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Mumia Abu-Jamal on the Meaning of Ferguson

Ferguson is a wake-up call to build social, radical, revolutionary movements for change.

In a new collection of over 100 previously unpublished essays, many written in solitary confinement, Mumia Abu-Jamal addresses topics ranging from Rosa Parks to Edward Snowden, from the Trail of Tears to Ferguson. Click here to order Writing on the Wall today!

The following excerpt from Writing on the Wall was written on August 31, 2014, by Mumia Abu-Jamal. He spent more than 30 years awaiting execution, before his death sentence – but not his conviction – was vacated in 2011. Abu-Jamal is currently incarcerated and infirm in Mahanoy prison in Pennsylvania. You can contribute online to pay for a legal suit to force the state of Pennsylvania to provide Abu-Jamal with appropriate medical treatment immediately.

Before recent days, who among us had ever heard of Ferguson, Missouri?

Because of what happened there, the brief but intense experience of state repression, its name will be transmitted by millions of Black mouths to millions of Black ears, and it will become a watchword for resistance, like Watts, like Newark, Harlem and Los Angeles.

But Ferguson wasn’t 60 years ago – it’s today.

And for young Blacks from Ferguson and beyond, it was a stark, vivid history lesson – and also a reality lesson.

(Image: City Lights Books)(Image: City Lights Books)When they dared protest the state’s street-murder of one of their own, the government responded with the tools and weapons of war. They assaulted them with gas. They attacked them as if Ferguson were Fallujah, in Iraq.

The police attacked them as if they were an occupying army from another country, for that, in fact, is what they were.

And these young folks learned viscerally, face to face, what the White Nation thought of them, their claimed constitutional rights, their so-called freedoms, and their lives. They learned the wages of Black protest. Repression, repression and more repression.

They also learned the limits of their so-called “leaders” who called for “peace” and “calm” while armed troops trained submachine guns and sniper rifles on unarmed men, women and children.

Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin once said, “There are decades when nothing happens; there are weeks when decades happen.”

For the youth – excluded from the American economy by inferior, substandard education; targeted by the malevolence of the fake drug war and mass incarceration; stopped and frisked for Walking While Black – were given front-row seats to the national security state at Ferguson after a friend was murdered by police in their streets.

Ferguson is a wake-up call. A call to build social, radical, revolutionary movements for change.

Copyright (2015) by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books.

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