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Question for Mumia: Tell Me About Your Name

mp3, 2.6 MBs, 3:09

[Col. recorded 2/7/03]

Tell Me About Your Name?
Well many years ago I had a Swahili class, this was high school about my second year in High School. And ah back then in the Black liberation and Black power movement days it was very popular for people to study Swahili it was one of the few available African languages that people could learn. Well we had a teacher from Kenya, and ah he gave African names to all of the students in High School and he gave me the name Mumia.

What does it mean?
Well it means Prince. And it is also a name of some freedom fighters during the anti-colonial war against Britain’s by the Kenyans during the times of Uhuru. So it has an historical context but also a literal meaning, and for years, for maybe two or three years, I actually mis remembered it and misspelled it I would write it Mumsia, and it took me a while to pay attention and go back to my sources and spell it the right way.

And how do you want people to pronounce it?
Action on the first syllable as he pronounced it as he taught it to me Moo-mia. Although most people don’t.

And then what about Jamal?
Actually I took that; I named myself after my first born. My son his name is Jamal. And so Abu-Jamal simply means father of Jamal. So I am on of the rare guys who names himself after his first son was born.

And what is Wesley Cook mean to you?
Well it has a sweet meaning to me actually because when I think of it I think of my mother calling me by that name. I did not care for it when I was a teenager back during the Black revolution, and the Black power movement, but you know when you think
of your mother you think of what she called you and it has a real sweetness to it, and ah that is what my father called me before he passed, so I don’t have a hang up about it. I lot of people think they do but I just laugh when people say that because it reminds me of my mother. And what could be sweeter than that.

What were your father’s and your mother’s names?
My mother’s name was Edith and my father’s name was William. And my mother ah
actually I just found out that my mother’s middle name wasn’t what she had told us all of our lives. She told us it was Louise, actually located her birth certificate a few months ago and it was Lourainnia, and I think her country self was embarrassed at telling us what her birth name was, but it was pretty comical to us in the family.

What does it mean to be a twin?
Ah I have never really felt like it, so I don’t know what it means. I mean my twin is so different from me, that ah he simply was another brother. I probably felt more like a twin with my youngest brother, my baby brother, [you have fifteen seconds left to talk] so ah so I have never had the experience, I mean when I was a child of course all twins are dressed alike and all that, but we had very different ways of looking at the world and ways of interacting with the world.

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"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life of African and African-American People" at

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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa



Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.