October 20, 2021

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HAVE BLACK LIVES EVER MATTERED?, “When the state permits its servants to take …

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HAVE BLACK LIVES EVER MATTERED?,

“When the state permits its servants to take the life of living, breathing, growing, wondrous children, it ceases to have a reason to exist in the world. It has failed utterly.”

Incarcerated for life without the possibility of parole, Mumia Abu-Jamal is arguably one of the most well known living figures to have been put up against the criminal justice system. A Philadelphia journalist, Mumia was shot by Philadelphia police and subsequently arrested for the shooting death of a cop in the early 80s. He has released several writings throughout his 30 years in prison, including during his time on death row.

“Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?” is – at it’s core – letters to those currently fighting against police brutality. This collection of essays examines the deeply disturbing history of policing and mass incarceration in this country, and revisits those who have been lost to police violence and White supremacy. He provides the current generation of activists with the history and guidance they need to continue to push back on a system built against them. Mumia’s case itself is a prime example that we still see in action today – he was put on death row swiftly for allegedly murdering a cop, when the cops who beat him then and cops who continue to abuse their power and murder now are free to do so with no repercussions.

These essays are informative, personal, heart breaking, and somewhere hold the answer to a better world. His essays about Black children dying are absolutely the most gut wrenching moments. He honors the lives of all who have been lost to state violence and racism, but emphasizes the unspeakable loss of children at the hands of a horrendous, inherently racist system:

“There is something shattering about the death – the killing – of a child.
When a child dies, the natural order is torn; the stars weep, and the earth quakes.”

I would highly recommend folks who are curious about conversations of defunding police pick this one up.
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