By: Heather Gray, Justice Initiative
Last week on October 4th, Imam Abdulla Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown) had his 79th birthday in the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona, far from his home and family in Atlanta, Georgia.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1943, he was was given the name of Hubert Giroir Brown. He was eventually known as H. Rap Brown that changed, in 1971, to Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin when he became Muslim. He attended Southern University but left school to join and participate in the civil rights movement.
In 1966 he became the field director of the and was chosen as Minister of Justice for the Black Panther Party, when the two groups joined forces.
Brown was a major spokesperson for the movement as it changed its focus from civil rights to human rights to Black Power! Brown was hounded by the police and wound up serving prison time at Attica Prison in New York. In prison, he became a Muslim and chose the name Jamil Al-Amin.
When he was paroled in 1976, he went to live in the Atlanta West End Muslim community and soon became Imam of the mosque. He worked with the community to rid it of crime and drugs, while building a religious community on faith, good works and collective prayer. Many national and international visitors came to meet with him and learn his perspectives on life, community, and movement.
After 24 years in Atlanta, however, he was arrested on March 20, 2000, and charged with the death of Fulton County Georgia Sherriff’s Deputy, Ricky Kinchen. However, all the indications are that he was not the killer. In fact, Otis Jackson confessed to being the shooter on the evening of March 16, 2000 in Atlanta, Georgia yet this was never introduced at trial by the prosecution or defense. Otis Jackson, is now in a Florida jail for unrelated charges, continues to maintain that he was the assailant.
Although charged for a Georgia state crime, Jamil Al-Amin was transferred to Florence, Colorado’s ADX SuperMax prison, where he languished over a decade, much of it in solitary confinement. He is presently imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona, site of a 2021 rally to protest for his freedom.
“ This has been a personal fight for me for 21 years, because this is my father,” attorney Kairi Al-Amin said at the Aug. 15 gathering. “I’m tired, this thing is weighing on me and it’s heavy. Hopefully the weight will be lifted soon and he’ll walk out those doors and spend the rest of his life on this side of the wall.”
Supporters want him relocated to Georgia where he’ll be close to his loved ones, lawyers, and receive adequate medical attention. They’re also pushing to have him exonerated if they’re permitted to present previously withheld evidence, in a new trial. On June 29, 2000, parolee Otis Jackson confessed to the crime in sworn affidavits, providing detailed accounts of the shootout. He matched eyewitness’ descriptions of the shooter.
However, his confession was ignored, along with other supporting evidence during Al-Amin’s trial, which was conducted, “In the midst of government surveillance on civil-rights leaders and post 9/11 Islamophobia. It is also important to note that Al-Amin went to trial in March 2002, less than six months after 9/11. At a time when hatred against Muslims in the U.S. was at an all-time high,” assessed investigative reporter, Hamzah Raza.
Deputy English testified that he shot two men who “had grey eyes” in the incident. Jamil’s are brown, and he was uninjured when arrested four days afterwards, and neither his DNA nor fingerprints were on the alleged murder weapon.
The movement to free Imam Jamil Al-Amin continues and his friends, family and community supporters are working for his humanitarian release from prison despite the state’s desire and power to keep him locked up and isolated. He is one of many aging political prisoners from the 1960’s and 1970’s, who should be released.