clear motive. Beverly states, "I was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner. I had heard that Faulkner was a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area."
The entire chain of police command that "investigated" Mumia have in fact since been removed from the Philadelphia police force for corruption. At the time Faulkner was killed in December 1981, the FBI was involved in at least three investigations of the police in the center city area for corruption including extortion and bribery connected to the mob, prostitution, after-hours clubs, and gambling in the center city area. Targeted in the FBI investigation were Inspector Alphonzo Giordono, the senior cop at the scene of Faulkner's shooting, James Carlinini, head of homicide, and John DeBenedetto, head of the division where Faulkner worked.
Witnesses and informants in the FBI investigation were murdered. This included a witness who testified against DeBenedetto in 1983.
Police concern that Faulkner may have been an FBI informant could easily have led to his murder. Donald Hersing who was a source for the FBI at the time testifies in an affidavit for the defense that the Philadelphia cops were very concerned about possible FBI informants at the time. In a similar situation the LAPD Rampart cop who blew the whistle on police corruption and murder in LA was released from prison in 2001. He immediately went into hiding out of fear for his life from fellow officers.
Attorney Eliot Grossman stated at a press conference, "Mumia Abu-Jamal was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a hit was in progress on a police officer causing problems interfering with police corruption." But for the Philadelphia police he was at the right place at the right time. Mumia had exposed the murderous police violence used against the MOVE organization. Corrupt police officers used the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
What we do makes a difference, however. The government's attempt to murder Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1995 was halted by mass protests, including 10,000 people in Philadelphia, and international support. Those actions stopped Mumia’s execution within days of it being scheduled to take place. Continued support for Mumia Abu-Jamal in the streets will be necessary to keep Mumia alive and to free him.
Mumia has sat on death row for the past 21 years, removed from his family. Yet he now stands out as an uncompromising voice for the oppressed and exploited. Many have called him the voice of the voiceless.
The many prominent supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal include the European Parliament, Nelson Mandela, the Japanese Diet, the Congressional Black Caucus, The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sam Jordan, Leonard Peltier, and many unions in the United States and around the world.
In addition, Mumia Abu-Jamal has been made an honorary citizen of Paris by the French City Council. That honor was last bestowed on Pablo Picasso in 1971.
Mumia stands up for unions, against war, against racism, for equality for gays and lesbians, for the poor, and against the many injustices of the so-called criminal justice system. Mumia speaks up on many of the issues ignored, lied about, or glossed over by the corporate media and the corporate politicians. We need Mumia, yes we need him alive, but we also need him free. Yet all of the evidence shows that Mumia won't get justice in America's courts unless we turn up the heat.
For protests, teach-ins, and strikes (like the west coast 1998 longshoreman’s strike for Mumia) to: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Do not reinstate the death sentence for Mumia! All new evidence should be heard! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty! For a socialist revolution in the United States to free all political prisoners and charge the police for their crimes!
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