The Omaha Two Are Now One: The Death of Mondo We Langa
Jihad Abdulmumit, Co-Coordinator of the National Jericho Movement and Dr. Tekla Agbala Ali Johnson discussed the life, politics, case and death of former Black Panther Party member and political prisoner Mondo We Langa.
JARED BALL: Welcome everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.
Back again for his segment on political prisoners, Facing Reality is Jihad Abdulmumit. Jihad is a former political prisoner and a member of the Black Panther Party and is currently co-chair of the National Jericho Movement. Joining him also by phone is Dr. Tekla Agbala Ali Johnson who was also a former co-chair of the national Jericho Movement, professor at Johnson C. Smith University and author of Free Radical: Ernest Chambers, Black Power and the Politics of Race.
Welcome to you both, back on the Real News.
JIHAD ABDULMUMIT: Thank you brother Jared, appreciate it very much.
DR. TEKLA AGBALA ALI JOHNSON: Sending out my greetings.
BALL: So earlier this month on the 11th, we lost one of the Omaha 2. Mondo we Langa who had been locked up since 1971 with his comrade Ed Poindexter. Please tell us briefly about Mondo, the case, his death, and what’s going to happen next? Jihad we’ll start with you.
ABDULMUMIT: Yes, Mondo we Langa was one of the freedom fighters that we represented on
the Jericho Amnesty Movement Organization. Him and his comrade, Edward Poindexter, they are known as the Omaha 2. Their case started around 1970 and the Jericho Movement started in 1998. We’ve been representing them ever since that time and as you said he passed away March the 11th and now we’re trying to organize for his memorial so that all of his life and the contributions that he made to our liberation, our freedom, our self-determination and some of the things that we benefit today as black people, we can kind of memorialize them. And we’d be able to immortalize them for our future movement and growth and development, yes.
BALL: Tekla can I also ask you somewhat of a similar question? Can you tell us a bit about Mondo and just briefly about the case that landed him in prison as a political prisoner and then talk about what happened to him subsequent to that incarceration leading up to his unfortunate and untimely death while still behind bars.
JOHNSON: Yes, it really started with police violence in the community of Omaha Nebraska and I’m from the community. So this is a situation that I actually knew about when I was just a child. There had been many police killings but at one point a 14-year-old girl named Vivian Strong was shot in the back of the head by the police, playing in the projects. Mondo had already been very vocal but at this point he opened a school in his house called the Vivian Strong Liberation School and demanded justice from the city for the young girl’s death. In terms of the firing of the police officer, changes to the police department, you know some of the same problems that we are facing in the world today. He was threatened, he was called into a grand jury trial asking the purpose of this school, told to close the school down. He refused. Within months, within 8 months he was accused of murder of a police officer and did trial and though he proved that he had an alibi he was somehow, they decided to change the charge to conspiracy. So though he was not there and of course we know now today that this happened to Black Panther Party members across the country. That they were accused of police deaths in order to incite the public against them and so he served the next 45 years in prison. From the age of 24 up until his death last week on March 15th, he spent 45, the next 45 years in prison.
BALL: You know I know we don’t have the time to give it, it’s proper due but reviewing his case in preparation for today’s interview I was struck again by just how really amazing the trial was and the flip flopping of the one key witness the prosecution had. It was reminiscent of somewhat Tekla you mentioned, reminiscent of many of the cases faced by political prisons and the Black Panther Party most, maybe not as famous as Mumia Abdul Jamal or Assata Shakur but when you look at the details of this case it’s remarkable that he could even be convicted in the first place. Could you just say, a brief word or two about that as well?
JOHNSON: Well absolutely. We actually know now that J. Edgar Hoover, who was then the director of the FBI, had a plan to use teenagers and others outside the party to try and incriminate the leadership. To try to bring them down that way because they had such a loyal base of members so they tried to infiltrate it in this particular way. He actually, we know J. Edgar Hoover wrote notes about how he was going to use teenagers and that is in fact what he did in this case.
He got a 15-year-old incarcerated him, isolated him and tried to force him to say that these men had been the ones that told him to plant a bomb. He got on the stand and said it wasn’t true. They took him out, they called a recess, took him out, brought him back and our state senator who happened to be there at the time said he came back, looked like he had been beaten up or roughed up. Tiered black dark colored glasses on covering his face and now this time he came back and incriminated the men. It was so shady that they even listen to the 911 call that the men were supposed to have made, did a voice comparison tape. Years later now, what they voice expert and found out it wasn’t the boys on the tape. Even the young boy, it wasn’t his voice. He said the man told him to call, make a 911 call and lure the police to his desk. It wasn’t the young man’s call. So we know that the whole story is a lie. We know that these guys were victims of the movement by, the program by, J. Edgar Hoover, to get rid of the Black Panther Party by illegal means. There was no redress.
In fact, a judge, Judge [Ervil] he was a district judge in Nebraska. He in 1975, he saw problems with the case, he said they need to retrial or let them go. They did not do either. The state appealed and the discussion, the debate went all the way up to the Supreme Court who then refused to hear the case on this merit. It was sent all the way back to state court and never have they had a chance, a real chance, at release again. We’ve tried medical release; we’ve tried some other things. Amnesty International has said that these guys need to be let go or retried, that the trial was kangaroo court, flem flam, and yet with all this evidence that they were innocent, Mondo had to die in prison and Ed is still there in his 45th year.
BALL: Well I know that you both have, are making preparations for the memorial service coming up. Could you say a little bit about that? And if there’s anything in the offing coming up related to Ed Poindexter’s case, please let us know about that as well.
JOHNSON: Definitely, we are a whole team of people from all across the country planning the memorial. We expect some dignitaries all of whom we will not name but we will tell you that representation from the Black Panther Party will be there to give him his rights from the party. That we will have of course, brother Jihad there representing Jericho and his place as one of the many political prisoners across the country. He’s going to represent, as well as one the persons in prisons and the mass incarceration of our people in general in which the political prisoners are judged the very top of a huge mountain of African American people, and Latino people and Native American people who are in this incarceration system.
So we yes, we resist all of that. Mondo resisted till the end. We’d like to have his, he wrote a Pan-African Anthem that we’d like to have presented there. Of course it will be a cultural event. It will be at the Malcolm X Center in Omaha Nebraska on March 26th, this coming Saturday at 10 am. We hope to have some growth in terms of knowledge of the community, a re-commitment to fighting against police brutality for which this young man had given his life to fight against police brutality and abuse and murder of colonized people, African people in this country.
BALL: Well Doctor Tekla Akbala Ali Johnson and Jihad Abdul Mumit thank you both again for joining us here for Facing Reality: A Political Prisoner Report here at the Real News. Thank you so much again for joining us.
ABDULMUMIT: Okay, thank you brother. Thank you brother Jared,
JOHNSON: Thank you, thank you.
BALL: And thank you all for joining us wherever you are. Again I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore saying for all involved, as Fred Hampton used to say. To you we say peace, if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace everybody and we’ll catch you in the world league.
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