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‘Juana Alicia's interview w/ Mumia’

reknown Muralist and sculptor R ec. 2-19-06

1) 3:39 A Radio Essay Mp3

Juana Alicia Interview with Mumia, Edited Version

Mumia: Hola.

Juana: Hola buenas tardes, Mumia. 

Mumia: Buenas tardes. 

Juana: Como esta?

Mumia: Muy bien y tu?

Juana: Bien aqui ando.   I’m very, very thrilled to be able to actually speak with you.

Mumia: It is my pleasure, Juana.

Juana: Thank you. So you received the package Noelle sent you?

Mumia: Yes thank you very much, it is very beautiful.

 Juana:  Great, well I was very happy to actually get something into your hands.

 Mumia: Thank you.

Juana: I know you time is limited, due to the powers that be, I wonder how you want to organize the conversation. Would you like for us to go ahead with the questions that I sent you or do you have to also do a commentary? What is your vision for the conversation?

Mumia: No, let’s go with your questions.  In fact, I don’t have a commentary planned because I planned to this with you.

 Juana: Oh lovely, great thank you. I hope I can make the most of the time so that the widest audience can benefit from having missed your commentary. As sort of a preamble to the questions, I have a 29 year old son and a 13 year old daughter who is the one who really rides my bumper and she says to me a lot, since she is an artist, “Mama, does it all have to be so grim? Where are the people feeling good about things as a change?” And sometimes, you know, we deal with very grim realities and sometimes that takes over. So my preamble is, can we include joy, humor, wit, and your musica that I hear sometimes coming through you?

 Mumia: We can. Of course we can, but the problem, of course is that art especially as taught to many of us here in this culture, is a commodity. And when you like turn on the T.V. or listen to the radio, and often when you open a newspaper, I mean there are plenty things to laugh, about plenty things to kind of entertain you and to make you happy, and that’s the kick. What you’ll see is plenty of everything but truth-and the truth is often a harsh, painful thing, especially when you talking about the histories of peoples in this country-and you know it is almost like “mama, tell me about Santa Claus.” That’s essentially what they’re given as opposed to the truth about how this country came to be; you know, who was stolen to work this country and who’s country it was stolen from. Those are things that especially kids need to know because if they don’t learn that as kids, it’s very, very, difficult to break through when they’re adults. You know, we put masks over our face and wax in our ears because we don’t want to hear it.

Juana: I agree, well I think probably my kids get a larger share of the reality of slavery and colonialization then most children so, because I feel that is such a central part of their education and we can’t really set the context without that .

 Mumia:  Or else you’re telling them fairytales. You can do that, but there are many kids for example who as young adults or teenagers, when they do find out about what this country‘s true history is, or the history of African American resistance in this country, it floors them, I mean, it slays them. And they come out enraged that their teachers, their parents, their elders did not tell them these truths.

Juana: “Why didn’t I know?”

Mumia: “Why didn’t I know this?”

JUANA: So, in the light of all that, if you, Mumia, were able to be here with me making the drawing, which I’m hoping to make within the next couple of weeks to be in the drawing, I draw quickly and intensely. What ideas would you want expressed in this piece that is going to communicate to the world the issues that you’re dealing with, political prisoners, particularly in this country. What would you want the central focus of this piece to be?

MUMIA: Well, when I thought about it, I thought about, oddly enough, architecture. Which isn’t of course your field, but I recognize that architecture reflects the power of the princes and not the visions of real builders…

Cut off.

Juana: Hello, Mumia.

Mumia: Hello, Juana.

Juana: Ah, the power of princes.

Mumia: Yeah. I should say ‘the greed of princes.’ They want more money off the phone.

Back to my thought, architecture reflects the power of princes and not the visions of real builders, who are of course the people. So murals should reflect the counterpoint, make the invisible visible, those who live in or work in the buildings, cause they tend to be those who are most invisible. So I’d say generally, make the invisible visible. Not just for the moment but for days, years and ages to come especially for the young people we talked about earlier.

Juana: In that, knowing they’re making us cut to the chase here, let me ask you what invisible icons that are closest to your heart, cultural symbols, or your own iconography. I believe what you’re saying that the mural is the skin of the organism that functions below the skin.

Mumia: Absolutely, what should be.

JUANA: Well, that’s what I try to do with it. So what from the inside of the organism would you want to make visible?

MUMIA: Well, I think of images of rebels like Huey P. Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, especially the poster that we all had in our homes in the chair. Images of the life of resistance, images that, I’m thinking of the image of people like John Africa walking out of a federal court room smiling, the imagined images of  Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Pancho Villa, engaged in the hard work of freedom fighting, you know.

 JUANA: Yes, as we see them in our imagination.

 MUMIA: That’s right, that’s important.

JUANA: We’re living those moments.

MUMIA: When we do that, we pass them on. You know, in African culture it’s said that as long as you remember someone they’re still alive, they really are. I’m sure that’s the case in many natural oriented cultures. So remember those people who fought for freedom.

JUANA: So in terms of a quote, that would be a beautiful organizing principal.

MUMIA: Absolutely.

JUANA: Do you have some particular quote that you want me to include, because I always try to include the literary or the poetic in some way, even if it’s only symbolic, but if it’s literal, even better.

MUMIA: Well, you are free of course to use what I said, I thought about it for a few days, but I don’t have any real quote in my head.Your art is image, not words, and if the images are evocative enough, believe me, if they awaken people enough, if they inspire people enough, the words will follow. 

Juana: Yes, I believe that. Well I love that idea about keeping the spirit alive with the story. So, ok you gave me a list already with Harriet and Pancho and the whole dream team.

Mumia: Right 

Juana: I almost want to let you just sort of free associate right know cause I think you covered very eloquently and quickly my whole question list here.

MUMIA: Well, here’s one that I haven’t said, and I thought about it…

Cutoff for the second time.

Mumia: They’re getting rich today!

Juana: Uh huh.

Mumia:I hate this, I tell you what.

JUANA: I’m sorry they can’t take the evocative images in word and voice. 

MUMIA: I had an idea right before we got cut off, it came to me earlier today when I was thinking about it. I said, “I would do Geronimo.’ Then I said, ‘Whoa, both Geronimos!’ Geronimo the Chirikawa, resistance fighter, and Geronimo JiJaga Pratt, a former Black Panther. I mean, think about what that teaches people. This resistance over this century of time.

JUANA: Well, and I love the alliance too, between struggles, between the “races” that we have.

MUMIA: Absolutely. It shows how little things have changed. You know, the fact that a man born in Louisiana, an African American, would be proud to take that name, and carry that name, and remake that name. I think those images can teach young people about the continuation of struggle in various fronts of various people, but essentially against the same enemy.

JUANA: Well, that brings me to sort of the more the symbolic level, as I think we have pretty fluid vocabulary between us about the historical people. And that-maybe you saw from some of the images that I often use-like a red star or a chain or a DNA.

MUMIA: Or a butterfly.

JUANA: Yes, butterflies. The butterfly in Erie, Pennsylvania. Do you have some organic or visceral or visual images that you would want?

MUMIA: Well, in my own head I see what I rarely see with my eyes, which is green. And I’m not talking about a particular flower, I’m talking about something as common, but as beautiful, as inspiring, as grass.

JUANA: Like Lorca said: verde, que te quiero verde.

Mumia: That’s right. Green life, you know, because that was the life that was here before us, that’s the life that sustains us. I’m an herbalist, so I understand how important it is for healing people. 

Juana: Any particular herbs?

Mumia:Absolutely. Goldenseal, Echinacea, you know, all the goodies.

Juana: I just did this mural which is a hundred tiles long, part of it, it’s a thousand tiles, on diversity and healing. There is garlic and Echinacea, I didn’t do goldenseal, I did digitalis, and the Om, and the Olin symbol, the butterfly, for movement. I love that, great.

Mumia: But think about how we need to reconnect with that to heal. Because, believe me, the drug companies ain’t going to heal us. Especially poor folks who can’t afford it. But, you know, herbs are going to be here.

Juana: I love that. What else, what else can we pack in here.

Mumia: The most important thing, and I know you know this because you opened up with it, is how do we connect with young people? And that means kind of incorporating some images that can touch them, they can hear, that would have meaning for them. Maybe you want to think about something like Public Enemy, you know what I mean? Because young people will recognize what that means. We have to get them. If you do it your way and I do it my way, we might get them one way or the other.

JUANA: And if you want to send me a drawing of any kind, I realize you’re a visual artist, and I saw the beautiful piece you did for Goapele. I also painted her a few years ago too, so that’s lovely.

MUMIA: Thank you. I ain’t no muralist, I work with little card sizes.

JUANA: Well, it’s what we have at hand. Well, much love Mumia, much love, I really appreciate this, and I will send you drawings. Mucho gusto.




[Check out Mumia's latest: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about
justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal


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The Power of Truth is Final — Free Mumia!

International Concerned Family & Friends of MAJ
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370


Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa