Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
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saw themselves as others had seen them. They had been formed by
the images made of them by those who had had the deepest necessity
to despise them. James Baldwin
In a sports
field known for the flamboyant and for sheer spectacle, the basketball
star who wears jersey #3 stands out among his peers. In a sport
where tall and big men dominate, he is neither. Of modest height,
and slender girth, he plays as if he is the biggest, strongest and
baddest man of the bunch. His name, of course, is Allen Iverson,
the Captain and shooting guard of the Philadelphia 76ers, who recently
sent the city into a tizzy when he spoke candidly about his fears
while dwelling in the City of Brotherly Love:
At a recent
interview, the NBA star explained:
I want to be
in Philadelphia, but I'm scared now to be in Philadelphia. I've
heard about police officers toasting to Allen Iverson's next felony
conviction... It scares me because I know if there's any crooked
cops out there, they can do anything... Allen Iverson can end up
dead tomorrow if a crooked cop wants him dead. It's as simple as
that... It really scares me, man. [fr. philly.com (11/29/02)].
The 'now' to
which he referred was a recent arrest on unfounded spousal abuse
charges, which the local and national media blew up all out of reasonable
proportion. Although these charges were later thrown out, local
authorities provided the rapacious media with the ritual and obligatory
'perp walk', where the accused is paraded before the flashes and
pops of TV and print media cameras. Iverson had to spend hours in
the city's grimy and repressive detention facilities.
talented NBA star learned something about the nature of the police-media
system in Philadelphia. He learned that neither of them cared about
him, no matter how many points he scored, nor how many dollars he
earned. He might be a millionaire, but to those in power in the
city; to those who wield the powers of force and prosecution, he
was just another nigger; just more human fuel for the machine to
And it scared
There are those
in white civil authority who resent the fact that a young Black
man like Iverson can make the money he does; they are also no doubt
resentful that he wears his hair in braids, and opts to dress in
the hip-hop style of his contemporaries. He does not wear $500 Italian
suits, or look down upon the class from which he came.
They want to
bring him to heel; to humble him, for daring to be so proudly reflective
of ghetto style.
He senses this,
and like any thinking man, it scares him.
And when he
speaks this truth, this powerful truth, the white, corporate media
seems somehow offended that he speaks such a truth, and uses its
terrible power of persuasion to somehow, any-which-a-way, get him
to say that isn't really what he meant to say. But, he knows. For
he has lived too long in American ghettoes, and has seen countless
homies get caught up in the relentless jaws of the State. He's seen
it. He KNOWS it. If you are a Black man of means, especially a sports
star, you are expected to take the money, smile, and shut your mouth
(or smile and sell something, like a grille). Iverson is one of
those sports stars that smiles when something is genuinely funny,
and seems unwilling to 'jeff', to jaw, or hambone his way through
He is, by any
measure, a phenomenal player, who often scores a third of the team's
total points any given night. He has played despite aching joints,
sprains, and an occasional broken bone.
He plays like
a Zulu warrior wages war all or nothing!
To some, apparently,
that is not enough.
They want his
Black soul. And Iverson, a smart man, a brilliant athlete, who can
peep a move being made on the other side of the court and counter
it in the blink of an eye, is scared of what he sees. Who can dare
blame the seer?
A century ago,
Jack Johnson was targeted for his choice of women (white ones);
Ali was condemned for his choice of faith (Islamic pacifism), and
today Iverson is rebuked for speaking the truth.
He is in damn
Check out Mumia's
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life
of African and African-American People" at www.africanworld.com
The Power of Truth
is Final -- Free Mumia!
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© copyright 2002 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.