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Read more about the history of the police bombing of MOVE headquarters

Public school teachers explain the importance of teaching about Mumia Abu Jamal.



Racism in Amerikkka? Naah...

I guess we all look alike.
Tonight is election night, November 7th. I am staying at Becky's friend Ayala's house, in West Philly. Ayala is great. But what was not so great was the fact that a rape had taken place the night before, right by Ayala's house, so I was told I should be careful of the police. Being black all of my life, I took it with a grain of salt; we must always be vigilant of the police and what they term "reasonable suspicion". Yet, when I was getting my stuff out of the Warrior, preparing to rest from a long day of driving, a police car pulled up behind me and shone the bright light on my back. I was too tired to care, so I gave the cop a disapproving look and went on my way. Afterward, Jan (Ayala's roommate) informed me that, after I went inside, four bicycle policemen and a paddy wagon rolled by the house. Unfortunately or fortunately (I still have not figured out which), I forgot the cell phone in the car. Well, that's when the refried beans hit the fan. Before I knew it, the doorbell rang and I was being spoken about in my absence.

Police are surrounding the Warrior!
They had conveniently sent the black policeman to the door to ask if everything was okay. I walked outside amongst the police officers to watch them squirm when they found out that they were after the wrong guy. My black coat or my black skin or the combination of the two supposedly were the reason for my being suspect. By this time, there were at least four police cars and a paddy wagon on the scene, with at least ten policemen. If I were the rapist, would it have taken ten armed men with four cars and a paddy wagon to quell my resistance? I asked the men if it was against the law to wear a black coat in Philadelphia, and of course they replied "no". It is certainly possible, but highly unlikely, that the culprit would return to the exact scene of the crime the night after the incident.

Nothing has changed but the time
With the streets lit up with the lights on the police cars, it is incomprehensible how they did not see the error of their ways. Unfortunately, these have been the ways of Amerikka for far too long. As addressed in a previous dispatch, racism is something not thought to be very prevalent in the North. In the antebellum period, it held the largest concentration of abolitionists (people who fought against slavery) in the country. Most slaves moved to the North to escape the harsh realities of slavery, but the quality of life was hardly better there. With the absence of slavery, these newly self-freed individuals had to contend with segregation of the highest level, immense poverty, and disease. In 1846, almost all African American babies died after birth because of sickness. Not even the richest African Americans were allowed to live with whites. With few or no jobs being offered to these Northern newcomers, their own neighborhoods became desolate places of ruin.

From the looks of things in Philly, not too much has changed. Willie Baptist, Education Director of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union believes that, since the country is doing well economically, all of the social ills that exist are somehow diminished in many people's minds. He says on the other side of the boom there is gloom. Not everyone is sharing in the prosperity of America. This is no new trend, however. This has occurred ever since America was formed.

In addition to the many challenges faced by the former slaves, white mobs led various attacks on African American churches, schools, and homes. Is this shocking to you? Well, to some in Philadelphia, it is not quite so shocking, because the same type of activity goes on to this day.

MOVE was an organization based out of Philadelphia that has been described as a family of revolutionaries. Although they were not related by blood, they chose to band together in the name of service to mankind. They also held such protests as forming a demonstration outside a zoo, because they believed that animals should not be exploited and imprisoned for the enjoyment of humans. Unfortunately, for Philadelphia police, they were seen as a nuisance for all of their protest and many of the conditions in which the poor and African-Americans live.

Their headquarters was located in a neighborhood of mostly African-Americans. Their story is so important because on May 13, 1985, police were actually able to legally bomb the headquarters in order to disband the group. Eleven people, including five children, were killed in the blast and the fire that followed. This also happens to be a neighborhood where drugs and other crimes abound with little or no police intervention. Yet the police were able to disband a group by violent force without being pushed to do so -- and even more, under legal protection.

Still another incident, involving Mumia Abu Jamal, a respected Philadelphia radio journalist, has been on the hearts and minds of not only those in Philadelphia, but all over. This man, who was accused of the murder of a police officer, has been sent to death row without due process of law. Even various well-known figures (Paul Newman and Danny Glover) have run to his defense. What does this mean to you or me?

On the other side of the boom there is gloom.
Even if it means nothing right now, it should raise questions. If you want to know the answers, you must first ask the questions. Judging from the past, do you like where this country is as far as race relations? I do NOT. Frankly, I wish none of my dispatches even had to center around the subject. It is sickening that we know the atomic weight of carbon, but cannot figure out how to treat our brethren with decency and respect, regardless of the color of their skin. It was too bad that the people I stayed with in Philly were so immensely embarrassed by my little fiasco with the police. I simply responded to the last apology with "Let's just hope it won't always be this way..."


Please email me at: kevin1@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

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Making a Difference - A death row plea for color-blind justice
Nick - The road to Harpers Ferry
Kevin - James Fenimore Cooper was writing wrongs
Kevin - Things are cookin' at Sturbridge Village