...Because they speak uncomfortable truths, black prophetic voices, while they are alive, are vilified and violently persecuted by repressive agents of the state. And they are swept under the rug by those who, in West's words, are "well-adjusted to injustice." This hard reality has defined the lives of those we celebrate today during Black History Month, from Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass to Angela Davis and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In our lifetime one American, not unlike Austin Reed, articulates uncomfortable truths -- about the centrality of black oppression to the project of American capitalism and empire, the unbridled racism of the U.S. justice system, the unfinished project of American democracy, the horrors produced by war, and the possibilities of a liberated society not just for black people at home, but for everyone, everywhere. He seeks to give ordinary people a sense of their own power and to inspire those on the margins of society to stand up and fight. From the solitude of a prison cell, he has dedicated thousands of hours contributing to the black prophetic tradition and enriching the canon of African American literature with his writings. The conditions under which he has written seven books and produced thousands of short, incisive and elegantly rendered commentaries are likely not much better than the abysmal setting under which Austin Reed penned his memoir 150 years ago.
This man is Mumia Abu-Jamal.