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:http://www.change.org/petitions/release-mumia-abu-jamal