The 32 year-old story of the “World’s Most Famous Death Row Inmate” – a moniker coined by the New York Times – is now being told through a fresh face, with hopes of it being read, heard and understood by a younger, more socially conscious audience.
Activist Gabriel Bryant, host of G-Town Radio, a hyper-local podcast serving the Germantown section of Philadelphia, was summoned by the French Delegation recently to help build a progressive, global coalition in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalist who was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, sentenced to death in 1982, and commuted to life imprisonment in 2012.
Following in the footsteps of legendary Philly-based activists Ramona and Pam Africa, Bryant traveled overseas, “with a translator,” he says chuckling, to meet with “Mayors, elected officials and activists from across the globe who have pledge an allegiance to fight against this injustice”
The 34 year-old broadcast journalist, who admits that Mumia Abu-Jamal’s story and career inspires him, says his trip to the city of lights was life-changing, an “amazing experience,” he adds.
“I served on a panel with Catherine Peyge, Mayor of Bobigny, Paris,” says Bryant, as we stand in front a plaque commemorating the exact spot where Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered the night of December 9th, 1981. “For the last 25 years,” he continues, “the French people have been organizing on Mumia’s behalf, spreading awareness throughout Europe and Africa and helping with legal aid. As a matter of fact, just last year, Mayor Peyge unveiled a street named after Mumia.”
Bryant tells me he also visited a suburb of Paris that a couple years ago also honored the North Philadelphia political activist with a street named in his honor.
“The reason we’re seeing so much energy surrounding this case from foreigners is because they have done major research on the case, traveled to Philadelphia often to meet with him and his family, and wholeheartedly believe in his innocence,” explains Bryant.
While conscious that this case is highly controversial and knowing that to some people, Mumia is a “polarizing figure,” Bryant touts “there’s something bold about truth and being able to stand up for what you believe in.”
Bryant says Mumia supporters aren’t interested in a new trial, instead, “We want him set free!”
Leading up to the 32nd anniversary of the infamous night on 13th street, Bryant shares that they are now in the midst of campaigning for a million signatures, “we collected a few hundred while in France.”
An activist for over a decade, Bryant tells me the international community is waiting for Americans – Philadelphians in particular – to turn up the volume on the fight for their hometown son and they will serve as allies, providing capital, resources and political assurance.
“They don’t perceive politics the same way Americans do. In foreign countries, they can relate more closely with subjects like mass incarceration, corruption in government and police brutality, they are always on the ground fighting.”
Bryant says its time now that Millennials pick up the ball and run with it.
“Although Mumia is about to turn 60, he was about 30 years-old when he the incident happened. During his youth, he was an organizer in the community; he was organizing even as student at Ben Franklin High School. With all the youth activists groups in the city of Philadelphia today, such as Philadelphia Student Union and Youth United for Change, they need to realize that while they are out there fighting for their issue, this level of injustice can happen to any us of, at anytime, and so we ALL must fight injustice wherever we see it.”
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Photo: C. Norris – ©2013/Activist Gabriel Bryant stares at a plaque while standing on the exact spot where Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered in 1981.