Monday, May 20, 2013

Protesters claim Shauille "Shaq" O'Neal censored documentary on the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal

They call Shaquille O’Neal a “Blue Fly”.  It’s the label given those who support the police.  Shaq has a reputation for wanting to be a police officer. He has offered his services as a volunteer police officer, and once jammed a suspects head down a toilet. He’s also a honorary member of the Fraternal Order of the Police (FOP).

Supporters of the Oakland Teachers for Mumia, the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia, and the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee joined forces at the Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors, during an NBA playoff game to protest the actions of “Shaq”.  The group claims “The Big Diesel” has taken his “Bly Fly” status too far.

The documentary Mumia – Long Distance Revolutionary, was set to show at a movie theater in Newark, New Jersey before being cancelled at the last minute.  Protesters claim the plug was pulled after “Shaq”, who co-owns the Newark Theater, flew into town to meet with staff.  Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal are protesting “Shaq’s censorship of the important movie.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, is serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His was sentenced to death after his 1982 trail.  That sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2012.  Since his conviction, Abu-Jamal has become the most influential voice from death-row.

His conviction has polarized the nation.  Members of FOP have criticized efforts to promote Abu-Jamal as a model from his prison cell.  A street is named after Abu-Jamal in France.  Calls to release Abu-Jamal are heard around the world.  Supporters of Abu-Jamal cite Philadelphia’s historically racist police regime as the culprit behind Abu-Jamal’s conviction.

People believe he’s innocent.

The cry for justice has been heard since a trial spiked with dubious management. The legal case of Abu-Jamal is one thing.  The censorship of a movie about his life is another. Not only was the movie cancelled in Newark, the manager responsible for arranging the showing was fired.

Sorry “Shaq”, that type of censorship goes against the principles that make America a nation that celebrates freedom.  The practice of censorship is downright unconstitutional.  Yes, it’s problematic when business interests interfere with freedom of speech. 

The documentary has been received with sold out performances in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, as well as showing in 23other cities. “Shaq” and the other owners of the theater may have felt pressured to cancel the documentary after the recent decision to place Assata Shakur on the Most Wanted Terrorist List.  Shakur was convicted of the murder of a Newark, New Jersey police officer before escaping to Cuba where she remains in political exile.

It’s meaningful that the protest took place in Oakland, CA, the home of the Black Panther Party.  The arrests and convictions of both Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur, the fight to tell their stories, and the protests on Oakland, unveil a part of American history that many want censored.  It’s a history they would rather see go away.

History is complicated.  America’s grappling with race is difficult to hearken when juxtaposed against the unjust ways of the American criminal justice system.  Maybe it’s puzzling to face the cruelty of a system that functioned with separate rules to manage order – one for black people, and another for the rest.

Maybe that’s a truth that people aren’t prepared to face.

Censorship is a way to make it all go away.  Censorship binds all that hypocrisy and deep seeded racism that drove a generation of black people to fight the power in ways that questioned the authority of the police.  Yes, it’s a complex matter.  It’s deeper than black and white, and, yes, there’s enough wrong to expose everyone involved.  The wrong has to be exposed.  You must tell the untold story, even when it brings to the forefront problems with the police.

The censorship of Mumia – Long Distance Revolutionary in Newark, NJ transcends a former basketball player with enough money to purchase a theater.  At issue is the telling of America’s untold stories.  It is about how the telling of those stories is often compromised by business interests. It is also about how those business interest whitewash the intent of our constitution. 

When power, money and political interest come against the telling of a story, we no longer exist in a free nation.  The telling of truths can’t be limited to those who stand on the side of power and money.  If so, America becomes less of a free nation.

You may not like Abu-Jamal’s story, but, in America, we don’t censor the rights of those to tell their point of view.
Contact your local theater about showing Mumia – Long Distance Revolutionary 

Sign petition to free Mumia:


1 comment:

  1. Let's discuss just two issues:

    Censorship - The act of suppressing or deleting information deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.

    The Mumia movie is being screened at multiple venues and his books and articles have been publicly available for years. He's hardly been censored. The Supreme Court has ruled in favor that "firmly established principles" of free speech law, including "the right to decide not to disseminate" the speech of others is valid. Thus, the decision by Shaquille O'Neal to not show the film at a single movie theater he owns is fully compliant with free speech law and does not meet the definition of censorship. The same rule applies when a newspaper editor declines to publish one of your columns. That's not censorship of your views, which are readily available in a number of public forums, but just a business decision that is protected by the law.

    The Mumia movie will be shown in Durham, NC. No police will bar the door for those who wish to see this propaganda piece. Which is as it should be.

    Plus, nobody wants either the historical or current issues of the Black Panthers to be "censored." In fact, much of society wants them aired, if only to expose the ineffective and often illogical thinking that comprised the movement. Racists everywhere would welcome publicity of the methods and violence of the Black Panthers. So, your argument falls flat in that regard.

    The second issue is whether Mumia is guilty of the crime for which he was convicted (a conviction upheld by multiple appeals courts). There are numerous on-line forums that discuss this issue. None that support him take issue with his own outrageous intimidating and politicizing behavior at his original trial nor with the multiple ways in which he undermined the accomplished attorney that he himself selected. In other words, you believe that only racism was responsible for his conviction and absolve Mumia himself of any responsibility for is own actions. Two relatively impartial web sites discuss his case and .

    How do we sign a petition to free a man without solid evidence he is not guilty? How do we ask authorities to overturn a conviction that Mumia HIMSELF helped to occur? Is it because he is black? Or that his work with the Panthers had noble intentions?

    Does branding this case as "polarizing" a nation not become hyperbole? Most people in the nation neither know about or care about Mumia, therefore are unable to be polarized in the issue.