November 17, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Celebrated Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker is calling on the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) school board to restore a website of social justice lesson plans. OUSD took down the "Urban Dreams" website last May, caving in to pressure from the Fraternal Order of Police and Fox News.
Ms. Walker (awarded a Pulitzer in 1983 for her novel "The Color Purple") has written to OUSD Superintendent Antwan Wilson and OUSD school board President David Kakishiba saying:
"I am dismayed to learn that the Oakland school board has dismantled a website of social justice lesson plans because the police objected to it. The board has a duty to defend students' right to learn against police interference. I am asking the Oakland school district to repost the Urban Dreams website.
"The police attack on Urban Dreams is part of a long campaign to injure and defame political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, a brilliant journalist and author who is innocent of all charges against him. In October the police obtained a state gag law in Pennsylvania specifically intended to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal. One lesson on the Urban Dreams website in Oakland asked students to compare media suppression of Mumia's writings with suppression of the radical thoughts of Martin Luther King, and the police call for censorship was meant to shut out the words of both of these defenders of freedom."
Mumia Abu-Jamal had been an award-winning radio reporter in Philadelphia when in 1982 he was falsely convicted of killing a policeman. Another man, a career criminal, confessed to the murder, but was not allowed to testify by the police and the courts. From prison Mumia has published eight books on history, law, and religion and recorded scores of commentaries and editorials for public radio.
In her message to Superintendent Wilson and school board President Kakishiba, Alice Walker said, "I hope that the educators of the Oakland school board will defend free speech and academic freedom by restoring the Urban Dreams website."
Earlier, seven-time Emmy Award-winning actor Ed Asner had written to the board, saying "This email is to request that the Urban Dreams website be reinstated without deletions and to let academic freedom prevail!
Oakland Teachers for Mumia (retired OUSD teachers who organized the 1999 Oakland schools teach-in on Mumia and the death penalty) will be at the school board meeting this Wednesday (November 19) to deliver Alice Walker's call for the board to repost the Urban Dreams website -- fully intact. We urge the public to support this call for free speech and academic freedom, and to insist that the police not be allowed to dictate what is and isn't taught in our public schools, by writing to OUSD Superintendent Antwan Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and OUSD school board President David Kakishiba (email@example.com).
Oakland Teachers for Mumia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bob Mandel (510.523.7892)
Bob Wells (510.595-7811)
Jack Gerson (510.658.5520)