Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 8th Book: Writing on the Wall


A review of Writing on the Wall:  Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Editor, Johanna Fernandez. Foreword, Cornel West. City Lights Books, 2015.

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Mumia Abu-Jamal’s eighth book written from prison cells in the state of Pennsylvania, USA, is a selection of 107 essays that date from January 1982 to October 2014. They cover practically the entire period of his incarceration as an internationally recognized political prisoner. Most of the pieces were written while he was on death row after being framed for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981 in the city of Philadelphia. Some were aired on Prison Radio. The most recent writings date from 2011, when his death sentence was finally ruled unconstitutional and commuted to a term of life imprisonment.

The title of the book brings to mind the traditional gospel song, “Handwriting on the Wall,” based on the bible story told in the Book of Daniel about letters written by a mysterious hand on a wall during a great feast given by the King of Babylon. “Somebody read it. Tell me what it says,” goes the song. “Go get Daniel, somebody said.” When the prophet and former prisoner Daniel was brought in to interpret the handwriting, he told King Belshazzar that his days were numbered and that his kingdom had come to an end. The prophecy was fulfilled that very night.

Somebody trying to make sense out of what goes on in our times might well say, “Go get Mumia.” He is an adroit interpreter of the signs of the times and even in his extremely vulnerable position has never hesitated to speak truth to power. But even though the rich and powerful would do well to pay him heed, he doesn’t write for them.  Long ago he began to express his solidarity and share his insights with people struggling to survive in the Black communities, working people, students, teachers, artists, musicians, activists, people who’ve never had a job and probably never will, prisoners, freedom fighters, entire peoples slated for extermination, the subjects of empire who have nothing to lose and everything to gain from resistance, rebellion and revolution. Mumia always writes from the ground up and never bows down to power. Sigue leyendo