By Larry Goldbetter
On March 9, a delegation visited NWU member Mumia Abu-Jamal at a prison in Pennsylvania. The group included Jacky Hortaut of the French Collective for the Liberation of Mumia; Patrick Kamenka, representative of the French CGT National Union of Journalists: and NWU President Larry Goldbetter, who represented the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The delegation let Abu-Jamal know that 600,000 union-member journalists in 150 countries are standing with him, and are demanding Pennsylvania’s governor review his controversial trial and release him immediately on health grounds. Read more. Photo collage by PKJ.
MUMIA IN HIS OWN WORDS
Many years ago, while working in public radio, I did a piece on a Senegalese historian named Alhaji Bai Konte. He was what Senegalese called a Griot—one who orally records and remembers the histories of the nation, the glory of kings, and tribal lore. He did so by song, while playing the kora, which sounded like a high-pitched guitar. As a youth he was taught to memorize the lineage of the kings and to play that instrument. I did not understand Wolof, Alhaji Bai Konte’s language, but if memory serves, he was accompanied by a translator.
Occasionally, I still think of this exchange as a classic example of how Senegalese culture trained its historians to sing a song of yesteryear. Many of us, whether we write for newspapers, magazines or websites, recall the old saying that our work is the first draft of history. We cover communities, not tribes. We cover presidents, governors and mayors, not kings. Though few of us sing songs of our work, we do still tell stories of the people: their struggles, their stumbles and their triumphs. And I’d like to think that we are griots still. —MAJ [Edited for length.]