Published: Jun 30, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 26, 2012 05:57 PM
1st of 2 parts
Keith Cook was overseas on the night it happened. He was in the military. It happened when he was away protecting our nation. No one was able to protect his brother from what happened that night.
It happened on Dec. 9, 1981 in Philadelphia at the intersection of 13th and Locust. His brother, Mumia Abu-Jamal, was parked in the taxi he drove when he noticed an altercation between a police officer and William Cook, his younger brother. He ran across the street. Shots were fired. Both Abu-Jamal and the officer, Daniel Faulkner, were wounded. Faulkner died.
Abu-Jamal was facing execution for the death of Faulkner until the third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside the death penalty after finding jurors were given confusing instructions that encouraged them to choose the death penalty over life in prison.
The case has been played out repeatedly in court and has drawn the attention of Danny Glover, the Beastie Boys, Desmond Tutu and countless people around the world who claim Abu-Jamals trial was a miscarriage of justice based on racism. Abu-Jamal has survived two execution dates.
Abu-Jamal was a radio journalist when he was arrested. He worked at WUHY, a National Public Radio affiliate, until he was terminated for refusing to be objective in reporting the news. When arrested, he was a part-time reporter for WDAS and drove a taxi to supplement his income. He was known as the voice of the voiceless and was celebrated for giving exposure to the MOVE Organization, a black liberation group founded by John Africa. In 1985, MOVE made national news when police dropped a bomb on the organizations house from a helicopter in an attempt to end an armed standoff. Eleven people died, including five children and Africa.
For 30 years, Abu-Jamal has phoned in from the SCI Mahanoy prison in Frackville, Pa., where he has been held on death row. His commentary can be heard on an online broadcast sponsored by Prison Radio. For a brief time, his commentary could be heard on Pacifica Networks Democracy Now. In 1994, Abu-Jamal contracted with National Public Radios All Things Considered to broadcast a series of three-minute radio essays on crime and punishment. The plans were canceled following attacks from the Fraternal Order of Police and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole. The commentaries appeared in Live From Death Row a book published in 1995.
Abu-Jamal has been busy. He has published six books, is a regular columnist in a German newspaper, published an essay in the Yale Law Journal, has recorded a commencement address for Antioch College and received an honorary degree from the New College of California School of Law. Numerous documentaries have told Abu-Jamals story. Most notable is the 1996 HBO documentary Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case For Reasonable Doubt?
His brother, Keith Cook, has been busy too. After 26 years in the military he moved to North Carolina, graduated from Fayetteville State University and worked in financial management. He has served as a member of the Board of Education in Orange County. He has worked to build a life for himself in North Carolina while waiting for his brother to be set free.
He has remained behind the scenes. Few know his connection with the most popular man on death row. Most of the people fighting for Mumias freedom are women, he says. They have been there the longest. Ive been present but not vocal until now.
One brother served in the military as the other interviewed Bob Marley, Dr. J, Alex Haley and was the voice of the voiceless. One fought enemies overseas while the other fought those enlisted to protect and defend. One came home with tributes due to his service. The other cant come home. The divide isnt real. Prison walls cant block the love of two brothers.
The distance between the two, one in Hillsborough, the other in a prison cell near Philadelphia, is lessened by the bridge of blood. That blood goes deep and draws them closer as they hope for the day when prison bars arent there to divide the power of embrace.
While he was on death row we couldnt touch him, Cook says. He couldnt hug his children and grandchildren.
Keith Cook can hug his brother now, but his brother cant come home. Coming Sunday: Part 2