OEA Statement on Colin Kaepernick’s Call for Mumia’s Freedom

The Oakland Education Association (OEA), representing nearly 2,800 educators in the Oakland Unified School District, applauds Colin Kaepernick’s statement calling for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. In a video statement, Kaepernick documented how nearly 40 years ago Abu-Jamal was framed for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer, framed by a police department notorious for its systematic racist brutality and for tampering with evidence to convict the innocent.

Kaepernick himself has been blackballed by the NFL for protesting police violence against the African American community since he first took a knee as an SF 49er. His courage in the forefront of anti-racist struggle inspired much of the NFL to take a knee, leading athletes to protest police violence and to boycott sporting events following the murder of George Floyd.

Oakland teachers and students have seen Kaepernick walk the walk, leading us to support him in his collusion case against the NFL. He supported Castlemont high school footballers when they knelt during the national anthem. He provided hot meals and equipment to teams. He hosted an “I Know My Rights Camp” for Bay Area students of color, which has blossomed into the national “Colin Kaepernick I Know My Rights Legal Initiative.”

But despite his prominent role, and despite his deep ties to the Bay Area and his extensive work with Oakland high school youth, the local mainstream media have disappeared Kaepernick’s courageous statement of support for Abu-Jamal since CNN Wire Service reported it on November 19. This continues the long-time media blackout on Mumia Abu-Jamal, a conspiracy of silence about a blatant, racist miscarriage of justice.

OEA has called for justice for Mumia since 1999 when we organized a Teach-In on the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Death Penalty. The teach-in made national and international headlines and itself broke a then decade-long blackout on news of his case. Since then we have supported and participated in numerous events concerning him. In 2014, OEA members, both active and retired, defeated an effort by the Fraternal Order of Police to censor what students could study by forcing OUSD to remove the Urban Dreams curriculum from its website. A teacher-authored lesson in Urban Dreams asked students to compare the censorship of Abu-Jamal’s prison writings with the suppression of Martin Luther King’s most radical writings. Author Alice Walker joined with the teachers in defeating the censorship.

OEA appeals to all Bay Area media to end their silence and to carry Colin Kaepernick’s eloquent statement on Mumia. The facts of Abu-Jamal’s case can speak for themselves — if the media will only allow them to. If even half of the anti-racist sentiment expressed in the media following George Floyd’s murder are sincere, then those facts, on this case, will finally be given the airing that they have so long been denied.