So I was headed into the lab last week to have a few Body Language press shots re-scanned and I decided to bring in another roll I had taken over a year ago as well to have the image above re-scanned. It was taken in April of last year, at a rally for death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of the 1981 slaying of police officer Daniel Faulkner here in Philadelphia. It is one of the most highly contested/protested capital cases, and a very very hot issue in Philly. Mumia has gone on to become something of a cultural icon, so when I heard about the protest, I knew I had to see what was going on and bring my camera.
The protest itself was very exhilerating, people were passionate and had fire in their voices, it was a surprisingly ethnically mixed crowd, although their political views all seemed to be the same, which can be summed up by the picket sign seen in the foreground above. The Black Panther in this photograph has an almost iconographic pose, with a presence that expresses both a militant ferocity, but also a gaze over the crowd below, both proud and attentive, keeping watch over things to ensure the protest proceeds unhindered. Making things even more interesting (and dangerous), a group of neo-nazis from New Jersey decided to hold a counter-protest march through the area we were in, and things started to get real tense. The protesters chanted and sang to the beat of drums, songs of protest for the freedom of a man called by some “the voice of the voiceless.” A couple more photos from the protest and later that day at a Turkish-American pride parade can be found on my old DeviantArt page.
Here are three tracks that I’ve loved for years now, which I think communicate musically the passion and the anger surrounding the situation of Mumia Abu-Jamal, from the perspective of musicians who quite clearly would agree with statements like that of the picket sign above (which I think is intense enough on it’s own).
Public Enemy needs no introduction, they wrote themselves into the pages of musical and cultural history, symbolizing a new afrocentric culture strengthened by hip hop and a renewed sense of resistance to the Reagan and Bush-run governments, the man, the establishment…
…the machine. Rage Against the Machine is, to this day, one of my all time favorites, I first heard Evil Empire as a 10-year old in late 1995, a neighbor would blast the song Vietnow (“turn on the radio..nah, f&%$ it, turn it off!” wonderful things for my impressionable mind). They were my top favorite band throughout middle school, ah the days of Jnco Jeans, Rage t-shirts and chain wallets, but it was because of their music that I first heard of Mumia so early on. They wrote this song about him, and it appeared on their 1999 release The Battle for Los Angeles.
And because it’s so rare that I post harder rock on this blog, I’ll give you a double whammy– this Refused track is pretty intense, with a drumline and lyrics to “invoke the spirit of ’68.” These guys were anarchists, and protested often at shows against the capitalist establishment, which from their perspective, was just another word for organized crime. Although they broke up in 1998, their music will remain famous for it’s passionate message of protest.
Public Enemy – Welcome to the Terrordome
Rage Against the Machine – Voice of the Voiceless
Refused – Protest Song ’68