Free ‘Em All

Image Courtesy of PrisonPhotography.Org

Image Courtesy of PrisonPhotography.Org

In February 2013, director Stephen Vittoria premiered his film Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal in New York City. The documentary is the latest in a series of films about famed activist, scholar and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Unlike other films about Abu-Jamal, like 1998’s Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case for Reasonable Doubt and 2008’s In Prison My Whole Life, which spend ample time recounting the facts of his controversial murder case, Vittoria’s film centers around Abu-Jamal’s life in prison and the community organizations working to secure his release. Vittoria’s is unabashedly a film by an activist for activists. As he boastfully declared at the premier, he didn’t make the film to win friends. Instead, the documentary aims to contribute to a grassroots movement for change.

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Glossary: Political Prisoners

Image courtesy of ActNow Australia

Image courtesy of ActNow Australia

The term “political prisoner” is not easy to define. The category is contested, and there is a lack of global consensus about who qualifies as a political prisoner. For some, the term may convey a special status which necessitates immediate release. For others, political prisoners may include those who have undertaken acts of treason or espionage, which warrant harsh punishment. Still others take the definition to include acts of violence committed for political reasons or in support of a cause. The conflicted nature of issues surrounding political prisoners is represented in the old adage: “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.” Citizens convicted of participating in armed resistance may be designated as political prisoners by comrades and supporters, but considered criminals by the government.

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Glossary: Black August

Former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur. The first woman on the FBI's Most Wanted List. Image Courtesy of breakthechains.info.

Former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur. The first woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. Image courtesy of breakthechains.info.

“August is a month of meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice, of repression and righteous rebellion, of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.” – Mumia Abu-Jamal

Happy Black August! This month, we celebrate the men and women who have performed brave acts of anti-racist resistance that have contributed to the freedoms we have today. Originating within the confines of California state prisons in honor of the San Quentin 6, this month-long celebration and includes community and cultural events, activism, fasting, reflection, and education.  Throughout Black August, organizations such as the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Critical Resistance also shed light on efforts to free political prisoners and end mass incarceration.

New York’s Brecht Forum is hosting a Black August Film Festival that includes a showing of the global anti-apartheid documentary, “Have You Heard from Johannesburg.” More details about tickets and location can be found on their website.

by Lauren Silver