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Lock My Body, Can't Trap My Mind: Q&A with Mumia Abu Jamal

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By Dream Hampton, Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Citizen –

Angela Davis, in her introduction to Mumia Abu-Jamal‘s 2009 book “Jailhouse Lawyers,” called him one of the most important public intellectuals of our time. “As a transformative thinker,” she writes of Abu-Jamal, “he has always taken care to emphasize the connections between incarcerated lives and lives that unfold in the putative arenas of freedom.”

In his newest book, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America” with Marc Lamont Hill, Abu-Jamal thinks deeply and publicly about a broad range of issues, from Black feminism, to Obama‘s election and presidency, to hip hop, mass incarceration, public education and the Black church. He quotes Thomas Paine as easily as he references bell hooks. As a man who spent 30 years on Death Row insisting he’s innocent of murdering Officer Daniel Faulkner, he’s remarkably free of bitterness. He self-describes as a “free Black man living in captivity.”

The incredible news, delivered Dec. 7 that Abu-Jamal will no longer face the death penalty, came just two days before the day that marks his 30th year in prison. At the press conference announcing his office’s vacating the death sentence, District Attorney Seth Williams promised Abu-Jamal would spend the rest of his life in prison. Still, it was a victory for Abu-Jamal and for the Free Mumia campaign.

This interview was conducted via letters. Abu-Jamal’s answers arrived a week before the announcement that his three decades on death row have finally ended.

DH: You’re one of the busiest men I know, constantly creating podcasts; you’ve recently completed your seventh book and you find time to create hand-painted greeting cards. Is this a jail thing or have you always been so productive?

Mumia Abu-Jamal: I’d like to say it’s a prison thing, but it isn’t. The truth is, my mom used to bug me when I was a boy about being lazy (I was), so I overcompensated by working incessantly. If I didn’t have at least two jobs, I felt guilty (the power of a mom’s suggestion). There were times when I worked three jobs. I carried that energy with me when I entered the joint. For me, it’s second nature.

DH: What do you think of this uprising of the progressive left, Occupy Wall Street? There’s been talk of the absence of people of color.

MAJ: I’m frankly quite impressed with Occupy Wall Street, for it did in three months more than the movement of the ’60s did in seven years. The growth and sheer span of their work can only be termed impressive. Over 100 cities? Damn. I think it’s too white and too college-centric, but at least they’re doing something. For that, if nothing else, they are to be lauded. As for Afros and Latinos and Afro Latinos, I think it’s our job to enter those movements, and give ‘em input, issues and support. I think if all goes according to plan, this could very well be a turning point for this country and by extension, the world (for what happens here radiates around the world, because it’s the center of empire). We should remember that every great rebellion in U.S. history led to change, whether negative or positive. The great Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts, led to changes in the structure of the government, from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. The (Jacob) Coxey “Army” of the 1890s, while initially unsuccessful, was a direct cause of social security years later, for example.

DH: There’s so much talk about the lack of Black leadership. Your generation broke from traditional church leadership. But it’s re-emerged — or, perhaps, remained — a central organizing community space.

MAJ: Most of us have early, perhaps childhood memories of church. In many ways, it’s formative of not only our personalities, but also our sense of community, of some sense of self-worth, and even, Blackness. It therefore set the limits of what was communally acceptable, for they are inherently conservative (at least socially), and they have that stamp on communal consciousness. But, what I learned during the ’60s is that radical actions in the streets moves right through the walls of the sanctuary, and we remember the emergence of radical Black preachers (and imams, etc.), who, in turn, gave radical spiritual blessings to struggles outside of the church. For example, Malcolm X, Nat Turner, James Cone, Jesse Jackson, Ishakamuse Barashango, etc. In fact, in his later years, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was deepening in his radicalism, as shown by his Riverside Church speech, which decried racism, militarism and capitalism. His life and example, in turn radicalized many, many other religious people.

DH: Tell me about writing “The Classroom and the Cell,” about its conception and the process.

MAJ: When professor Marc Lamont Hill suggested the project, I was intrigued. Technically, it was the easiest I’ve ever done, but substantively, it wasn’t. For it was constructed from our series of phone calls, perhaps three, or four, per chapter. Marc would tape, send out texts after two or three weeks (whenever a chapter’s worth was done), and we would clean up, expand, and/or augment pieces. We mailed each other constantly. I must say, it was intellectually invigorating; but it also was challenging, for we talked about things that Black men rarely discuss, like love, Black love, pain and such. Most Black men avoid such subjects like the plague, but I think we both addressed it openly and honestly.

DH: The chapter on love was powerful, radical even. In the book you call Black love “revolutionary.”

MAJ: Black love itself, in a profoundly Negrophobic nation such as ours, is a radical thing, for it opposes the mainstream trajectory of U.S. life, policy and culture. We need to deepen and expand that ethos, so that it becomes a social force that has the power to attract and, with it, build. As in the discussion on church, social movements — especially radical and revolutionary movements — changes social reality in other spheres of life. It changes consciousness. Deep, caring, holistic love among our people can therefore make us more whole in all our relationships in our community. That’s because love is inclusive; while hatred is exclusive. There is power in love, which knows no limitations. That, I’m convinced, is our greatest treasure.

Osama bin Laden's Death Voted Top Story of 2011

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Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American –

The killing of Osama bin Laden during a raid by Navy SEALs on his hideout in Pakistan was the top news story of 2011, followed by Japan's earthquake/tsunami/meltdown disaster, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The death of bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who masterminded the Sept. 11 terror attacks, received 128 first-place votes out of 247 ballots cast for the top 10 stories. The Japan disaster was next, with 60 first-place votes. Placing third were the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked North Africa and the Middle East, while the European Union's financial turmoil was No. 4.

The international flavor of these top stories contrasted with last year's voting - when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the top story, President Barack Obama's health care overhaul was No. 2, and the U.S. midterm elections were No. 3.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Police Consider Searching Landfill: Jhessye Shockley Still Missing After Two Months, 17 Days

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By Danny L. White, Special to the NNPA from the Arizona Informant –

The search and belief that five year old Jhessye Shockley would be found alive has turned to an “active homicide investigation” in which law enforcement believe the little girl that loved to dress up and take photographs remains were disposed of in a landfill weeks before being reported missing.

Jhessye’s mother, Jerice Hunter continues to be the primary focus of the probe and investigation.

Hunter was arrested and later released weeks ago as prosecutors said they did not want to create a situation of double jeopardy if they pursed a felony murder case against Hunter in the future.

Police believe that little Jhessye’s remains were placed in a Tempe dumpster and possibly could have been transported to Mobile , AZ the Butterfield Station Landfill as long ago as the end of September?

Tracy Breeden speaking on behalf of law enforcement said, “We want to be successful, to do that we need to have more than a needle in a haystack.

“The information that has led to consider a landfill search emerged after Hunter’s November arrest on suspicion of felony child abuse,” said Breeden.

Law enforcement would not elaborate on the source of the information/leads but did say some of the information did come through Silent Witness and was no doubt considered conjunction with the information that came from Hunter’s own children in detailing how Jhessye was treated by her mother – left in a closet without regular food or water from early to mid-September.

Jhessye was also reported missing from school from early September according to school officials Hunter called and reported the child had pinkeye and other health issues.

In lieu of this information it begs the question – When did little Jhessye really go missing?

“As difficult as it is we are still holding out hope that Jhessye will be returned alive,” said Bishop Chris Effort who along with his wife (Tia) form a ministerial team that has galvanized the community with candle light walks, community block watch teams and memorials at the corner of 45th Ave and Glendale in close proximity to Hunters residence where Jhessye was reported to have gone missing from.

Absence from her apartment from the time of her release from jail, Hunter along with her mother Shirley Johnson have been seen in the past several days visiting the ever-growing memorial to little Jhessye that stretches between traffic signals at 45th and Glendale Ave.

Scottsdale Attorney Scott Maaseen has signed on to represent Hunter and has proclaimed her innocence. Maaseen has hired a private investigator and report law enforcement has wasted valuable time focusing on Hunter and not searching for relevant clues to find Jhessye.

“This case mirrors very closely that lady in Florida (Casey Anthony) who killed or knew her baby had died months ago and acted like she knew nothing about that child’s disappearance,” said one neighbor from the immediate area where Jhessye went missing from.

“We (residences in this area) walked and searched for that baby for weeks. We held rallies right out there on that corner ( 45th Ave and Glendale ) and we prayed and we prayed. If this woman (Hunter) has something to do with that baby missing or worse, God is going to punish her far worse than anything man or the police can do,” shared a neighbor who is beginning to think twice about Hunter’s involvement in the matter.

Writers note: Searching a landfill is time consuming and costly. Over 10 years ago law enforcements search for a Tempe homemaker led them to the same landfill they are considering searching for Jhessye. After 59 days of combing through 7,500 tons of garbage at the rate of seven to eight truckloads per hour and a cost at $350,000 dollars, the search ended with no sign of the person being searched for.

Without a firm date/time period in which the remains were disposed of it is quite difficult to know where to begin the search in a landfill.

Individuals with information in this case are encouraged to contact Silent Witness at (480) witness. You can remain anonymous.

New Study Says Immigrants Actually Create More Jobs for Americans

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By Stephon Johnson, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Despite what many people think about immigration and jobs in the United States, immigrants may actually help create jobs, according to a new study.

The study, "Immigrants and American Jobs," conducted by economist and professor Madeleine Zavodny on behalf of the American Enterprise Institute and the Partnership for a New American Economy, analyzed the relationship between the foreign-born workforce and the employment rate for natural-born American workers. The report focused on two groups that policymakers and employers call critical to the economy: foreign-born adults with advanced degrees and foreign workers here on temporary employment visas.

According to the study, in both cases, more foreign-born workers meant more jobs for Americans-with almost 262 more native-born workers employed for every 100 foreign-born workers with advanced degrees who work in science, technology, engineering or math, often referred to as the "STEM" fields.

The report also analyzed the fiscal impact of foreign-born workers and found that, on average, all immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits-particularly highly educated immigrants.

"This report adds important evidence to the case that economists have been making for years: that identifiable categories of immigrants unquestionably give a lift to native employment," said Zavodny, an economics professor at Agnes Scott College. "But I hope it's not just economists who take note-the study offers insight for legislators who need to know what's at stake in immigration policy."

According to the study, adding 100 workers in the H-1B visa program for skilled workers results in an additional 183 jobs for native-born Americans, while adding 100 workers in the H-2B program for less skilled, nonagricultural labor resulted in 464 more jobs for U.S. natives.

Based on the data, the report called for several legislative proposals that Zavodny said would create more jobs for Americans: give priority to foreign workers who earn advanced degrees from U.S. universities, particularly those who work in STEM fields; increase the number of green cards for highly educated workers; and make temporary visas for both skilled and less skilled workers more available.

2011 -- A Year of Challenges and Opportunities in Africa

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By Melvin Foote, Special to the NNPA for Constituency for Africa –

It can be said that 2011 will be seen as a year of tremendous challenges and opportunities for the 54 nations of Africa. With the world economy continuing unabatedly in the throes of global recession, African countries fought hard to soften the impact on their local economies while at the same time dealing with the various issues of increased democratization, good governance, healthcare, education and jobs for its people.

Many of the African countries that gained their independence in the 1960s, celebrated their 50th anniversaries this year. The 50-year mark triggered some serious analysis amongst African people as to what has gone right, what has gone wrong, and what needs to be done over the next 50 years!

In 2011 seventeen African countries, (including Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and Tunisia), were slated to hold presidential election. Some of these elections, notably in Nigeria, Benin, Tunisia and Zambia went forward with the decision widely respected amongst the populations. While others, notably Cameroon, DRC, Madagascar, Malawi and Uganda were either deemed unfair by large segments of the populations or postponed altogether.

The “Arab Spring” an unprecedented effort to do away with tyrannical governments in the Middle East and North Africa, began in Tunisia, and quickly spread to Egypt, Libya and other countries in the region. Two of the governments and their leaders, Zine El Abidene Ben Ali’s in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt, succumbed to the people’s pressure and shockingly collapsed in a short period of time. Rebellions in both countries were led by young people utilizing social networking technologies to mobilize. Both Tunisia and Egypt are now in various stages of democratic reform and trying to establish democratic institutions that would be more responsive to the people.

In Libya, the 30-year regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi came to an abrupt end in October, after a protracted civil war. Libya was also swept up in the winds of the “Arab Spring” with similar demands of the young people in Tunisia and Egypt for the tyrannical regime to step down. However, instead of leaving office, Gaddafi called out his military and began a brutal initiative to crush the rebellion. The United States and NATO responded by establishing a “no-fly” zone over much of the country, and provided assistance to opposition forces, which eventually lead to the deposing and killing of Gaddafi. As we head into 2012, many unanswered questions remain about the future of Libya, a wealthy oil-producing nation.

On July 9th, following a referendum on independence, the Government of South Sudan became the newest independent country on the continent, bringing to an end the continent’s longest running civil war. Independence for South Sudan comes after a protracted war with the north that lasted nearly 40 years and resulted in a purported 2 million deaths, millions more displaced, and a development starved economy. More than 75% of the oil reserves of the former Sudan (North and South), lie in South Sudan. In addition, the South is blessed with an abundance of other mineral resources, as well as water resources and fertile lands. Currently, it remains uncertain as to how this new nation will build a country virtually from scratch.

Once hailed as a model of stability, Cote d’Ivoire slipped into the kind of internal strife that has plagued many other African countries. Under the leadership of its first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Cote d’Ivoire was a model of stability for more than 3 decades after independence. The regime of Henri Bedie (who succeeded Houphouet-Boigny upon his passing), ended in a military coup in 1999, with Bedie fleeing to France. In an effort to remain in power, Bedie planted the seeds of ethnic discord by trying to stir up xenophobic behavior against Muslims in the north, including his main rival, Alassane Quattara.

In 2000, Laurent Gbagbo came to power. In October 2010, after a much delayed elections was held, he lost to Alassane Quattara. Rather than handing over power to the newly elected president, Gbagbo sought to remain in power by the force of the gun. The ensuing four-month stand-off ended only when Quattara’s forces overran the country’s south region, finally capturing Gbagbo and transporting him to the Hague to stand trial at the International Criminal Court.

Another major story in Africa in 2011 was the return of devastating episodes of drought and famine in Somalia and east Africa. This time around, the drought is exacerbated by the protracted 20-year civil war in Somalia, with a very limited central government in the country. Hundreds of thousands have already perished in this drought and millions more are at risk!

With the growing realization of Africa as a bastion for strategic minerals -- it is now attracting unprecedented interest from most notably China, but also India, the United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, wealthy Middle Eastern countries and other countries, who are now devising all kinds of strategies to access African oil, diamonds, uranium, kotan, bauxite, and other natural resources. If the negotiations with these countries are not well managed by the African Union and African nations, there is a legitimate fear that Africa could find itself in short order with a new form of colonization!

Despite these challenges, Africa is making remarkable progress towards promoting economic growth and sustainable development on the continent. Some of the highest rates of returns being recorded across the globe, are being found on the African continent.

Additionally, the well-regarded presidential elections that took place in Nigeria this year, combined with the highly impressive economic growth being reported there, suggest the “sleeping giant” is now ready to take its place as the economic engine on the continent in 2012!

African leaders are also working hard to promote inter-Africa trade between countries, with heavy emphasis on increasing agriculture production – another sign that bodes well for the entire region and the world.

Africa is aggressively turning towards her Diaspora in the United States, South America, Europe and elsewhere, to attract trade and needed investment, to promote innovation and to access technologies, and to effectively lobby and promote the cooperation of western governments in the continents development.

While much remains to be done in Africa to promote economic development, Africa and the African world has much to look forward to in 2012.

Melvin P. Foote is the President and CEO of the Constituency for Africa (CFA), a 21 year old Washington, D.C. based education and advocacy organization. He is also a well respected expert on a range of issues and topics concerning Africa and the African Diaspora. He can be reached at mfoote2420@aol.com.

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