Why the Movement to Free Mumia Matters to the Hip Hop Community

By Tony Muhammad



“We in the house like Japanese in Japan, or Koreans in Korea

Head to Philly and free Mumia with the Kujichagulia

Singin’ is swingin’ and writin’ is fightin’

But what they writin’ got us clashin’ like titans it’s not excitin’

No question, bein’ a Black man is demandin’

The fire’s in my eyes and the flames need fannin’

The fire’s in my eyes and the flames need fannin’

The fire’s in my eyes and the flames need fannin’

With that what? (Knowledge Of Self) Determination

With that what? (Knowledge Of Self) Determination

With that what? (Knowledge Of Self) Determination

With that what? (Knowledge Of Self) Determination”                                                                

– Talib Kweli – Black Star – K.O.S. (Determination) (1998)


Talib Kweli

The above lyrics written by Talib Kweli were not just relevant to our condition as a people seventeen years ago when it was first released, but much more so today as the quality of our state of living has not improved.  In fact, it is getting worse on all levels.  The ones profiting off of our misery the most are corporate plutocrats who are by and large behind the scenes but yet invest in the very industries we fall victim to the most – entertainment, fashion, education and prison.  They design and market a world through debauchery in the form of television programming, violent and unintelligent musical expressions, educational failures and long-term prison sentences – making it all appear like the kind of life Black and Brown people are supposed to live.  In the end, the ones we end up fighting and killing theMumia-1 most is our very own. 

On this note, why is heading to Philadelphia with the aim to “free Mumia” with a self-determined spirit (the meaning of Kujichagulia) relevant to the answer to the viscous cycle of a problem that we suffer from today?  It has to do with the great truth that Journalist and Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal exposes through his writings; a great truth that if more of us take heed to, it will lead to more of us becoming awakened and compel us to improve our condition as a whole and work to restore and heal our communities.  He was imprisoned over 23 years ago, not for the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer as the Pennsylvania courts falsely claim, but for his work in exposing the truth behind the great injustices we experience on a day to day basis, including the murdering of our people by police.  If the words of Mumia were not relevant, then Public Enemy’s video Give the Peeps What They Need would not have been banned in 2002 by MTV for the hook phrase “FREE MUMIA AND H. RAP BROWN!” (H. Rap Brown being another political prisoner serving time on trumped up charges).  Likewise, if what the symbol of Mumia stands for were not of great concern to the enemy still today, then the Presidential nomination of former NAACP lawyer Debo P. Adegbile to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department would not have been rejected in by the U.S. Senate in 2013 on the basis of him having a history of working on Mumia’s defense case. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez3XlGScs2o


The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

However, it is unfortunate that it often times takes incidents of crisis to remind us of the social duty that we have to ourselves and to each other in this critical hour living in a country that has never really been about restoring justice to any of us.  For over four hundred years, as Black and Indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere we have been living in a system that has been more so than anything actively working to silence our voices while we experience terror, bloodshed, repression and injustice on every level imaginable.  We must do justice among ourselves first by committing ourselves non-stop to the transmission of information inter-generationally and cross-generationally concerning the reality of our condition in America and beyond and in the best way that we can how we can defend ourselves.  The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan teaches us that we are at war and that war is being waged on us on multiple levels – through education, through business, through the criminal justice system, through food, through the water we consume and even the air that we breathe.  He says that we must be uprooted into the knowledge of the war so that we can learn how to participate in it.  For all who are reading this, this is not a scare tactic.  This is dealing with our reality.  This is justice, doing right among our own.  If we do not do justice among our own first, we cannot expect anyone else to give it to us.  KRS-One writes on pages 570 – 571 of The Gospel of HipHop:  “Asking for justice is not how an oppressed group will ever get justice.  It is when such a group begins to perform the justice they want for themselves amongst themselves that such justice appears and serves the well-being of that group.”


Pam Africa with Mumia Abu-Jamal

This past week, the conscientious community became alarmed to discover that Activist, Journalist and Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal had been hospitalized in intensive care as a result of obvious improper medical attention to his diabetic condition (as a result of being fed improper food) after being diagnosed with eczema in January.  Mumia has also been given medication that has caused his skin to swell and rupture.  Some in the activist community have regarded this act as false medication and attempted murder.  He has reportedly been frequently in a deep trance-like sleep and lethargic in his expression.  He has been shaken out of a deep sleep by guards during count. For not being awake during count, he was punished for two weeks, without calls or yard.  According to activist Pam Africa of MOVE, Mumia’s sugar level was at a dangerously high 779 after he fainted and was taken to ICU on the morning of Monday, March 30th.  (As a reference, diabetic coma is considered to be at 800)  At first, Mumia was denied visitation by his family.  But after the prison and the hospital received pressure in the form of a seemingly endless amount of phone calls and demonstrations, the family was allowed to visit.  Conscientious artists who have historically expressed support for Mumia’s release, such as Talib Kweli attempted to visit Mumia but were denied access.  After Mumia’s sugar level was brought back down to the mid-300s he was transported back to the medical prison.  Prisons are by and large unequipped to handle such serious conditions and refuse to pay extended hospital stay for the treatment of such conditions. Pam Africa has expressed that the only religious leader that has lent support for Mumia in the midst of the emergency has been The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan who said he would pay to have Mumia transported if necessary and have a doctor properly diagnose and treat his condition.  MOVE has also been in close contact with the Nation of Islam’s National and Philadelphia Prison Reform Ministry in regards to Mumia’s condition and treatment.  Student Prison Reform Minister, Gregory X Moore, who had been already working with Mumia’s defense team legally challenging Pennsylvania Senate Bill 508, which disallows inmates to speak to the media regarding their cases, commented that the family were never properly informed of Mumia’s condition or being sent to a hospital.  The family did not know about Mumia’s hospitalization until The Legal Team along with The Prison Reform Ministry went to visit him at the prison on Monday regarding the lawsuit.  Various groups are demanding that Mumia be released due to health reasons in a similar way that Amnesty International was able to get 71-year-old Herman Wallace because he had liver cancer.  For more information on this campaign, visit http://www.bringmumiahome.com.

jasiri x

Jasiri X

Artist and Activist Jasiri X, who has been in communication with MOVE and Mumia’s family, is organizing a gathering hosted by Paradise Gray of the Legendary Group X-Clan in Pittsburgh on April 24th in honor of Mumia’s birthday.  He commented, “Mumia’s voice, intellect and powerful commentary on this broken injustice system is needed now more than ever.” This is not a time to be complacent.  It is the time for conscientious artists to band up together and highlight the reality of the times we are living in, the reality of our oppressed collective condition, the reality that we have political prisoners living in America and what must be done about it all. Why artists specifically?  They have throughout the world historically been the igniters of social change.  And it is indeed an understatement that this present world is in need of just that.


Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for over 15 years. Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference (2004 – 2009).  He currently serves as a student assistant minister to Student Minister Patrick Muhammad at Muhammad Mosque #29 in Miami, Florida.