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Allen's Lament

Long version: mp3, 3.6 MBs, 4:26
Short version: mp3, 1.9 MBs, 2:18

[Col. recorded 12/17/02]

They 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. (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.

Doubtless the 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 consume.

And it scared him.

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 his career.

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 good company.

Check out Mumia's NEW book:
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life of African and African-American People" at

The Power of Truth is Final -- Free Mumia!

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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa


Text © copyright 2002 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.