A Message from Mumia Abu-Jamal
December 12, 2014
Do you know who A.J. Muste was? Well, neither did I.
I had to research it -- not online, for prison cells in Pennsylvania have no such amenities -- but by checking through books, like Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States, and, of course, others.
Muste was a central (yet largely unknown) figure who introduced a young college student and seminarian named Martin Luther King, Jr. to the notion of nonviolent activism, and by so doing, changed him, and through him, the entire country.
When Muste presented his views to King, the two men fell into a “pretty heated argument,” for King couldn’t agree with his ideas. A.J. Muste, not Gandhi, was the first to influence King in his turn towards nonviolence.
Muste is gone today, but the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute is alive and well -- and needs your support.
Just as you’ve probably not heard of A.J. Muste (described by Zinn as a “revolutionary pacifist”), you may not have heard of the Muste Institute, but it’s played an important role in a variety of social justice movements for many years, providing the funds to get many such projects off the ground and on the road to change.
Recently, the Pittsburgh-based Abolition Law Center released a remarkable report: “No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Waste at State Correctional Institution (at) Fayette.” A Muste Institute grant made it possible to print the report, thereby ensuring its wide coverage and positive reception. From the ‘Sooty City,’ a firm comprised of young, energetic lawyers is able to emerge -- thanks to Muste.
The Abolitionist Law Center is now representing a challenge to Pennsylvania’s blatantly unconstitutional so-called Revictimization Relief Act, which seeks to keep prisoners like me from speaking out about injustice.
Muste was a deep and tough thinker, who was profundly anti-war. He believed that when different groups could learn to work together they could influence social change. This has been reflected, too, in the Muste Institute’s support over the decades for projects like these:
-- A 1994 “Journey of Hope” tour of Georgia by people who have lost loved ones speaking out against capital punishment, organized by Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.
-- Rallies in Harrisburg in 1998 and 1999, sponsored by Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty.
-- A 2001 Art for Mumia exhibit and interfaith program in Robben Island, South Africa.
-- Campaign Against the Death Penalty’s 2004 national convention in Chicago.
-- The Other Death Penalty Project: people in prison organizing to raise awareness about how life without parole sentences comprise an unjust “other death penalty.”
-- Statewide campaigns to end the death penalty in Nebraska, Idaho, Missouri, New Jersey, Connecticut and beyond.
For Muste, and for the Muste Institute, nonviolent grassroots activism is the fundamental key to organizing movements that can make social change into a reality.
With your generous contribution to the Muste Memorial Institute, you can support the underpinnings of these grassroots movements -- not just to end the death penalty, but to oppose war and militarism, defend the environment, confront racism, and build social justice.
Political dissent is never easy -- it wasn’t in the ‘40s when Muste was arguing with Martin Luther King; nor is it easy now.
But it is necessary.
So, whether you’re into Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Kwanzaa or Wicca, I hope you will make out an end-of-year or holiday (winter solstice?) offering to the Institute to keep this work going strong.
For the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute,
“Live from Death Row” author
P.S. Your gift to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. You can mail your check to AJMMI, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012. You can also make an online donation here.