Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Protests Accompany Abu-Jamal's Commencement Speech

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Protests Accompany Abu-Jamal's Commencement Speech

Article excerpt

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- During a taped speech by convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal at Evergreen State College's commencement ceremony last month, a handful of the approximately 800 graduates walked out in protest, two dozen other graduates stood and turned their backs, and still others wore yellow armbands to express their displeasure.

Protesters who did not attend the university -- including Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the Philadelphia police officer allegedly shot by Abu-Jamal in 1981, and police officers in dress uniforms -- also attended the ceremony. One protester had a replica of an electric chair and a sign reading: "A positive role model for Mumia."

Faulkner said Abu-Jamal's participation was "not fitting for a graduation ceremony. A classroom, maybe, but not a graduation ceremony."

Evergreen permits its student to select commencement speakers, but the selection of Abu-Jamal as a speaker was controversial. The state's Democratic Governor, Gary Locke, canceled his scheduled appearance at the ceremony, and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) -- the day before the ceremony -- asked the U.S. House of Representatives for a moment of silence to protest the students' choice.

Abu-Jamal's jailhouse writings about the justice system and his efforts to win a new trial have given him worldwide attention. …

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