Mumia speaks out at Evergreen State graduation

By: Ann Coleman

"In the end, it was over in 13 minutes," reported the Seattle Times. The newspaper was describing Mumia Abu-Jamal's June 11 speech at the Evergreen State College graduation ceremony. But the Times refused to report why Evergreen students selected Mumia -- and the long-standing effort of opponents of the death penalty to bring Mumia's words to the Olympia, Wash., campus.

Students voted last fall to have Mumia speak. But by April of this year, Mumia supporters were facing a backlash. Washington Gov. Gary Locke was scheduled to speak at graduation, but he refused, saying he wouldn't "share the stage with a convicted cop killer." Maureen Faulkner, the wife of officer Daniel Faulkner, who Mumia was accused of killing, took out two large ads in the local newspaper urging people to join her in protesting the event.

But when it came time for Mumia's taped speech to be played, the audience fell silent.

Speaking on the commencement ceremony theme of "Live Life Deliberately," Mumia spoke about revolutionary individuals who inspired him, including Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, Ramona Africa, the MOVE Nine, John Brown, Dr. Alan Bergman, Susan Rosenberg, Sue Africa and Marilyn Buck.

"Social movements are begun by relatively small numbers of people who, as catalysts, inspire, provoke and move larger numbers to see and share their vision," Mumia said. "Social movements can then become social forces that expand our perspectives, open up new social possibilities and create the consciousness for change."

As Mumia concluded: "Out of the many here assembled, it is the heart of he or she that I seek who looks at a life of vapid materialism, of capitalist excess, and finds it simply intolerable... I'm here to honor and applaud that choice and to warn you that, though the suffering may indeed be great, it is nothing to the joy of doing the right thing."