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Not All Things Considered

Award-winning poet Martin Espada was commissioned by National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" to compose a poem as part of the radio network's April observance of National Poetry Month. NPR suggested a poem focusing on a news story from one of the cities Espada was visiting during a reading tour. Espada chose Philadelphia and submitted a poem about one of the most prominent news stories in that city. The poem was entitled "Another Nameless Prostitute Says the Man Is Innocent."

'Everyone around me in Philadelphia was talking about Mumia's case," Espada says. He read an article in the Philadelphia Weekly of April 16 reporting that witnesses whose testimony might exonerate Mumia seemed to vanish.

Mounting evidence indicates that Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent of the crime of murder for which he is facing a death sentence. More to the point, the evidence -- stemming not only from the "crime scene" but surrounding the judicial process which has flowed from that scene -- indicates that Mumia is not only innocent, but that his conviction and death sentence were not a simple "mistake" of the injustice system. The evidence overwhelmingly paints a picture of a system which intentionally targeted Mumia for conviction of a crime for which state actors knew he was innocent.

Espada faxed his poem to NPR on April 21. Four days later he was informed by the radio network that it would not broadcast the poem because of its subject matter and political content. "I expect to be censored or ignored by the mainstream media," said Espada, "but these people, who admit they liked the poem and style themselves as progressives, wouldn't broadcast it. Their cowardice is really impressive."

NPR had previously bowed to pressure and refused to air Mumia's radio commentaries from death row. And where does this "pressure" come from?

Mumia was convicted of killing a Philadelphia cop; much of the virulent anti-Mumia hatred flows from law enforcement organizations. To these, no amount of evidence can overcome their visceral belief that Mumia is a "cop killer." To the "brotherhood" of cops, that phrase evokes enough hatred and fear to overcome mountains of evidence.

To others, however, among the Establishment who presumably view the evidence from a more objective frame of reference, perhaps even so-called liberals, Mumia's case engenders a different kind of fear.

Good, God-fearing, tax-paying liberals stand able and ready to expose the injustice system when it makes "mistakes." That an innocent man could somehow be mistakenly convicted is within the acceptable bounds of what liberals are willing to consider.

That the state would intentionally convict an innocent man of a capital crime, and then knowing that he is innocent fight tooth and nail to execute him anyway, National Public Radio doesn't believe the U.S. public is ready to "consider" that its police and courts are doing just that -- premeditated state murder -- in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The next time NPR pleads for your donation, call or write and let them know what you think about "NOT All Things Considered."

Workers World

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