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40 Years in the Wilderness

Long version: mp3, 4.16 MBs, 5:11
Short version:

[Col. Recorded 8/13/03]

It's been 40 long years since the much-heralded "March on Washington." Almost 1/2 a century — and what is our condition today?

Our communities are ravaged from crumbling poverty, crumbling schools, bumbling politicians and brutal cops. Our culture has been ghettoized by increased corporate exploitation and the destruction of a sense of community. While hip-hoppers sing of play gangstas, the State engages in legalized gangsterism against Black folks.

At the very time that Rev. Martin King was making a speech about his Dream in Washington, the FBI was waging a secret war against Rev. King and anybody else who questioned the status quo. Within weeks of his speech, FBI agents were plotting how to place a good-looking woman in his offices to lure him into a sex scandal. In Jan. 1964, the FBI's #2 man, William Sullivan announced, "We regard Martin Luther King as *the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country."* They tried to find a "safe" Negro leader to "replace" him; for they saw him as too 'radical.' 4 years later and he would be gone.

Rev. King perhaps dreamed of many things as he tried to peer into America's future, but I doubt he foresaw the grim reality that we live in now; I doubt he saw this dark, cheapened future that is bleaker than "Blade Runner" for millions of black youth; who are barely tolerated, if they are lucky; and all but ignored as they are shuttled into stationary slave ships (prisons) where ignorance and racism is the rule; brutality and hopelessness the norm; and where, thanx to the 'good brotha', Bill Clinton (who someone called the 1st Black president!) education is, under his 1994 Crime Bill, virtually illegal!

40 years later; and prisons are increasingly the only Black communities where public housing is maintained; 40 years later, and Death Rows, North and south, are disproportionately Black; 40 years later — and still white judges and juries sentence Blacks to eternities in Hell; 40 years later — and still white (and now Black) cops wild on Black youth, beating, choking, shooting, and torturing them — male *and* female! — with impunity; 40 years — and while there may be thousands of Black politicians, there is precious little Black political power; and much of that lies trapped within the cage of Democratic politics, where promises are many, but actions are few.

As Florida proved overwhelmingly, just 'cause you got a Voting Rights Act, don't mean you got voting rights. It may have been Rev. King's crowning achievement, but for tens of thousands of blacks, it's little more than a dead letter.

Under the conditions of this faltering economy, tens of thousands of Black youth go into the Army, not to fight, but to find funding for a decent college education. Instead, they become cannon fodder for insane propaganda wars, like the Iraq Adventure; in defense of an Empire that doesn't give a damn about them.

Meanwhile, it's 40 years later, and Black America, which once was a deep reservoir of hope, has become a stagnant pool of despair.

It is not enough for us to gather to praise the past; our challenge is to mobilize the People to transform our negative and deadening present.

It is not enough for us to rap and clap about battles won in the glorious past; it is necessary to mobilize the people to win the battles that are facing us today!

It is not enough for us to erect a monument that marks what transpired here some 40 years ago; monuments have a way of being forgotten, as this new generation has all but forgotten what came before them; they can't help it; When you talk about an American Dream, they can't see it, because of the nature of the American nightmare.

They look out upon an America that is utterly ready to exploit them, but has never learned how to love them; they look out on an America that never wanted to educate them; but will not waste an opportunity to incarcerate them.

They look out at an America that is as alien to them, as it was to their forefathers 2 score years ago, who were sharecroppers and dirt farmers, and didn't have the vote. They suffer from a poverty of the spirit.

They look back into the mists of time, 40 years ago, and wonder — what is there to celebrate?

Copyright 2003 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.