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All Things Censored: Vol. 1

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Album Review

In 1994, journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal was hired by National Public Radio's All Things Considered as a special commentator, only to be fired shortly before his series began due to political pressure from police groups and Republican Senator Bob Dole. This set from the ultra-leftist Alternative Tentacles label compiles these essays, recorded by Abu-Jamal in prison just before the state of Pennsylvania banned any journalists from visiting death row, essentially ending any recorded correspondence from the former Philadelphia journalist, convicted of murdering a police officer in 1982. Aided by vocal support from folks like Dr. Joycelyn Elders; Martin Sheen; famed attorney William Kunstler; authors Howard Zinn, Manning Marable, and Alice Walker; activist Cornel West; and MOVE survivor Romana Africa, Abu-Jamal focuses not so much on his own imprisonment but on the failure of the prison system as a whole, "the war on the poor," and the ongoing story of Philadelphia's MOVE. Some essays are fleeting, underdeveloped ideas ("It's Not Nice to Fool With Mother Nature" is a pedestrian statement of eco-apocalypse). Most, however, are remarkably insightful, and are served well by Abu-Jamal's concise, direct use of language, and calm, exacting voice. "A Rap Thing" criticizes that music's fixation on excessive materialism while knowingly pointing to the reactionary economic and social climate of Reaganism that fueled much of its development, and "Sweet Roxanne" is a loving eulogy to the late Roxanne Jones, renowned activist and state senator from Philadelphia. The echo of the concrete floors and cinderblock walls of Abu-Jamal's prison visitation room, together with the rough editing and production of the sessions, serve to highlight the immediacy of the recordings, and the timeliness of Abu-Jamal's message.

All Things Censored: Vol. 1, Mumia Abu-Jamal
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