By Marivir R. Montebon
At the Delegates Assembly, about 50 writers-leaders will converge here to define the strategic course of one of the biggest groups of writers in the US in the next two years, and discuss relevant issues in the advent of digital technology and pressing economic and social strains.
New York City — Apart from agreeing on a unified organizing strategy and base pay for online writing, freelance writers and leaders of the National Writers Union (NWU) will likewise address one urgent humanitarian concern for a media colleague in distress: the creation of committee to save the life of an incarcerated media colleague in Pennsylvania, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
At the Delegates Assembly on August 7-9, about 50 writers-leaders will converge here to define the strategic course of the biggest aggrupation of writers in the US in the next two years, and discuss relevant issues in the advent of digital technology and pressing economic and social strains.
New York journalist Susan Davis will present the resolution “Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal from Medical Neglect” for the DA to pass, which consequentially will create a committee to monitor the health of Abu-Jamal.
Drafted together with Boston-based Jeanne Cosmos and Yusef Salaam of New York, the resolution seeks that Pennsylvania prison system use all due diligence and every option deemed appropriate in the treatment of and timely diagnosis of Abu-Jamal in order to avoid further medical neglect that might lead to his death.
Abu-Jamal is an honorary member of NWU and president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and former member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. He was sentenced to the death penalty in 1982 for allegedly killing a white policeman. His execution was commuted to life imprisonment in 2011.
Early this year, he went into diabetic coma and has since suffered from a debilitating skin problem that went undiagnosed.
The Davis-sponsored resolution will write letters to SCI Mahanoy, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to demand for the compliance with the highest standards of health care recommended by the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and the Department of Justice and stop the medical neglect that threatens the life of Abu-Jamal.
The NWU calls for Abu-Jamal’s release to the care of doctors and medical facilities of his choice so that he can get the treatment he is entitled to.
The resolution also seeks for his immediate release “in view of his innocence, wrongful incarceration, and extreme undiagnosed illness.” A committee will be created by NWU to monitor his health.
The resolution said that the judgment was based on fraudulent court proceedings, including an incompetent lawyer who neglected evidence showing Abu-Jamal’s innocence, a nearly all-white jury (which studies show often produces the same result as an all-white jury with a Black defendant), self-serving witnesses, and a biased judge, which show that Abu-Jamal is an innocent man.
In 1995, the NWU passed a resolution inviting Abu-Jamal to accept an honorary membership, the same time when he had received a date of execution. The NWU had ever since been supportive of Abu-Jamal, a world-renowned author.
In 2011, his death sentence was overturned and he was moved to general population.
Abu-Jamal suffered a medical emergency in March 2015 when he was on the verge of slipping into a diabetic coma and was suffering from a severe, debilitating, painful skin disease, which went undiagnosed and untreated for months by the State Correctional Institution of Mahanoy.
The NWU believes that, like others who similarly support Abu-Jamal, the Pennsylvania prison system is negligent and has not used reasonable care, reflecting “medical neglect” and violating his human and civil rights.
Aside from budget and membership dues, the Delegates Assembly will tackle numerous resolutions that are relevant to their professions.
NWU president Larry Goldbetter said he looks forward to a “spirited exchange of ideas, handled in the (mostly) comradely way that moves the union forward.”
The three-day assembly will address major issues facing US media in what Goldbetter refers to as a “period marked by grave dangers and growing opportunities.”
The Supreme Court will soon hear the Fredericks case that could make Right to Work the law of the land and there is the growing traction of the Fight For $15 movement, Goldbetter cited.
The Book Division (BD) of the NWU will discuss the state of the Congressional copyright reform legislation. A report will also be made on the campaign to win 50 percent royalties on e-books.
The Journalism Division will report on our long-term strategy to set a base-pay rate for digital writers.
Freelance journalist and teacher Jim Hickey will propose two measures for the Delegates Assembly to pass: a community conversation process about an annual topic and the creation of a strategic organizing section for the NWU.
Writer Fernando Gapasin (co-author of Solidarity Divided) will propose a research study on the state of the publishing industry of the US. (Photos from Google.com)