Friday, May 24, 2013

"Mumia - Long Distance Revoluntionary": Why you must show up

Full Frame didn’t select it as one of the documentaries shown at their film festival.  Shaq pulled the plug on it being shown in Newark, New Jersey.  The Fraternal Order of the Police is fighting to keep people from hearing the story. 

Mumia – Long Distance Revolutionary has to be seen.  It’s too important not to be seen.  That’s why I’m fighting for people in Durham to see the film.

I’m fighting because of a man I love and respect.  Keith Cook is a man I’ve followed since moving to Durham in 1989 to attend graduate school at Duke University.  I knew about him before I met and developed a friendship with his wife to be – Evonne Coleman-Cook.  Keith and Evonne are the type of people you’re willing to go to battle with just because you know it’s the right thing to do.

So, I was shocked when Evonne told me Mumia Abu-Jamal is Keith’s brother.  He had kept it to himself while serving as a member of the Orange County School Board.  It’s not that Keith wasn’t supportive of his brother.  He simply allowed others to take the lead on the fight to free the man known for being the voice of those on death row.

I wrote two columns last year about Keith’s connection with his famous brother.  He told me then that he’s taking a more active role in the fight for his brother’s freedom.  I could see it on his face.  Keith is carrying a tremendous amount of hurt.  He talked to me about the pain of children not being able to hug their father.  I’m a father.  I can’t imagine not being able to hug King, Lenise and Krista.

Last week, Evonne and Keith told me Mumia’s son, Jamal Hart, lives in the area.  He’s a chef in Chapel Hill.  They told me the story of Jamal being stopped for possession of a firearm.  When authorities up in Philadelphia learned that Jamal’s father is Mumia, his charges were booted up to federal offenses.  Jamal spent 14 years incarcerated for that.

I call that payback.

My feet started moving after talking to Keith and Evonne.  Strength often comes when guilt and pain combine to force a flooding of tears.  I had just written a blog about the censoring of the documentary in Newark, NJ.  Evonne called me in between footsteps.

“I mentioned to Keith that he should contact the Carolina Theatre,” Evonne said.  It was too late.  I was already there.

The rest seemed like a miracle.  Jim, the dude who manages the film portion at the Carolina Theatre, walks through the door in the middle of my conversation with Cora.  Cora is an old friend.  I was offering comfort due to her receiving news that her pastor, Phillip Cousin, has been reassigned to the Bethel AME Church in San Francisco. 

Jim moved fast.  Real fast.  Within minutes he returned after a phone call to offer us dates to show the film.  This is when the preacher in me comes out.  God is working, I thought.  Yes, I wanted to shout.

You see, you must come and support this film.  Why? Because this is a local story.  Two people I love are impacted by the incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal.  How many of us have been touched by the lives of Evonne and Keith?  For those who remember Evonne during her days at the Arts Council – show up.  For those who remember her days at Duke – show up.  For those who remember Keith’s service to the school board in Orange County – come to Durham. Show up.

Show up for hurting children.  Come support Jamal.  Listen to his story.  Show up for the countless black men serving prison terms with evidence tainted by race.  Come listen to the struggle to be heard.

The film is worth seeing.  There are interviews with Cornel West, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Ruby Dee, Dick Gregory, James Cone and a list of others that reads like the roll call of the most influential people in America. 

You have to show up.  It’s far too important to miss.  Come see it twice. Why? To make a statement about what we desire seeing.  We need more films like this.  There are too many untold stories.  If we pack the place we give reason for more films like this being shown.

Be it the story of Angela Davis, or one of the great films created by Dante James, a local filmmaker, we must say yes with our decision to support this film.  Come see it on Monday. Come back on Tuesday for the panel discussion.

Members of the family will be there.  So will one of Mumia’s attorney’s.  Do it to learn.  Do it to support my friends.  Do it because justice is rolling like a river.

Tickets go on sale Tuesday, May 28.  For more information, go to:

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