February 7, 2015

Voices of Three Political Prisoners

Voices of Three Political Prisoners

Now available on one DVD - 4 short videos featuring 3 US political prisoners - Nuh Washington, Jalil Muntaqim and David Gilbert.

Nuh (the Arabic form of Noah) was a committed member of the Black Panther Party and later, after the notorious FBI-engineered East coast-West Coast split, worked with the Black Liberation Army (BLA), in defending the lives and dignity of black folk.

Back in the 1970s, Nuh was shot and captured with another Panther, Jalil Muntaqim, and was later charged and convicted of murder along with Jalil and Herman Bell. Evidence has since surfaced strongly suggesting the three men were unjustly convicted in this case.

For over 28 years Nuh (was) held in California and New York gulags, and repeatedly punished for his political ideas.

-- Mumia Abu-Jamal, Feb. 2000

(More from Mumia's column)

Jalil Abdul Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom) was 19 years old when he was arrested. He is a former member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, and is one of the longest held political prisoners in the world.

This documentary is a unique opportunity to visit and hear Jalil's story.

Jalil was born October 18, 1951, in Oakland, CA. His early years were spent in San Francisco. Jalil participated in NAACP youth organizing during the civil rights movement. In high school, he became a leading member of the Black Student Union, often touring in "speak-outs."

After the assassination of Dr. King, Jalil began to believe a more militant response to racism and injustice was necessary. He began to look towards the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense for leadership and was recruited into the BPP by school friends who had since become Panthers.

Two months shy of his 20th birthday, Jalil was captured along with Albert “Nuh” Washington in a midnight shoot-out with San Francisco police. When Jalil was arrested, he was a high school graduate and employed as a social worker.

While in San Quentin prison in California in 1976, Jalil launched the National Prisoners Campaign to Petition the United Nations to recognize the existence of political prisoners in the United States. Progressives nationwide joined this effort, and the petition was submitted in Geneva, Switzerland. This led to Lennox Hinds and the National Conference of Black Lawyers having the UN International Commission of Jurists tour U.S. prisons and speak with specific political prisoners. The International Commission of Jurists then reported that political prisoners did in fact exist in the United States.

In 1997 Jalil initiated the Jericho Movement. Over 6,000 supporters gathered in the Jericho '98 march in Washington DC and the Bay Area to demand amnesty for US political prisoners on the basis of international law. The Jericho Amnesty Movement aims to gain the recognition by the U.S. government and the United Nations that political prisoners exist in this country, and that on the basis of international law, they should be granted amnesty because of the political nature of their cases.

During his imprisonment, Jalil has become a father and a grandfather. Jalil has worked as an educator of other inmates and practices organizing and advocacy whenever possible to ensure the most adequate, humane treatment for all people. He has been repeatedly punished for these activities, through physical abuse, formal discipline, and numerous prison transfers.

A rare opportunity to go behind prison walls for a discussion with David Gilbert, a lifelong anti-imperialist activist and former member of the Weather Underground Organization. David is now serving a life sentence in prison for activities in support of the Black Liberation Movement. He explains why he joined the movement, what led him to go underground, and frankly discusses the strengths and errors of the movement and the WUO.

Countering media distortions, David speaks from his own experience about a time of tremendous social upheaval and lessons for today.

David Gilbert is among the longest held anti-imperialist prisoners in the world. As a teenager David began working against the Vietnam war and for Black civil rights, and later became a leader of the Columbia University student strike and Students For A Democratic Society. He was an organizer at a time of great social upheaval. In 1969, 120 cities burned in Black uprisings, and in the same period 400 campuses organized student strikes against the Vietnam War. In the 1970s he joined the Weather Underground Organization and worked underground for more than a decade. He was arrested in 1981. Along with others, he was convicted on a conspiracy charge for his participation in a Brinks truck hold-up aimiing to raise funds for the Black Liberation Army. David is serving a sentence of 75 years to life, without possibilty of parole.

In prison for more than 20 years, David has continued his work for social justice. Very early, he called attention to the AIDS epidemic in oppressed communities in the U.S. and organized prisoner peer education programs on AIDS. He is an advocate for the rights of prisoners, a prolific writer and a devoted father and friend.

This interview took place in July, 1998 at Great Meadows Prison, Comstock, New York. It is part of the oral history of the radical movements of the 1960s and 70s, and is useful for starting discussions in classes and study groups.