The Long Distance Revolutionary

by Makaya Kelday

New York –It was an especially frigid February afternoon in lower Manhattan, as our crowd huddled outside the Cinema Village theatre awaiting our entrance to see the new documentary, Long Distance Revolutionary, about Amerika’s most famous Political Prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The film, directed by Stephen Vittoria and produced by Prison Radio director Noelle Hanrahan, opened the night before to a sold out showing. This was the

Graphic by revolutionary prisoner Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson, Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party

Graphic by revolutionary prisoner Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson, Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party

first run of a tour that includes L.A., Seattle, Calgary, New Orleans, Miami, and your city if you request it.

Though the seats were full people continued to file into the theatre, leaving only a small area in the back for standing room that was soon taken up by the petite frame but enormous spirit of Pam Africa, along with her entourage. It was a family affair indeed, as Ramona Africa entered behind her, along with some children of the MOVE family. It’s only fitting that after all the support Mumia has given the MOVE family throughout the continued incarceration of nine family members, and the bombing of their Philadelphia home in 1985, that they would continue to support him, not only by heading up the International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal committee, but also attending, coordinating and/or speaking at all events held on his behalf (see article from 2008 by BASICS with Ramona Africa).

The lights dimmed on the crowded theatre and our conversational murmurs turned into boos and laughs, and one chant of “Free Palestine!” as the big screen before us ran a Starbucks ad, which was then followed by a Target commercial that garnered a similar crowd reaction. Ironic ads for an event such as this one, but they somehow served to unite the audience, as we turned to our neighbors to share our laughs and/or disgusts, and reminded us that we are all here for the one common, broader cause of justice, and more specifically, to support Brother Mumia.

Long Distance Revolutionary distinguishes itself from previous documentaries about Mumia, In Prison My Whole Life, and A Case for Reasonable Doubt  because it doesn’t focus at all on Mumia’s legal case, and instead follows his career as a journalist. From his teenage years as the Minister of Information for the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party, to his broadcasts at Temple University, to a journalism career that includes work for NPR, the Associated Press, a presidency at the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, and ultimately from behind bars, from where he has written seven books and thousands of commentaries. The film features the likes of Angela Davis, Cornell West, Dick Gregory, Alice Walker, M1, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and many other speakers who share their thoughts on Mumia’s work, as well as a group of young artists, writers, actors, and activists who recite excerpts of some of Mumia’s pieces throughout the film. Director Stephen Vittoria uses no frills or fancy effects, and no convenient editing, which allows Mumia’s poignant and thoughtful words to speak for themselves.

Rather than continue to allow their incarcerations to define them, we are made to remember that our political prisoners were accomplished men and women in all different areas of life before they got to where they are today. Like Mutulu Shakur who is a celebrated doctor of acupuncture, and as Sundiata Acoli is a gifted mathematician, Mumia is a brilliant journalist whose work has rendered him exiled on Amerikan soil. And after watching Long Distance Revolutionary, though it does not go into his case details whatsoever, it is clear that Mumia’s choice of weapon – his words – is really what the system sought to kill.

But after 30 years on death row (last spring Mumia was moved to general population) the system has still failed to silence him. We hear his voice on rap records, see his name on French streets that have been named after him, and find his image on t-shirts worn by his supporters that claim residencies from Canada to Japan to Germany to South Africa.

Long Distance Revolutionary is just in time to parallel the new “Free Mumia in 4” campaign, and will become an important piece of modern revolutionary history, documenting one of our heroes of the struggle, a revolutionary writer by the name of Mumia Abu-Jamal.


For more info go to