Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Mumia: Each word I write
I like writing with noise. Lots of it.
The sound of music in the background helps stir my creative juices. I’m moved by the conversations of others as I take note of the looks on their faces. The cries of children aren’t a distraction. They assist the bubbling of my creative juices.
I have problems with silence. I grapple with being imaginative when forced to contend with being in the presence of no one but me. I’m not sure what that’s about. Is it my need to be surrounded by people, or my fear to confront the madness in my head?
My failure with being alone intensifies my respect and admiration for Mumia Abu-Jamal. He’s done it for 30 years. He sits, alone in silence, and writes. He writes, and writes and writes some more. He reads and writes. He creates alone in a space reserved for those punished for violating the law.
He keeps writing – alone.
Abu-Jamal creates commentary to be read on his radio broadcast. He has written thousands of essays since being locked up for the death of a Philadelphia police officer. Abu-Jamal’s supporters contend he’s innocent. As they fight, he writes.
He writes alone.
He’s done it devoid of the comforting words of a partner. He strokes pen to paper like a man making love. The words appear like moans gratified after each stroke. Abu-Jamal reads books like love notes. Knowledge is his romance. Truth is his best friend.
Being alone came to me upon watching the film Mumia – Long Distance Revolutionary. The thought of being trapped in a space the size of a bathroom left me saddened. Could I do it? How could I do it?
How does Mumia find the strength to keep writing? Where does he find the motivation after being denied human touch? I need hugs to keep me going. I need the words of others and the smiles of others to keep me inspired. How does he do it?
Could I do it?
Mumia’s strength left me ashamed of my complaints. How can I write when I lack support? How do I write when there isn’t enough to sustain my work?
How, how how? Why, why, why?
The mounting list serves to defeat the power of my words. The complaints bear witness to the truth of selfish ambition. The words aren’t written to expose darkness. They aren’t aimed at correcting the wrongs that burden those I write about. The words are about me. Only me. Not them and their need for advocacy, but me and my need for approval.
Shame takes hold.
Mumia writes. He does it not to advance his career. His sights aren’t locked on the next big move. He writes for the sake of truth. Not for affirmation. Not for upward mobility. It’s about the words.
Behind walls with no keys to unlock, he writes. There with no one to read his words. No one to nod in approval. The only voice is his own. His companions are the books stacked high to challenge his thoughts. No smiles. No one to touch.
The image of Mumia consumes me. Eyes closed now. Two deep breaths to channel his spirit. Two more to beg for more than I’m prepared to give.
“Lord, I take freedom for granted,” I pray. “Forgive me for forgetting the reason for this gift. Not my will, your will be done.”
I pray for the freedom of all political prisoners. I pray for the brewing of a love greater than the hate. I repudiate the hate that keeps Mumia bond.
“Use my words to set the captives free,” I pray some more. “Teach this nation the truth of its hate.”
Then it came to me - a voice too far for my eyes to detect its origination. It came from a place deeper than my fears – somewhere beyond the shadows of my disappointment.
“Do it for the people. Do it for the love. Do it for the love of the people,” it spoke. The unknown, undeniable truth spoke. It spoke to me.
A voice greater than gender or race spoke - use your words wisely. Speak to the world and remind them of the purpose of our creation. Challenge them with your words.
And remember, it’s never been about you.
For the rest of my life, each word I write is dedicated to you.