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The Silent War: The Critical Need to Support Political Prisoners

Updated: Mar 2


The testimonies of those who have spent decades behind bars are a testament to the ongoing warfare we fight as citizens of the world. We the people must not be silent in the face of slavery (injustice). These people include political prisoners, such as well-known personalities like Mumia Abu-Jamal, who persist in speaking out against structural injustice while spending decades behind bars. Mumia Former Black Panther Abu-Jamal is a representation of perseverance in the face of hardship. Since his 1982 conviction for the 1982 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, Abu-Jamal has represented the fight for justice by spending over 40 years behind bars despite evidence which proves his innocence. But his is only one example; we also need to pay attention to the situation of countless other political prisoners.



Members of the MOVE movement Delbert Orr Africa, Eddie Goodman Africa, Janet Holloway Africa, Janine Phillips Africa, Chuck Sims Africa, and Michael Davis Africa all suffer from the same destiny. They are currently serving terms ranging from 30 years to life due to convictions coming from the turbulent events of the 1978 Philadelphia siege. This has raised concerns about the fairness of their trials as well as the wider ramifications of a racially biased legal system. Among the many people whose stories are still hidden behind the walls of the prison system are Jalil Muntaqim, Mutulu Shakur, Russell 'Maroon' Shoatz, Sundiata Acoli, Joseph Bowen, Veronza Bowers Jr., Fred 'Muhammad' Burton, Romaine 'Chip' Fitzgerald, Ruchell 'Cinque' Magee, Ed Poindexter, Kojo Bomani Sababu, and Kamau Sadiki, who were either former Black Panthers or members of the Black Liberation Army. These individuals are not mere names on a list; they are real people who have confronted the oppressive and monstrous system that perpetuates exploitation for economic gain. Their stories embody the tangible impact of systemic injustice, offering a poignant reminder of the human toll exacted by such an tyrannical system.There is an urgent need for a thorough reexamination of their cases because of the racial bias present in their trials, the shortcomings of the legal system, and the dubious character of the evidence used against them.

We must actively engage in political advocacy to collaborate with those unjustly convicted and imprisoned for decades, recognizing that there is little that distinguishes people in the civilian world from those in cages, as both groups contend with a sense of enslavement. It is our civic responsibility to remain vigilant about the state of our world, particularly concerning prisons, given their deeply rooted history in slavery and their role in its economic perpetuation for the nation's benefit. These political prisoners have demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of adversity, emerging as beacons of inspiration for others. Their narratives encapsulate a broader struggle for justice, equality, and the dismantling of oppressive structures. The racial undertones prevalent in their cases underscore the imperative to reevaluate inherent biases within the judicial system, prioritizing inclusion, understanding, and cultural competency.

It is paramount to recognize that the stories of these political prisoners symbolize a systemic issue. As we advocate for their rights, we confront the broader challenge of combating injustice. To halt the perpetuation of inequity, it is essential to address the evident lack of cultural competency in school curricula and the prevalence of racial hierarchy with discriminatory practices in society. Only through collective action and a commitment to change can we strive for a radical revolution that brings about justness.

The accounts of these political prisoners serve as a reminder that there are stories behind bars that need to be recognized, comprehended, and corrected. It's time to end the silence and give people whose opinions have led to incarceration a platform.

We are all complicit in our own enslavement within a system that is based on slavery and genocide, though some of us get more visible bars than others.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, AKA Wesley Cook, former Black Panther


Former Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, seen here in a 13 December 1995 prison photo, was convicted in 1982 of murdering a Philadelphia police officer.

Age: 64

Incarcerated since: 1981

Convicted of: Murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner

Sentence: Life without parole

Current prison: SCI Mahanoy, Pennsylvania


Delbert Orr Africa, Move organisation



Delbert Africa and other members of Move, an organisation founded by John Africa, sit in front of their barricaded house in the Powelton Village section of Philadelphia.

Age: 72

Incarcerated since: 1978

Convicted of: Third-degree murder of police officer James Ramp during Philadelphia siege

Sentence: 30 years to life

Current prison: SCI Dallas, Pennsylvania


Eddie Goodman Africa, Move organisation




Age: 68

Incarcerated since: 1978

Convicted of: Third-degree murder of police officer James Ramp during Philadelphia siege

Sentence: 30 years to life

Current prison: SCI Mahanoy, Pennsylvania


Janet Holloway Africa, Move organisation



Age: 67

Incarcerated since: 1978

Convicted of: Third-degree murder of police officer James Ramp during Philadelphia siege

Sentence: 30 years to life

Current prison: SCI Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania


Janine Phillips Africa, Move organisation



Age: 62

Incarcerated since: 1978

Convicted of: Third-degree murder of police officer James Ramp during Philadelphia siege

Sentence: 30 years to life

Current prison: SCI Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania


Jalil Muntaqim, AKA Anthony Bottom, former Black Panther, Black Liberation Army member



Age: 66

Incarcerated since: 1971

Convicted of: Murders of police officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini

Sentence: 25 years to life

Current prison: Sullivan Correctional Facility, New York


Mutulu Shakur, associated with Black Panther party and other groups


Age: 67

Incarcerated since: 1986

Convicted of: Helping Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur escape from prison in 1979

Sentence: 60 years

Current prison: Federal Correctional Complex, Victorville, California


Russell ‘Maroon’ Shoatz, former Black Panther



Age: 74

Incarcerated since: 1970

Convicted of: Murder of Philadelphia police sergeant Frank Von Colln

Sentence: Life without parole

Current prison: SCI Dallas, Pennsylvania


Sundiata Acoli, AKA Clark Squire, former Black Panther, Black Liberation Army member


Age: 81

Incarcerated since: 1973

Convicted of: Murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster

Sentence: Life plus 30 years consecutively

Current prison: FCI Cumberland, Maryland

Chuck Sims Africa, Move organisation



Age: 59

Incarcerated since: 1978

Convicted of: Third-degree murder of police officer James Ramp during Philadelphia siege

Sentence: 30 years to life

Current prison: SCI Dallas, Pennsylvania

Michael Davis Africa, Move organisation




Age: 62

Incarcerated since: 1978

Convicted of: Third-degree murder of police officer James Ramp during Philadelphia siege

Sentence: 30 years to life

Current prison: SCI Graterford, Pennsylvania

Joseph Bowen, former Black Liberation Army member



Age: 70

Incarcerated since: 1971

Convicted of: Murder of police officer, and later murder of two prison officers

Sentence: Life without parole

Current prison: SCI Coal Township, Pennsylvania

Veronza Bowers Jr, former Black Panther


Age: 72

Incarcerated since: 1973

Convicted of: Murder of US park ranger Kenneth Patrick

Sentence: Life

Current prison: Federal Correctional Complex, Butner, North Carolina


Fred ‘Muhammad’ Burton, former Black Liberation Army member



Age: 71

Incarcerated since: 1970

Convicted of: Murder of police officer, and later murder of two prison officers

Current prison: SCI-Somerset, Pennsylvania

Sentence: Life


Romaine ‘Chip’ Fitzgerald, former Black Panther



Age: 69

Incarcerated since: 1969

Convicted of: Murder of security guard and attempted murder of a highway patrol officer

Sentence: Two life sentences

Current prison: California state prison, Los Angeles county


Ruchell ‘Cinque’ Magee


Age: 79

Incarcerated since: 1963

Convicted of: Aggravated kidnapping in 1970 courthouse break-out attempt in which Judge Harold Haley was killed

Sentence: Life without parole

Current prison: California Men’s Colony, San Luis Obispo, California

This entry was amended on 2 August 2018 to correct Ruchell ‘Cinque’ Magee’s age from 65 to 79.


Ed Poindexter, former Black Panther


Age: 73

Incarcerated since: 1970

Convicted of: Murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard

Sentence: Life

Current prison: Nebraska State Penitentiary, Lincoln, Nebraska


Kojo Bomani Sababu, AKA Grailing Brown, former Black Liberation Army member



Age: 65

Incarcerated since: 1975

Convicted of: Murder of drug dealer, attempted prison escape

Sentence: Life

Current prison: USP Canaan, Pennsylvania


Kamau Sadiki, AKA Freddie Hilton, former Black Panther

Age: 65

Incarcerated since: 2002

Convicted of: Murder in 1971 of Atlanta police officer James Green

Sentence: Life

Current prison: Augusta State Medical Prison, Georgia


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