Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?
This is the provocative title of Mumia Abu-Jamal's latest book focusing on the history of state-sponsored violence against African-Americans and other minorities in the US.
The author has been in prison since 1981, after he was shot and beaten by cops in Philadelphia. He was accused of killing a policeman, a charge he continues to deny, and was sentenced to death. That he is still alive is thanks partly to an international solidarity campaign against his conviction and sentence.
In prison he has written many books, mainly on injustice and racism against black people in "the land of the free". This collection of essays is no different.
What does Abu-Jamal's latest book have to do with us down here on the southern tip of Africa, you may ask.
Well, a lot. Especially when you consider the past and present experiences of the majority of black folks in both countries. Granted, there are huge differences too. One major one being the fact that while African-Americans are a political minority in the US, black people constitute the vast majority in SA. That comes with real political power.
The question posed by the title of the book is as relevant in a free South Africa today as it is in the US that, not so long ago, had Barack Obama as its first black president.
Yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of the Marikana massacre. A total of 34 striking Lonmin workers were shot dead by the police on August 16 2012. Close to 80 workers were injured.