Angela's Clashes

Peter Noel's important article " Mumia's Last Stand" [November 16], on fair trial advocacy for Mumia Abu-Jamal, misstated key facts concerning the case of Angela Davis.

Having edited The Angela Y. Davis Reader, referred to by Noel, I would like to point out, first, that Professor Davis was never a key member or leader in the Black Panther Party. Secondly, the guns registered in her name and taken by 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson (younger brother of prison intellectual and Soledad Brother leader George Jackson) were never used to kill or injure anyone in the tragic August 1970 attempt to free black prisoners targeted for their work against guard brutality and racism. Firing on the van in which Jonathan Jackson and Ruchell Magee (who is still in prison) held their hostages, guards killed Judge Harold Haley, who was being held hostage; Jackson; and William Christmas, another inmate attempting to escape.

Setting the historical record straight helps to clarify why it is so important to link Davis's case with the struggle for a new and fair trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal. As Noel suggests, many who rallied around Davis fail to consider the police and judicial misconduct surrounding Abu-Jamal's case. There are, of course, notable differences in the two cases: Davis was not at the scene of the crime (although she was charged with conspiracy and murder); she was acquitted of all charges (for some Americans, a conviction, even if accomplished through perjured testimony and incompetent defense counsel, erases all possibility of innocence). The insightfulness of Abu-Jamal's request, as Noel recounts it, is to encourage those who see Davis's freedom as a victory against injustice to also identify with Abu-Jamal's struggle.

Hopefully, more people will make connections between the FBI's illegal counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) and judicial bias and police misconduct in the '60s and state tactics that try to destroy radical individuals and groups today. Remember that Angela Davis went underground because she truly believed that state officials would try to kill her because of her politics. Captured, she was imprisoned, tried, and exonerated. Thirty years later, Mumia Abu-Jamal faces a similar threat—and the possibility, through a new trial, for justice.

Joy James, Visiting Professor
Institute for Research in African American Studies
Columbia University

Todaro and Todaro

Re Lenora Todaro's " World Trade War [November 30] and " Life or Debt" [December 14]: I am so grateful that Todaro made no attempts to "tell both sides" of this story. With the exception of the WTO site address in the first piece, she kept this story where it belongs—in the mouths of the activists. Though I doubt the WTO, which apparently operates more like a Masonic lodge than a multinational policymaking group, would have granted her an interview. As the police rioted in Seattle and CNN characterized a pile of trash on fire as violent provocation, it was good to know the Voice was where it should be—on the hard left. Makes me proud.

Dream Hampton
Detroit, Michigan

Ivory Flakes

Although Slushy [Slushy the Snow Brutha," Ward Sutton, December 7] is a snowman and is therefore colored white, the overall tone of the cartoon, its use of the word "honky," and definitely its title, reek of racism, particularly when the "brutha" (Black man) lands in jail for theft. I found no humor whatsoever in this cartoon. Let's please move on to a society devoid of stereotypes. The Voice's recent and plenteous coverage of AIDS and Black Africa is quite enough.

Jennifer Tate, Black Child

Ward Sutton replies: "Slushy" was intended to be a play on the stereotypic "blaxploitation" films of the 1970s, and I'm sorry if that didn't come across to you. But let's face it, Frosty is a honky.

Good Fela

As Fela's manager and friend of more than 15 years, I take exception to the scurrilous and disrespectful manner in which he was portrayed in Mark Schoofs's article " AIDS: The Agony of Africa" [November 16]. There is little doubt that Fela was in denial with regard to AIDS. However, to simply write off his life's work is to do this extraordinary individual a grave injustice.

Fela was imprisoned more than 60 times during his life and was beaten savagely and mercilessly on numerous occasions. He had the sheer guts to confront head-on an authority that summarily beats its population into submission. Schoofs dismissed this as sloganism, yet millions of people in Nigeria and around the world were moved by Fela's eloquent diatribes and his courageous stance.

Fela was not, as Schoofs repeatedly suggested, "antiwhite." He certainly was opposed to Western governmental support of repressive regimes. In my view, this did not make him a racist—and I never once saw any indication of that trait. Schoofs also accused him of misogyny. Again, a false assertion. There is no denying that Fela had an appetite for women. He claimed sexual union as the source of his inspiration. That women of all races and backgrounds were drawn to him is also undeniable.

What I really take exception to is the glib manner in which the article reduced Fela's entire life's work to his "self-deceptive" stand on the issue of AIDS. For example, Schoofs never mentioned the fact that Fela is considered by many of the world's most distinguished artists to be one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

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