Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings by Mumia Abu-Jamal presents a selection of over 100 previously unpublished essays spanning the entire period of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s incarceration that crystallize his essential perspectives on community, politics, protest, history, social change and movement organizing in the U.S. and internationally. From discussions of Rosa Parks and Trayvon Martin, to Martin Luther King and Edward Snowden, Abu-Jamal articulates lucid, humorous and often prescient insight into the past, present and future of American politics and society. Written as radio commentaries from his prison cell on Death Row where he was held in solitary confinement for close to 30 years, Mumia’s revolutionary perspective brims with hope, encouragement and profound faith in the possibility of social transformation.
Published at a moment when the nation is grappling with the realities of—and backlash to—police violence in communities of color, Writing on the Wall couldn’t be more relevant, provocative or timely, and reads like a syllabus for understanding the daily civic and political realities of those marginalized by racism and class inequality.
Abu-Jamal is no stranger to such realities, and was the target of an unrelenting surveillance campaign from the time he was a 16 year-old sixties activist and long before the fateful night when he himself was shot, beaten and arrested by white Philadelphia police. From the moment he was taken into custody, Mumia has been subjected to gross violations of his rights, violations which have been well documented by Amnesty International and denounced by world leaders including Nobel Laureate, Bishop Desmond Tutu. These violations continue right up to the present time through U.S. authorities’ attempt to censor his speech and deny him adequate medical treatment required to address his life-threatening illness. At this moment, Mumia’s medical condition is fragile and uncertain. A half-page ad was recently placed in the New York Times to demand that state officials not further neglect his health. Of his current peril, Alice Walker writes that Mumia is “a rare and courageous voice speaking from a place we fear to know … losing that voice would be like losing a color from the rainbow.”
It is our hope that Writing on the Wall will contribute to the wider pursuit of such freedom and be read as a living contribution to the emancipatory tradition of African American literature, a tradition which champions the triumph of human conscience and dignity over state violence and oppression. Further, it is our hope that this document of Mumia’s humanity, insight, intelligence, and commitment will stand as a tribute to one of America’s most articulate and dedicated messengers of liberation.
Writing on the Wall was edited by Johanna Fernández, a former Fulbright Scholar to Jordan and Assistant Professor of History at Baruch College of the City University of New York where she teaches 20th Century US history and African American History. She is author of the forthcoming When the World Was Their Stage: A History of the Young Lords Party, 1968–1976 (Princeton University Press). Fernandez is the writer and producer of the film, Justice on Trial: the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal and she is featured in the critically acclaimed documentary about Mumia Abu-Jamal, Long Distance Revolutionary. The book also features a foreword by Cornel West.
Please consider donating to the Indiegogo fundraiser hosted by Prison Radio to help aid Mumia in receiving much needed medical care and legal assistance. You can also visit Free Mumia for more resources.