Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dr. Johanna Fernandez of Educators for Mumia Abu Jamal Speaks on the Latest Developments in Mumia Abu Jamal Case

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On Wednesday, December 7th, Philadelphia's District Attorney's Office announced that it will not pursue the death penalty in the case of Mumia Abu Jamal.  Earlier this year, the Third Circuit Cour of Appeals ruled that because of unclear instructions delivered to the jury in Mumia Abu Jamals sentencing trial years ago, Mumia Abu Jamal should be allowed a new sentencing-phase trial or be sentenced to life-behind bars without the possibility of parole.

In the wake this partial victory for Mumia Abu Jamal and his supporters, Dr. Johanna Fernandez, assistant professor of history at Baruch College of the City University of New York and member of Educators for Mumia Abu Jamal, speaks to "On The Block Radio" about the significance of the decision and what's next for Mumia supporters.

Another Perspective onLibya: Libyan-American Educator Lutsi Taleb Reflects on Libya Under Qadhafi's Leadership.

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"On the Block Radio" talks to Lutsi Taleb, a United States educator about recent events in Libya, Libya in the early years of Qadhafi's rule, and his reaction to Cythia McKinney's speaking tour on Libya.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Resumes in California Prisons.

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On September 26, 2012, prisoners in California resumed a hunger strike that had been suspended at the end of July after receiving statements by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that prison officials will meet some of prisoners' demands. 

The hunger strike was initiated in the middle of this past summer in protest of what prisoners have described as the cruel and unusual conditions endured by inmates in the state's prisons.  According to Laura Magnani, a member of the team mediating on behalf of prisoners with CDCR officials last summer, while some positive movement by CDCR officials has been made in the last few months in meeting the intial demands of inmates, "it is painfully slow for people who have lived under conditions of torture for years, and often decades in California's prison system.  While the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tries to paint the prisoners as nothing more than 'dangerous gang members,' we see this strike as a courageous effort to work across all cultural and ethnic divisions through time-honored non-violent actions." 

Isaac Ontiveros of the Prisoners Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, reports that based on accounts from family members and unconfirmed sources for the Coalition, the strike resumed on last Monday with 6000 prisoners taking part.

"On the Block" speaks with Isaac Ontiveros about the recent developments.

Cynthia Mckinney Speaks on Libya in Philadelphia, PA.

On Friday, September 26, 2012, Cynthia McKinney spoke at to an audience at Philadelphia's Calvary United Methodist Church about a trip she took to Libya earlier this year.  Above is a recording of her presentation.

NO_INTRO--cynthia_mckinney_speech_about_libya.mp3 Listen on Posterous

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Roundtable Discussion on Flash Mobs, Youth Uprisings, and Mayor Nutter's "Sermon."

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On the heels of Mayor Nutter's address at a West Philadelphia church in which he spoke out against recent waves of youth striking out violently at folks walking down the street and gang robbing stores, a diverse group of Philadelphia residents sat down to share their perspectives on what has been described by some as "flash mobs" and by others as youth uprisings.

The roundtable participants were:

Keturah Caesar.
Activist and organizer of the Philadelphia Coalition of the Heart and the Hip Hop Party for the People.

Tommy Joshua.
Organizer and executive director of Beats, Rhymes and Life: Hip-Hop Multimedia and Mentoring Program.

Diop Olugbala.
Philadelphia's independent mayoral candidate for 2011.

Dr. Charles Williams.
Professor of education at Drexel University and director of the Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence.

An urban youth and a member of Beats, Rhymes and Life: Hip-Hop Multimedia and Mentoring Program.

An urban youth and a member of Beats, Rhymes and Life: Hip-Hop Multimedia and Mentoring Program.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

London Civil Unrest: An Interview with Former London Black Panther Darcus Howe.


On August 4th in the Tottenham section of London, 29 year-old Mark Duggan was killed by a police officer after the cab he was riding in was stopped. What followed within hours was a wave a violent attacks on property spilling into several sections of London and lasting for several days.

London community activist Stafford Scott explains that after waiting four hours for the police to make a statement about Duggan’s death to a crowd that had gathered around the Tottenham police station, the congregation of people began to leave in frustration. Moments later, with the torching of police cars, the peaceful gathering had turned violent.

“It was…an outburst…spontaneous outburst, because people saw, we’ve been here for four hours. Women were leading the demonstration. When the women said, ‘Look, four hours. Our kids are now tired, we’re going home.’ When the guys saw the women leaving, that’s when the guys said, ‘Wow, we’ve been here for four hours and nothing’s happened. Nothing’s changed. They haven’t come to speak to us.’ And then when they saw some police cars—which for some reason were just parked up, unmanned—that was like a red flag to a bull. And they just had their go.”

Darcus Howe, Trinidadian-born columnist and broadcaster, in attempting to place the events in the context of current racial dynamics in London, explains, “In England right now, black boys are seen by the police as pests.” For the past 2 years, he says, young Black Londoners have been subjected to being stopped and searched by police in the street without being given an explanation of reasonable cause.

As well, Howe argues that recent cuts in public spending have resulted in increased lawlessness among youth in London.

“And then came the cuts,” he explains, “There are no youth clubs. Nothing for young people. And everything is going up….[T]he cuts in public spending…locked the fridge. You get one meal a day. That is the poverty that is taking place in this country. And so they’re out on the streets in Putnam. If you had walked around that day [the day of Duggan’s death]…you will see four guys leaning on a lamppost…where usually they would have been in a youth club paid for by the local government. …Supervised, areas for sporting activities, and then there in another area you do your homework. [T[hey have been so ignored, that they will sit in your class at school, and you can’t, as we say, read the play. You can’t know what is going on with them….Watch it. Watch how his eyes start to dart around….and wanting to tell you the teacher, ‘Fuck off….’ And that’s been going on under their noses, beneath the surface; and it exploded on that fateful day when Mark Duggan was executed.”

Included in the acts of violence that communities of color are dealing with in London is Black on Black violence, Howe adds. But the wave of civil unrest that moved through the streets of London last week represents a shift--predicted decades ago by the Afro-Caribbean intellectual Franz Fanon--in the way that social unease is manifested by Black youth, Howe argues. “I am sure now, as Franz Fanon warned us, this internecine strife—killing each other—sometimes it reaches a stage where it turns against something else. I promise you, Black on Black violence is going to fall considerably in the next few months….The energies are targeted elsewhere. The energies are targeted against the police.”

Previously, in the 1980s, London also grappled with a series of insurrections in communities of color in response to police abuse of power. What distinguishes these two periods of civil unrest, Howe opines, is the body of intellectuals that shaped the social awareness of the two sets of youth.

“There has never been at anytime until 1981 a mass consciousness informed by the songs of Jamaica, by the Malcolm X autobiography, by Franz Fanon, by C.L.R. James, series of writings. And then they’d have the Panther newspaper here. Stokely came through and he gave lectures and stuff….That made the foundation. Huge intellects like CLR James and younger ones from India and Pakistan. We weren’t looking like lost children. [We were] full of energy and well-read; and trying to build a base for new ideas. [Rather] than simply saying, ‘No, no, no.’”

On this edition, we speak with columnist and broadcaster Darcus Howe about the recent acts of disobedience by youth in the streets of London.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Decarcereate PA and the Social Costs of a Growing Prison Industrial Complex.

The Decarcerate PA Coalition plans to rally outside the Philadelphia offices of Hill International on Wednesday August 17 in an effort to pressure the company to end its plan to manage the construction of a new Graterford Prison in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Hill International has been awarded a 14 million contract to oversee the building of the new prison. That is a fraction of the 400 million dollars of Pennsylvania state funds slated for various aspects of the new Graterford Prison construction project. According to Dan Berger of Decarcerate PA, the larger aim behind the August 17 rally is the reprioritization of Pennsylvania’s social agenda.

“We are going to be out there rallying against the proposed construction of a new prison at Graterford…and really demanding that the money—the 14 million dollars that Hill has been given in various contracts so far and the 400 million dollars that the Graterford Prison is supposed to cost—not go into prison construction, and instead be spent on schools, jobs, healthcare and things that will actually sustain our communities,” Berger says.

According to the recent Sentencing Project report “On the Chopping Block: State Prison Closings,” 13 states in 2011 have either closed prisons or are considering doing so, creating the potential for a total decrease in prison capacity nationwide of up to 14,793 beds. Pennsylvania’s 400 million-dollar new Graterford prison construction project, however, is a move in a different direction.

We speak with 3 members of the Decarcerate PA Coalition--Dan Berger, Joshua Glenn, and Omar Shabazz--about the relationship of the Hill International contract to the larger issue of the social costs of the growth of the prison industrial complex.


1. In the interview, an incorrect meeting spot was given for the Decarcerate PA Coalition. The correct meeting location is: 21 South 12th Street, 7th floor.

2. In addition, in the interview it was stated that Hill International had built only a few prisons in the United States. After further exploration of the Hill International website, however, Dan Berger discovered a list of more than 30 jails and/or correctional institutions that Hill was involved in constructing.

Decarcerate_PA_Interview--8-11-2011.mp3 Listen on Posterous

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The End of the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Interview with Hunger Strike Mediator, Laura Magnani.

On this edition of "On the Block Radio," we speak with Laura Magnani, regional director of the American Friends Services Committee (AFSC) and one of the five mediators who communicated with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on behalf of striking prisoners during the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike that began on July 1st.

She discusses the lead up to the end of the strike and the work that former SHU hunger strikers and their outside supporters will be engaged in since the ending of the strike in the interest of bringing change to what they consider to be oppressive conditions in California State prisons.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pelican Bay State Prison Hunger Strike: Response from the California Prison System.

We speak with Terry Thorton, spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the California Prison System) about the hunger strike launched on July 1st by Pelican Bay State Prisoners housed in the prison's Security Housing Unit (SHU).

In a statement published under the byline SHU Short Corridor Inmates, Pelican Bay Prison, in the summer 2011 edition of California-based Prison Focus, the following demands were listed as goals of the hunger strike:

--Individual accountability.

--Abolish the Debriefing Policy, Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria.

--Comply with the U.S. commission 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement

--Provide Adequate Food

--Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates

Prison Focus, Summer 2011.

Thorton responds to the demands and recent reports on the deteriorating health of hunger strikers.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pelican Bay State Prison Strike: Update.

We speak with Taeva Shefler of the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition about recent developments in the hunger strike that was launched on July 1st by prisoners confined to the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison in California. The following five conditions have been listed as the core demands of strikers in statements made by Pelican Bay SHU prisoners explaining the goals of the strike:

1) Eliminate group punishments
2) Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria
3) Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons
(2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement
4) Provide adequate food
5) Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates."
--from the Human Rights Coalition PA Prison Report

She discusses reports of the spread of the strike into the general population at Pelican Bay and into other prisons in California and how women in California's prisons have responded to the hunger strike.