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Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 22:27:24 -0600 (CST)
From: Katia Roberto <roberto@alexia.lis.uiuc.edu>
Subject: (en) NPR CENSORS Martin Espada POEM ABOUT MUMIA
Article: 58383
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.23014.19990323181547@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

For Mumia Abu-Jamal

By Martin Espada, A_Infos News Service, 22 March 1999

Martin Espada spoke Tuesday night in Tucson on his experience with censorship, Mumia's case and his opportunity to visit Mumia. He gave some facts about the case as well as future legal actions that will be taking place. Below is an article about Espada including his poem that was censored. It was a great opportunity to meet with Espada and hear him speak.

NPR censors poem on Mumia

Staff persons for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" show commissioned award-winning Latino poet Martn Espada to compose a poem as part of NPR's April observance of National Poetry Month.

Espada obliged.

NPR had suggested a poem focusing on a news story in one of the cities Espada was visiting during a reading tour.

Espada chose Philadelphia, and submitted an offering entitled "Another Nameless Prostitute Says the Man Is Innocent." The man referred to is Mumia Abu-Jamal, the African American journalist on death row in Pennsylvania.

Abu-Jamal is widely believed to have been framed in the death of a Philadelphia police officer because of his strong defense of the oppressed-particularly the MOVE group whose house was bombed 12 years ago by the Philadelphia police.

When NPR saw what Espada's poem was about, it balked. "Everyone around me in Philadelphia was talking about Mumia's case," Espada says. He read an article in the Philadelphia Weekly of April 16 reporting that those who have come forward with testimony that might clear Mumia seemed to vanish. This news item became the basis of Espada's poem. Espada faxed his poem to NPR on April 21. Four days later, he was informed by the radio network that it would not broadcast the poem because of its subject matter and political content.

NPR had previously bowed to pressure and refused to air Mumia's radio commentaries from death row. In refusing to broadcast Espada's poem, it told him that his piece was "not the way NPR wants to return to this subject."

"I expect to be censored or ignored by the mainstream media, but these people, who admit they liked the poem and style themselves as progressives, wouldn't broadcast it. Their cowardice is really impressive."

Espada met Abu-Jamal's wife, Marilyn Jamal, on April 26 and gave her a copy of the poem. She supports his efforts to make NPR's suppression of the poem widely known.

Espada said that those who in the past have contributed money to NPR should send their pledges of financial support to the International Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

'Another Nameless Prostitute Says The Man Is Innocent'
For Mumia Abu-Jamal
Philadelphia, PA/Camden, NJ, april 1997

By Martín Espada

The board-blinded windows knew what happened;
the pavement sleepers of Philadelphia, groaning
in their ghost-infested sleep, knew what happened;
every black man blessed
with the gashed eyebrow of nightsticks
knew what happened;
even Walt Whitman knew what happened,
poet a century dead, keeping vigil
from the tomb on the other side of the bridge.

More than fifteen years ago,
the cataract stare of the cruiser's headlights
the impossible angle of the bullet,
the tributaries and lakes of blood,
Officer Faulkner dead, suspect Mumia shot in the chest,
the nameless witnesses who saw a gunman
running away, his heart and feet thudding.

The nameless prostitutes know,
hunched at the curb, their bare legs chilled.
Their faces squinted to see that night,
rouged with fading bruises. Now the faces fade.
Perhaps an eyewitness putrifies eyes open in a bed of soil,
or floats in the warm gulf stream of her addiction,
or hides from the fanged whispers of the police
in the tomb of Walt Whitman,
where the granite door is open
and fugitive slaves may rest.

Mumia: the Panther beret, the thinking dreadlocks,
dissident words that swarmed the microphone like a hive,
sharing meals with people named Africa,
singing out their names even after the police bombardment
that charred their black bodies.
So the governor has signed the death warrant.
The executioner's needle would flush the poison
down into Mumia's writing hand
so the fingers curl like a burned spider;
his calm questioning mouth would grow numb,
and everywhere radios sputter to silence, in his memory.

The veiled prostitues are gone,
gone to the segregated balcony of whores.
But the newspaper reports that another nameless prostitute
says the man is innocent, that she will testify at the next hearing.
Beyond the courthouse, a multitude of witnesses chants,
prays, shouts for his prison to collapse, a shack in a hurricane.
Mumia, if the last nameless prostitute
becomes an unraveling turban of steam,
if the judges' robes become clouds of ink
swirling like octopus deception,
if the shroud becomes your Amish quilt,
if your dreadlocks are snipped during autopsy,
then drift above the ruined RCA factory
that once birthed radios
to the tomb of Walt Whitman,
where the granite door is open
and fugitive slaves may rest.

About Martin Espada:

Called "the Latino poet of his generation," Martin Espada as born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1957. His fifth book of poetry, Imagine the Angels of Bread (W.W. Norton), won the American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Another volume of poems, Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover's Hands (Curbstone), won both the Paterson Poetry Prize and the PEN/Revson Fellowship. The PEN/Revson judges were unanimous: "The greatness of Espada's art, like all great arts, is that it gives dignity to the insulted and the injured of the earth."

Espada's poems have appeared in such publications as The New York Times Book Review, Harper's, The Nation, Ploughshares and The Best American Poetry. Many of his poems arise from his work experiences, ranging from bouncer to tenant lawyer. He is also the editor of Poetry Like Bread:Poets of the Political Imagination from Curbstone Press, and the forthcoming El Coro: A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poets (University of Massachusetts). A recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Espada is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Source: agnes leaf@hotmail.com (slightly edited for brevity)
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