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About Johanna Fernández
Johanna Fernández is associate professor of History at Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY). She’s the author of The Young Lords: A Radical History (UNC Press, February 2020), a history of the Puerto Rican counterpart of the Black Panther Party. Dr. Fernández teaches 20th Century US history and the history of social movements. She’s the host of A New Day, WBAI’s morning show, from 7-8am, Mon & Wed-Fri, at 99.5 FM in New York.
Dr. Fernández’s recent research and litigation has unearthed an arsenal of primary documents now available to scholars and members of the public. Her Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) lawsuit against the NYPD, led to the recovery of the "lost" Handschu files, the largest repository of police surveillance records in the country, namely over one million surveillance files of New Yorkers compiled by the NYPD between 1954-1972, including those of Malcolm X. She is the editor of Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal (City Lights, 2015). With Mumia Abu-Jamal she co-edited a special issue of the journal Socialism and Democracy, titled The Roots of Mass Incarceration in the US: Locking Up Black Dissidents and Punishing the Poor (Routledge, 2014).
Among others, her awards include the Fulbright Scholars grant to the Middle East and North Africa, which took her to Jordan, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship of the Scholars-in-Residence program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library.
Professor Fernández is the writer and producer of the film, Justice on Trial: the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (BigNoise Films, 2010). She directed and co-curated, ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York an exhibition in three NYC museums cited by the New York Times as one of the year’s Top 10, Best In Art. Her mainstream writings have been published internationally, from Al Jazeera to the Huffington Post. She has appeared in a diverse range of print, radio, online and televised media including NPR, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Democracy Now!.
Fernández is the recipient of a B.A. in Literature and American Civilization from Brown University and a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Columbia University.
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Titles By Johanna Fernández
Utilizing oral histories, archival records, and an enormous cache of police surveillance files released only after a decade-long Freedom of Information Law request and subsequent court battle, Johanna Fernandez has written the definitive account of the Young Lords, from their roots as a Chicago street gang to their rise and fall as a political organization in New York. Led by poor and working-class Puerto Rican youth, and consciously fashioned after the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords occupied a hospital, blocked traffic with uncollected garbage, took over a church, tested children for lead poisoning, defended prisoners, fought the military police, and fed breakfast to poor children. Their imaginative, irreverent protests and media conscious tactics won reforms, popularized socialism in the United States and exposed U.S. mainland audiences to the country's quiet imperial project in Puerto Rico. Fernandez challenges what we think we know about the sixties. She shows that movement organizers were concerned with finding solutions to problems as pedestrian as garbage collection and the removal of lead paint from tenement walls; gentrification; lack of access to medical care; childcare for working mothers; and the warehousing of people who could not be employed in deindustrialized cities. The Young Lords' politics and preoccupations, especially those concerning the rise of permanent unemployment foretold the end of the American Dream. In riveting style, Fernandez demonstrates how the Young Lords redefined the character of protest, the color of politics, and the cadence of popular urban culture in the age of great dreams.
"Revolutionary love, revolutionary memory and revolutionary analysis are at work in every page written by Mumia Abu-Jamal His writings are a wake-up call. He is a voice from our prophetic tradition, speaking to us here, now, lovingly, urgently. Black man, old-school jazz man, freedom fighter, revolutionaryhis presence, his voice, his words are the writing on the wall."Cornel West, from the foreword
From the first slave writings to contemporary hip hop, the canon of African American literature offers a powerful counter-narrative to dominant notions of American culture, history and politics. Resonant with voices of prophecy and resistance, the African American literary tradition runs deep with emancipatory currents that have had an indelible impact on the United States and the world. Mumia Abu-Jamal has been one of our most important contributors to this canon for decades, writing from the confines of the U.S. prison system to give voice to those most silenced by chronic racism, impoverishment and injustice.
Writing on the Wall is a selection of more than 100 previously unpublished essays that deliver Mumia Abu-Jamal's essential perspectives on community, politics, power, and the possibilities of social change in the United States. From Rosa Parks to Edward Snowden, from the Trail of Tears to Ferguson, Missouri, Abu-Jamal addresses a sweeping range of contemporary and historical issues. Written mostly during his years of solitary confinement on Death Row, these essays are a testament to Abu-Jamal's often prescient insight, and his revolutionary perspective brims with hope, encouragement and profound faith in the possibility of redemption.
"Greatness meets us in this book, and not just in Mumia's personal courage and character. It's in the writing. This is art with political power, challenging institutional injustice in the U.S. while catalyzing our understanding, memory and solidarities for liberation and love. Writing on the Wall can set the nation aflameyes, for creating new possible worlds."Mark Lewis Taylor, Professor of Theology and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning journalist and author of two best-selling books, Live From Death Row and Death Blossoms.
Johanna Fernández is a Fulbright Scholar and Professor of History at Baruch College in New York City.
Cornel West is a scholar, philosopher, activist and author of over a dozen books including his bestseller, Race Matters. He appears frequently in the media, and has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, The Colbert Report, CNN and C-Span as well as Tavis Smiley.