Supporters: "His Present Conditions Are Actually Worse"

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the onetime president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists who became an international symbol of opposition to the death penalty, is being subjected to "worse" prison conditions today than when he was on death row, his supporters say.

Abu-Jamal, convicted in the 1981 killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner, was liberated from death row last month when the district attorney in Philadelphia said he would not seek a new death penalty hearing for Abu-Jamal.

When Abu-Jamal is transferred to the general prison population, "he'll . . . be permitted to have contact visits for the first time in three decades," the New York Amsterdam News noted on Friday.

But according to freemumia.com, "Mumia Abu-Jamal is being held in Administrative Custody ('The Hole' or Solitary Confinement) at SCI Mahanoy, Frackville, PA. Mumia’s death sentence has been dropped, and though he is supposed to be in General Population, he has been held in Solitary Confinement — shackled whenever he’s [outside] his cell (even to the shower), glaring lights 24/7, no regular phone calls, restrictive visits, inadequate commissary, no access to his materials and denied his typewriter." "SCI" stands for "state correctional institution."

Prison Radio added this week, "His present conditions are actually worse than they were on death row at SCI Greene. Please join us in our call for Mumia to be immediately transferred into general population."

It continued, "Mumia is being kept in solitary in SCI Mahanoy's dungeon. Its restrictions and conditions belie its modern construction. Mumia just told us on Friday that he wants all of his supporters to broaden this call, to not just focus on his case, but to understand that all torture units must be shut down.

"The Human Rights Coalition is a group of prisoners, family members, and supporters that have been exposing and challenging state torture in Pennsylvania for years. HRC states 'Mumia may be in solitary, but he is not alone. The PA Department of Corrections holds approximately 2,500 people in solitary confinement on any given day, many of them for years at a time." Please visit these websites to learn more: Human Rights Coalition and Solitary Watch

". . . The defeat for the State, having to openly declare that Mumia will live, and the fact that they can no longer legally execute Mumia, has meant a severe backlash. After his transfer off of death row, Mumia was thrown in the hole at SCI Mahanoy."

Relayed this description of Abu-Jamal's circumstances, Sue Bensinger, deputy press secretary at the Frackville prison, told Journal-isms by telephone, "I'm not going to discuss in detail one particular inmate," adding that the prison holds thousands. "We just house them. We just care for whatever the court sends us."

AP Apparently Lays Off Two Assistant Bureau Chiefs of Color

Two assistant bureau chiefs of color were apparently among layoffs implemented this week at the Associated Press.

A supervisor confirmed that Miami-based Michelle Morgante, assistant Florida bureau chief and Caribbean business manager, was among them. Others at the news cooperative said that Andrew Fraser, assistant Pennsylvania bureau chief, based in Philadelphia, apparently was laid off as well.

Paul Colford, spokesman for the AP, told Journal-isms, "We've made some changes based on evolving business needs."

Morgante wrote in her LinkedIn profile that she has been in the bureau since 2005. "I represent The Associated Press for Florida and the Caribbean, helping our members make the most of their AP relationship, and working with clients in the Caribbean to put AP content to work for them in print or digital publications, broadcast reports, publishing projects and as a resource for companies and academic institutions," she wrote.

Morgante had been an AP correspondent in Mexico for five years, and prior to that, an editor on the AP's International Desk.

Fraser, then AP news editor in Florida, was named to the Pennsylvania post in 2006.

"Fraser has directed news coverage in Florida since 2002," an AP announcement said at the time. "He helped supervise a broad range of stories — from the Terri Schiavo saga last year to two devastating, back-to-back hurricane seasons.

"Fraser worked for more than eight years as a reporter, editor and supervisor for the AP in Hartford, Conn., and on the national business desk in New York. After working as a deputy national editor with The Wall Street Journal's online edition, Fraser rejoined the AP three years ago in Miami as news editor."

Fraser could not be reached for comment.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says Martin Luther King Jr.'s "drum major" quote will be fixed. Rachel Manteuffel had raised the issue in a Washington Post essay. (Credit: Nikki Kahn/Washington Post)

Interior Secretary Agrees to Change Quote on King Memorial

"Five months ago, in this space, I wrote that something was wrong with the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial," Rachel Manteuffel wrote Friday for the Washington Post. "The quotation inscribed on the monument’s left flank had been so badly excerpted that a modest statement of King’s was turned into a boast.

". . . Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told The Post today that the quote will be corrected. He has given the National Park Service 30 days — because 'things only happen when you put a deadline on it' — to consult with the King Memorial Foundation, family members and other interested parties and come up with a more accurate alternative.

" 'This is important because Dr. King and his presence on the Mall is a forever presence for the United States of America, and we have to make sure that we get it right,' Salazar said.

"Consider it no small victory for the power of public opinion over the sometimes ponderous inertia of bureaucracy, and also for the power of words — King’s words — to be heard.

" 'I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,' the monument says. What an odd choice for a quote, I thought, when I visited in August before its scheduled dedication. It sounded almost . . . conceited. And it was past tense, as though King was speaking from the grave. It didn’t sound like King at all.

"I went looking for the context, read the whole speech and found there was a reason it didn’t sound like him. 'If you want to say I was a drum major, say I was . . . ' is how King began his statement. As many have since pointed out, the 'if' and the 'you' entirely change the meaning."

Meanwhile, Stanford University planned Friday to honor photojournalist Bob Fitch with a Call to Consciousness Award from the university's Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, the Palo Alto Weekly reported. A King photograph by Fitch is the model for the memorial on the National Mall.

"Fitch, 72, was a Bay Area-raised, 24-year-old ordained minister who took a job as a staff photographer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which Martin Luther King Jr. was president. Over three years Fitch shot hundreds of memorable images of black Americans' struggles," the story said.

". . . Fitch was able to go where black journalists could not. Southern Christian Leadership Conference leaders said they could not send black reporters and photographers into the field because they were beaten or killed. Fitch covered major events each week, and the images and stories were sent to a network of black-run newspapers and magazines, he said." 

Allen Johnson, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.: The MLK Memorial flap [Sept. 2]

Julianne Malveaux, syndicated: King Out of Context – Just Fix It! [Sept. 6]  
Gene Weingarten and Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post: Maya Angelou says King memorial inscription makes him look ‘arrogant’ [Aug. 30]

Soledad O'Brien, Author Jodi Kantor Clash Over "Obamas"

"CNN's Soledad O'Brien had an extremely tense conversation on Friday's 'Starting Point' with the author of a controversial new book about the Obamas," Jack Mirkinson wrote Friday for the Huffington Post.

"Jodi Kantor, who wrote 'The Obamas,' has had to push back against attacks from the White House and skeptical questions from many in the media ever since the book was published. (Her work has also received positive attention and at least one study has found that the reporting in the book mostly stands up.)

"Kantor started by saying that she was very surprised by Michelle Obama's reaction to the book, especially her contention that it portrays her as an 'angry black woman.'

" 'The book never describes her as an angry black woman,' she said. 'It describes her as a strong woman ... so what I assume is that she's reacting to some of the more sensational coverage around the book, which is really distorted in the reporting of what this book is.'

"O'Brien wasn't having that. 'She may not have read the book but I read the book,' she said, adding that she felt Kantor described Obama as 'being stuck on a chain gang or something.' O'Brien read the end of several chapters, each of which she felt ended on a downbeat note.

" 'Your portrait ... is the tone is sort of a sense of a woman who is frustrated, unhappy, and a little bitter about having the privilege of being the first lady,' she said. Kantor fought back. 'I think that words like bitter are coming from you, not from me,' she said. 'I definitely never used that word.' She also said that O'Brien had 'misrepresented' her reporting on a White House Halloween party from 2009." 

Mayor Wants D.C. Universities to Honor Ofield Dukes

Mayor Vincent Gray of the District of Columbia told hundreds attending a memorial service for public relations activist Ofield Dukes Friday that he intended to have all universities in his city memorialize Dukes in some way.

Gray was just one of the dignitaries who spoke at Shiloh Baptist Church during a three-hour service celebrating Dukes, who died Dec. 7 in his hometown of Detroit at age 79. Relatives said at the service that Dukes had caught pneumonia.

Gray noted that he meets regularly with the presidents of the universities in the capital. In the city, they are American, Catholic, Gallaudet, George Washington, Georgetown, Trinity Washington and Howard, along with the Corcoran College of Art + Design, the University of the District of Columbia, National Defense University and National Intelligence University. The group also includes the presidents of Marymount and George Mason universities in the Virginia suburbs and the University of Maryland at College Park.

At the next, as-yet-unscheduled meeting, Gray said, "The first agenda item is that each university in this city needs to figure out a way to memorialize Ofield Dukes," be it with a scholarship or other tribute. ". . . If the meeting doesn't go well, I'm going to get the names of everybody in here and do what Ofield Dukes would have done — organize a protest, in a supportive way," he said, jokingly, "but I don't think it will come to that."

Dukes was the go-to man in the black political life in the capital, where he lived for 46 years. In 1993, he founded the Black Public Relations Society chapter in Washington; in 1971, organized the Congressional Black Caucus; he taught at Howard University; and in the 1960s he was a communications adviser to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Dukes founded a short-lived newspaper, the North Star, in 1981. He had worked early in his career at the Michigan Chronicle.

Dukes was remembered in all of those roles. Speakers included Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. delegate to Congress; Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff for the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs; Jannette L. Dates, dean of the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University; former D.C. mayors Marion Barry and Sharon Pratt; Prince George’s County, Md., Executive Rushern Baker; and Alexis M. Herman, former U.S. secretary of labor, among others. President Obama was among those contributing tributes for the memorial program.

"He made his work in public relations work in civil rights," Norton said. "His public relations efforts ought to be seen in the broadest sense as work in public affairs." She noted his organization of the Congressional Black Caucus and his partnership with Stevie Wonder to push for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Maureen Bunyan, an anchor at Washington's WJLA-TV, a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and an emcee, noted that Dukes was "in the whole mix" of the activism that was taking place in 1975, when NABJ was founded. "He was just there for us. We didn't have to ask him," she said. "He was ready to share what he knew, what his strategic thinking had taught him."

The words "strategy" and "planning" were Dukes attributes that were repeated throughout the service.

Church members put the attendance at the noon service at as many as 900. NABJ held a reception honoring Dukes' memory at Howard University afterward. 

Hamil R. Harris, Washington Post: Ofield Dukes remembered

Dr. Chuka Onwumechili, a professor of communication and culture at Howard University, will become interim dean of the John H. Johnson School of Communications, outgoing dean Jannette L. Dates told Journal-isms on Friday. Dates said in February 2011 that she hoped to step down on June 30 while a national search for a new dean began. At that point, she had been dean or acting dean for 17½ years and associate dean for five. No permanent dean has been chosen.

"The LA Times Media Group announced the launch of the Spanish-language website Hoylosangeles.com today," Matthew Fleischer reported Friday for FishbowlLA. "The site will be the online home of LATMG’s weekend paper Hoy Los Angeles and will also post some translated stories from the LA Times."

"Bounce TV, the new broadcast TV network for African Americans, has generated 'impressive local viewership' since its launch in November on WVUE New Orleans . . ., according to the Fox affiliate, which is airing Bounce TV on its ch. 8.2," TVNewsCheck reported on Friday. " 'After just two months on the air, Bounce TV has higher ratings than numerous well-established national cable networks and is competing strongly with several local broadcast outlets,' WVUE says."

In Chicago, "Saying it was 'just time to make a change,' Muriel Clair has resigned after 34 years as an award-winning general assignment reporter at Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9," Robert Feder reported Thursday for TimeOutChicago. ". . . Clair is expected to continue her Teacher of the Month feature and handle other special projects on a freelance basis, according to WGN news director Greg Caputo, who called her 'a stalwart on our staff.' "    

Felicia Pride, founding executive editor of inReads, a web initiative of WETA television in Washington, joined the FishbowlNY media blog on Jan. 3 as one of three co-editors. Pride is African American. About a year ago, this columnist wrote for the Poynter Institute, "Reading the Fishbowl blogs about the media — there are three of them, for New York, Washington and Los Angeles, all part of mediabistro.com — one sometimes gets the impression that media people of color exist merely as window dressing." Since then, FishbowlLA has hired Marcus Vanderberg, another black journalist, as a co-editor.

"John Mailer, son of writer and Village Voice co-founder Norman Mailer, has joined the campaign on Change.org calling on Village Voice Media to shut down the adult section of its Backpage.com classifieds site where individuals have advertised children and teens for sex," Felicia Pride reported Thursday for FishbowlNY.

"How many immigrants live within each state? How do Latinos and Asians contribute to a state’s economy? How many of any state’s immigrants are eligible to vote?" Marisa Treviño wrote on her Latina Lista site. "All of these questions and others are answered in the Immigration Policy Center‘s re-released set of fact sheets for each of the 50 states. The fact sheets were updated with the most recent government and academic data. To make it even easier, infographics, highlighting the top data points of each state, are also available for those who want quick answers without wading through a lot of text."

From Lagos, Nigeria: "Save for the timely intervention of policemen on patrol, a journalist, Mr Charles Akpan with Inspiration 32.5 FM would have been set ablaze, today, when a group of armed hoodlums intercepted him on his way to work," Olasunkanmi Akoni reported Thursday for the Vanguard newspaper. 

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald reporter, and John Yearwood, world editor at the Herald, are among the moderators, speakers and panelists at the International Press Institute's World Congress 2012, to be held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from June 23 to 26. It is the first time the conference is being held in the Caribbean.

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.