New photos of an apparently frail and ill Mumia Abu-Jamal, with visibly darkened, hardened skin as a result of complications from diabetes, were released Tuesday morning via email by his supporters, friends and family.
They are continuing to maintain a vigil outside State Correctional Institution Mahanoy, the Pennsylvania prison where the 60-year-old former Black Panther and now-famous prison journalist and radio commentator, convicted of the 1982 murder of a white Philadelphia police officer, fell ill. They are demanding that he get proper medical care and have charged that prison officials are attempting to kill him through medical neglect.
The photos, apparently taken Monday, come after an email written by Abu-Jamal’s wife, Wadiya Jamal, was distributed to his supporters. It is a rare public statement from Wadiya Jamal, who historically has not made many public comments about her husband or his case. In the email she says that she was not notified by the prison of her husband’s illness and was then blocked from access to him until the protests began.
Abu-Jamal, a former Philadelphia radio broadcaster, garnered international attention last week when supporters learned that he had untreated diabetes and was briefly shipped to the intensive-care unit at Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville, a hospital near SCI Mahanoy.
These latest photos of Abu-Jamal were released by the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. In a statement accompanying their release, Johanna Fernandez, a professor in the Department of Black and Latino Studies at Baruch College and an increasingly prominent leader in the movement around Abu-Jamal, explained why it was important for the world to see his condition:
We share these photos to give you a sense of the gravity of Mumia's condition. He has lost over 50 lbs and his entire body is covered with a hard, leathery layer of jet-black skin that is bloody, painful and itchy.
We continue to demand that he be allowed to see an independent team of specialists chosen by his family and supporters.
The photos are much different from the ones the Abu-Jamal movement likes to show, of him looking powerful and smiling.
While his detractors call him a murderer who has profited from his crimes, Abu-Jamal has become a celebrated journalist among leftist circles, broadcasting radio commentaries and writing opinion pieces and books, first from death row, where he was housed for 30 years, and now from the prison’s general population. But he is also a father, grandfather and husband.
His wife wrote of her concerns that prison authorities are trying to kill him through neglect:
For over 30 years my husband was on death row in solitary confinement!!! where he was caged 24 hours a day, in his cell and even when outside. In general population these past three years, he has yet to receive his correct diet,!!! He developed a skin disease that spread over his whole body, treated with wrong medicine that he was allergic to, had pneumonia and last Monday, March 30, he went into diabetic shock with a blood sugar level of a deadly high of 779 and rushed to the hospital and put into the ICU on an insulin drip.
During these years on death row and now slow death row, Mumia has lost his mother, his sister, a brother, our brother Jahlani, my mother, my father, and our baby girl Goldii who was very active in trying to free him 'til the end of her life. Every single one of them expected to see him come home a free man, because like us all they believe in his innocence. May Allah bless and have mercy on their sweet souls!!!!
The prison didn’t even let me know my husband had been rushed to the hospital and put into the ICU. I was told by [Mumia supporter and lawyer] Rachel Wolkenstein and then I called to find out what happened and where Mumia was taken. And then the prison blocked my visit at the hospital until the international campaign flooded the prison and PA Department of Corrections with protest calls. Guards stood outside the hospital room and one was inside the room with Mumia. I was shocked at his condition, he had lost over 40 pounds, was weak, barely able to sit up and keep his head up, handcuffed to his chair, with labored breathing, and dry mouth. I told him about all the love outpouring for him and that the world is watching!!!
Wadiya Jamal says that she plans to visit her husband Thursday.
Todd Steven Burroughs, an independent researcher and writer based in Newark, N.J., is the author of Son-Shine on Cracked Sidewalks, an audiobook on Amiri Baraka and Ras Baraka through the eyes of the 2014 Newark mayoral campaign. He is the co-editor, along with Jared Ball, of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X and the co-author, with Herb Boyd, of Civil Rights: Yesterday & Today.