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Commencement Address for U.C. Berkley African American Studies Graduates 2004

Long Version: mp3, 3.63 MBs, 4:32

[Col. Recorded 5/3/04]

May, 2004 — Mumia Abu-Jamal

Brothers & Sisters: *Ona Move*!

Congratulations to all the graduates at U.Cal.- Berkeley's African American Studies Department!

It's been many years since I was out in Cali, but, in my mind's eye lives the clear memory of selling copies of *The Black Panther* newspaper on Telegraph Ave.,
bordering the campus, the sun radiating off the gritty asphalt of Berkeley. But, that's another time, another era; we must try to look to the future, right?

For all of you have earned degrees in African American studies, undoubtedly many took courses in history — which means that as we go into the future, we must, like the Sankofa bird, look back into the past for the guidance of our ancestors.

Few of our ancestors are more apt than the great Black radical scholar/activist, W.E.B. DuBois. Few studies of Black life can be considered complete without his pivotal and poetic *The Souls of Black Folk*. As I believe most, if not all of you have read this work, I won't dwell on it. In his lesser-known, yet brilliant, book *The Education of Black People* (N.Y.: Monthly Review Press, 1973), DuBois is critical in the extreme of the backwardness and conservatism of "Negro Colleges", a position that was attacked by both college administrators and the press. DuBois defied his critics, and instead upped his criticisms, for he knew that the colleges that taught our people to be meek and servile would defeat our people's struggles for freedom
and self-assertion.

While the elites and the media launched their attacks, DuBois kept right on fighting; fighting for academic excellence; for the life of the mind. In the essay, "Education and Work," DuBois did not bite his tongue, arguing:

The average Negro undergraduate has swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, the dead bait of the white undergraduate, who, born in the industrial machine, does not have to think, and does not think. Our college man today is, on the average, a man untouched by real culture. He deliberately surrenders to selfish and even silly ideals, swarming into semiprofessional athletics and Greek letter societies, and affecting to despise scholarship and the hard grind of study and research.

Dr. DuBois penned these essays between 1906 and 1960. Surely things have changed, but his words still resonate with us today as we look at the utter debasement of culture all around us. We, all of us, live in an anti-intellectual culture; a market-culture that appeals to our basest instincts.

The 'hard grind of study and research' is still frowned upon; the popular emulation of spectator sports and spectator music is widely praised. We are a people still dazzled by our entertainers, and dismissive of our best thinkers.

But, you — all of you — have taken the least traveled path of the great DuBois — that of 'study and research.'

May you all also join him in his other great life work: the *betrayal of his class*, and his embrace of the base of his people in the long, hard struggle for freedom and
self-assertion. We are all richer for his immense contributions; his battles waged meant less for us to fight; his accomplishments opened the door for the global
Black struggle for liberation from colonialism, imperialism and racist domination.

Remember — he could have gone another way; he didn't. And if we are to emulate this great Black thinker, let us do so fully — by becoming scholar/activists — engaged, as was he, fully in the struggles of our people for total liberation.

In doing so, we give meaning to our studies in African American life and history! I thank you all for your gracious invitation!

Congratulations to all Graduates — and hopefully, scholar-activists!

Remember the past — Work for the Future!

Ona Move!

Long Live John Africa!

Mumia Abu-Jamal, M.A.

Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

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