"Be Your Best Self:" Mumia's Message To His Peeps On Death Row

With Mumia settling (permanently?) into general population, now that his (last?) appeal is gone, I had to post what I got today from International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, as supporters prepare to “Occupy The Justice Department” on his 58th birthday:

On December 18, 2011, from his solitary cell at SCI Mahanoy, Mumia wrote a message to the men and women with whom he shared death row. We share it with you here: (courtesy of ‘Greater Friends’ the newsletter of Pennsylvania Prison Society)

 *****  

TO MY BRETHREN & SISTAS ON THE ‘ROW
 
It has been barely  a week since I departed Death Row, yet I cannot help but look back, for many of you are in my heart.
I may no longer be on Death Row, but because of you Death Row is still with me. How could that not be so, when I’ve spent more years of my life on Death Row, than in `Freedom?’ Or, more time spent on Death Row, than with my family?
I write to tell you all— even those I’ve never met— that I love you, for we have shared something exceedingly rare. I have shared tears and laughter with you, that the world will neither know nor see. I have shared your anguish when some judge shattered your hopes and spit disappointment; or when some politician sought to use you to climb to higher office.
We have seen time and disease take some of our people off the Row. We have seen several choose their own date to die, cheating the hangman via suicide (William “Billy” Tilley, Jose “June” Pagan). But, Brothers and Sisters of the Row, I write not of death, but of life.
If I can walk off, so can you. Keep rumblin’; keep fightin’; keep rockin’. Check out your Mills issue.
But, there is more. Live each day, each hour, as if it is the only time there is. Love fiercely. Learn a new thing. A language. An art. A science. Keep your mind alive. Keep your heart alive. Laugh!
Look at each other not as competitors, but as fellow travelers on the same red road of life. No matter what the world says of you, see the best in each other, and radiate love to each other.
Be your best self. If you are blessed to have family, send your love to them all—no matter what. If you have a spiritual family or faith, practice it fully and deeply, for this links you to something greater than yourself. No matter what, Christian, Muslim, Judaism, Hindu, Krishna Consciousness, Buddhism, or Santería (or Move). This broadens you and deepens you.
I have been blessed to have many of you as my teachers, and my students. Some have been my sons; some have been my brothers. Yet I see all of you as part of my family.
Take heart, for the death penalty itself is dying. States and counties simply can’t afford it, and politicians who run on it are finding fewer and fewer buyers. Juries (especially in places like Philly) are increasingly reluctant to vote for death, even in cases where it appears imminent.
Sisters on the Row, while we have never met, my heart has felt your tears as you are forcibly separated from your children, unable to hold or kiss them. In many ways, as women, your anguish has been the worst, as your loves and sensitivities are deepest. My words to my brothers are yours as well: keep mind alive. Keep hearts alive. Live. Love. Learn. Laugh!
I know you all as few outsiders do. I’ve met artists, musicians, mathematicians, managers, jailhouse lawyers, and stockbrokers. I’ve seen guys who couldn’t draw a straight line, emerge as master painters (Cush, Young Buck); I’ve seen guys come from near illiteracy to become fluent in foreign languages; I’ve met teachers who’ve created works of surpassing beauty and craftsmanship (Big Tony).
You are all far more than others say of you, for the spark of the infinite glows within each of you. You are on Death Row, but what is finest in you is greater than Death Row.
So, care for each other. Not in words, but in the heart.
Think good vibes on each other.
Lastly, don’t rat. (If ratting was so cool, they would’ve beat me off the Row).
Keep rumblin’, `cause your day is coming.
—Mumia Abu-Jamal, M.A.
Death Row (1983–2011)

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