Review: ‘The Classroom and the Cell, Conversations on Black Life in America’

The Classroom and the Cell, Con­ver­sa­tions on Black Life in Amer­ica.

By Mumia Abu-Jamal and Marc Lamont Hill

 The Classroom and the Cell is a won­der­fully edited book of con­ver­sa­tions between one of the worlds most renowned Journ­al­ist and polit­ic­al pris­on­er, Mumia Abu Jamal, and one of Hip Hop’s most artic­u­late pub­lic intel­lec­tu­als, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill.  The work is edited by a great writer, poet and act­iv­ist in her own right, Asha Ban­dele.

Read­ing The Classroom and the Cell made me feel as though I was in the room (or in this case, on the phone) while Mumia and Marc con­versed about everything from Race, Hip Hop, Lead­er­ship, the Crim­in­al “In-Justice” Sys­tem, Edu­ca­tion and Black Love.

These two pro­li­fic writers rep­res­ent two very dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions of the Black Lib­er­a­tion Struggle, but con­clude that the obstacles that stand in its way have remained con­sist­ent with very little change if any.  The con­ver­sa­tions read like a com­pare and con­trast of the Black Power Move­ment and the Hip Hop Polit­ic­al Move­ment.

One of the many things we learn by sit­ting in on this con­ver­sa­tion is that real lib­er­a­tion is first and fore­most intern­al.  By the time I turned the last page, I real­ized that although Mumia is behind bars and may pos­sibly nev­er walk the streets again, he is more free than most of us.  He is free to say and write what he feels.  Marc on the oth­er hand reminds us that, as free men and women, we self-impose lim­it­a­tions on what he say and do out of fear of los­ing our jobs, being put out of school, evicted and even arres­ted.  Yes we can walk the streets and think we are “free” but how free are we to really love, learn and live?

This book takes a crit­ic­al look at those and oth­er ques­tions, while provid­ing in-site that is often left out of the main­stream dis­course. It is a must read for every Black youth, and for any­one that won­ders what would come up in a con­ver­sa­tion between two highly intel­lec­tu­al, revolu­tion­ary Black men liv­ing in Amer­ica.

Troy Nkrumah

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