I asked Fernández about the book and their work together: Susie Day for Truthout: What was it like the first time you visited Mumia? Like, what the hell am going to tell Mumia Abu-Jamal – on death row?But before long I was visiting him and about 10 other men on death row at SCI Greene.
I am innocent despite what you 12 people think …” This book includes 108 of Mumia’s commentaries. Mumia has written thousands of pieces, so choosing only 108 was very difficult. I wanted a variety, so after the 600 or so were selected, I went off and found others that addressed the politics of the Caribbean, Haiti, Africa, Puerto Rico …
The book’s objective was to place Mumia in the context of the Black Radical tradition and with other prison writers.
In one piece, Mumia unequivocally declares his innocence.
That’s important because the Fraternal Order of Police wrongly repeats over and over again that Mumia has never declared his innocence; that he confessed in the hospital to killing Officer Daniel Faulkner.
So began a friendship and collaboration destined to last well beyond the publication of , a new collection of commentaries by Mumia Abu-Jamal, which Fernández edited.
Fernández now teaches history at New York’s Baruch College, and Mumia’s death sentence has been commuted to life without parole – though he’s facing serious illness in prison.That was where we did the first “Live From Death Row” conversation in the classroom with Mumia.My Carnegie Mellon students are big nerds and tech geeks. Because I think seeing people as icons distorts your own self-image …Mumia’s analysis of racism and class exploitation immediately spoke to Fernández.The daughter of working-class immigrants fleeing poverty and the Dominican Republic’s Trujillo dictatorship, Fernández grew up in the Bronx during the crack epidemic and got her working papers at 14.How did you decide to put together this collection? You tear the world apart and then build it back up, with humanity’s highest aspirations leading the rebuilding process.So after a decade of visiting Mumia on death row, sometimes two and three times a week, I thought, “We should put some of these ideas in writing.” Also, as a historian, I wanted to see how Mumia’s writing changed during his 33 years in prison.I became part of a cohort of people whose work consists mostly of visiting prisoners, including Mumia.I also taught a course at Carnegie Mellon that included Mumia’s book on the Black Panther Party, .It was then literally an 8½-by-11 mimeographed paper you could find in barbershops and local dives in North Philly.The first nine of these commentaries were published later in the 1980s by activists, in a pamphlet titled “Survival Is Still a Crime.” Why did you include such old essays?