It's no secret that the FBI has targeted the Black Panthers since the establishment of COINTELPRO in the 1960s. Just last week, Assata Shakur (née JoAnne Chesimard), the former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army activist accused of being an accomplice to the murder of a New Jersey state trooper in 1973—and who famously escaped from prison in 1979 to live an exiled life in Cuba—was reclassified as a "domestic terrorist" by the FBI and added to its Most Wanted List. A $2 million bounty is offered for her capture. Since the announcement, Shakur has received overwhelming support, with "Hands Off Assata" becoming a rallying cry around the world.
Shakur's case resembles that of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist and writer who was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia policeman in 1981. Abu-Jamal has been imprisoned for the past 30 years for a conviction built on shaky evidence. Abu-Jamal reports regularly from his Pennsylvania prison cell, critiquing and calling to task the actions of the U.S. government on the domestic and international front.
Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary, a new documentary directed by Stephen Vittoria, tells the story of Mumia Abu-Jamal through prison interviews, archival footage, dramatic readings and testimony by Alice Walker, Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, Cornel West and Dick Gregory, among others. The film offers viewers a chance to learn about the man that Angela Davis calls "the most eloquent and most powerful opponent of the death penalty in the world . . . the 21st century Frederick Douglass." Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary opens as part of the Rialto's daily film schedule on Friday, May 10, at Rialto Cinemas. 6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol. $7.25–$9.50. 707.525.4840.