† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
“A Life Lived Deliberately”
by Mumia Abu-Jamal,
Graduation Speech at Evergreen State College, June 11, 1999
Reprinted in The New Abolitionists: (Neo)Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings, Joy James, editor, and The Radical Philosophy Review
Editors Note: As I reflected back on 2012, The Year of the Vote, a year book-ended by the murder of Trayvon Martin and the massacre at Sandy Hook, I was struck by both the victories and the on-going struggles.
But mostly, I was grateful. For this space, for those who frequent it, for a multitude of organizations who persist in seeking transformative solutions to the monstrosities of criminal injustice, those who resist the lure of the quick-fix “confidence men” and remain committed, in the face of tremendous odds, to liberation, to Abolition.
Thank you especially to Seeta Persaud, Kay Whitlock, Angola 3 News, Project NIA and Prison Culture, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, Victoria Law, Critical Resistance , The Real Cost of Prisons Project, Solitary Watch and Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Many more…
You all could be anywhere, doing anything but you have made a Deliberate Choice.
So too, have you readers. The subject matter of this series is difficult, rarely uplifting, but I am so grateful you choose to read, to engage, here and elsewhere, to pass the information and action calls on.
In that spirit, I offer tonight the speech Mumia Abu Jamal delivered to the graduating class of Evergreen College in June of 1999, the first graduation speech delivered by a death row inmate. (Mumia has since had his death sentence lifted and is serving life without parole. He has not been freed or silenced.) Students made the choice to invite him and they fought long and hard to have that finally honored. They lived the speech before he gave it – as it should be.
Whatever you think of Mumia’s case, or MOVE or militancy or the rest, the spirit of these words is right. So many stumble through life, deciding not to decide. Just surviving through either poverty or privilege – on the Mean Streets or Wall Streets, in the suites or in the ivory towers of academia. Some think it is easier to turn away — to avoid the pain or the obligation that always comes with knowledge and especially comes with privilege – but Not You.
You Live Life Deliberately and I Love You for It.
Thank You ~ Honored to be with you in the Struggle.
Here’s to 2013.