On Saturday, January 16th, the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, in conjunction with the 1199 SEIU Activists, will host its 14th annual dinner tribute to the families of “our” political prisoners and prisoners of war. This special event will take place at the Martin Luther King Labor Center, the headquarters of Union 1199, located at 310 West 43rd Street, near 8th Avenue (in New York), from 3-7pm. Dinner will be served promptly by 4:15pm. The theme of this year’s dinner tribute is “Passin It On!”
This year’s dinner comes against a troubling background for some of our freedom fighters. While an international campaign to secure a U.S. Justice Department intervention in the case of Mumia Abu Jamal is in full gear, with thousands of letters and petitions having recently been delivered, his appeals have been virtually exhausted and his prosecutors are seeking to have his death sentence reinstated. Meanwhile, Philadelphia just elected their first African American district attorney, Seth Williams, who campaigned on supporting Mumia’s execution. Pam Africa will be one of the keynote speakers to address that enormous challenge.
Incredibly, people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart just joined the ranks of U.S. political prisoners when her appeal of her conviction was recently denied and she was remanded into custody. Not only that, her captors are saying her sentence, 28 months, was too lenient and are exploring ways to have it changed to something more severe, as if locking up a 70 year old for more than two years is not enough. A resentencing hearing is scheduled for April 2010. In 2006, Stewart, in connection with her representing Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, was convicted of conspiracy, providing material support for a designated “terrorist organization,” his Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya, and defrauding the U.S. government. Stewart’s husband Ralph Poynter will do a brief update on her case.
Beyond the enormous personal hardship facing Stewart, the case is of huge significance because it virtually voids attorney-client privilege, a fundamental legal right, in so-called terrorist cases. Sundiata Acoli, now 72, will be up for parole early next year. A serious letter writing campaign is in place to help with that. Acoli is now serving a sentence of life plus 30 years. He has been incarcerated since 1973 when he, Assata Shakur and Zayd Shakur, were attacked in what many call “the NJ Turnpike Massacre.” Zayd was killed in the attack. A state trooper, Werner Foerster, was also killed. In the racist and repressive hysteria of the day, Sundiata and Assata were convicted for being responsible for both the deaths of Trooper Foerster and their own comrade, Zayd Shakur. Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, recently transferred to Florence, Colorado, the country’s worst and most remote prison, has been demonized in the press again after FBI agents killed a Muslim imam in Detroit several weeks ago. By most accounts in area Islamic circles, the murdered imam, Luqman Ameen Abdullah, was a good man and a good imam, with no extreme tendencies. He was the Detroit imam for Ummah, the Muslim community that was led by Imam Jamil (the former H. Rap Brown). It appears that the attack on Imam Luqman may be a part of a new government effort to label Imam Jamil’s religious community as a terrorist organization.
Prof. James Small, who was given a freedom fighters award at the first dinner tribute, will be the other keynote speaker. Small has been singularly responsible for maintaining the pilgrimage to Malcolm’s gravesite every year since 1966 and for maintaining an active network for the Organization of Afro American Unity, Malcolm’s last organization. 2009 also marked the 40th anniversary of Small leading an armed takeover of a key City College building in 1969 that ultimately led to the emergence of the college’s Africana Studies Program.
The program will be rounded out by the performances of Qasim Middleton, Oroboso Ogboe and Chris Slaughter. Middleton, a gifted young song writer from the Sankofa Academy in Brooklyn, has been a winner of the organization’s Malcolm X Essay Contest. Ogboe is also an exceptional student writer at Sankofa Academy. He read a moving poem representing the students of the Academy at last year’s pilgrimage to Malcolm’s gravesite. Slaughter is a highly regarded Brooklyn-based hip hop artist. His work can be appreciated at his webpage, www.myspace.com/cslaughter. This dinner will be the organization’s first with the absence of their founding chairman emeritus Herman Ferguson. Ferguson and his wife, Iyaluua, who for several years has spearheaded the organization’s Malcolm X Essay Contest, have relocated to North Carolina.
Make no mistake about it, this work has been properly passed on to us, and we are holding the line and carrying it on,” said Dequi Kioni-Sadiki, New Afrikan Independence Movement veteran and co-chair for the organization.
Donations for the dinner are $40 in advance, $45 at the door. Validated parking is available for only $10. All proceeds go to the political prisoners who are represented by their families at the dinner.
For more information about reservations and more, please call 718-512-5008.
THE MALCOLM X COMMEMORATION COMMITTEE
PO BOX 380-122,
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK 11238
When you want a nation, that’s called nationalism… A revolutionary is a black nationalist. He wants a nation…” Malcolm X, Message To The Grassroots, 1963