Prisoner, former death row inmate, author and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal will give the commencement speech at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont.
Abu-Jamal, 60, was sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner. Prosecutors later agreed to a life term after a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing, citing flawed jury instructions.
Since his arrest, Abu-Jamal has gained supporters worldwide who claim he is innocent of the crime and the victim of a racist legal system. Those opposing his release, including Faulkner's widow and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, maintain that Abu-Jamal was Faulkner's killer.
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Abu-Jamal currently resides at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pa. after he was transferred there from death row in 2012.
The college announced Monday that Abu-Jamal, who received his Bachelor of Arts from Goddard in 1996, was selected by the fall 2014 graduating class. Officials at Goddard College say his commencement remarks were prerecorded and will be played along a short video from filmmaker Stephen Vittoria. Vittoria released a documentary on Abu-Jamal titled “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal” in 2012.
“As a reflection of Goddard’s individualized and transformational educational model, our commencements are intimate affairs where each student serves as her or his own valedictorian, and each class chooses its own speaker,” said Goddard College Interim President Bob Kenny. “Choosing Mumia as their commencement speaker, to me, shows how this newest group of Goddard graduates expresses their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that.”
The commencement ceremony will take place October 5 at the Haybarn Theatre at Goddard College at 123 Pitkin Road in Plainfield, Vermont starting at 4 p.m.
Goddard College is a liberal arts college with locations in Plainfield Vermont, Port Townsend Washington and Seattle, Washington.