It's been quite a week. I work twelve hour days teaching and spending time one-on-one encouraging students to learn how to think in a society that's trying to crush them or numb them into roboticism. I'm working on a paper on law enforcement and African-American men in the inner city to present at a conference in Washington, D.C., next week. I'm getting ready to drive ten hours to visit Albert Woodfox in prison over the weekend. And they released Herman Wallace from Elayne Hunt Correctional Center near Baton Rouge Tuesday night. He was moved first to the LSU Medical Center and then on to a friend's home, where he was continually surrounded by people who loved him until he passed quietly in his sleep early this morning. His last words were, "I am free. I am free."
Herman was dying of liver cancer when he was ordered released from the solitary confinement cell he's been in for nearly forty-two years by a judge who stayed in his chambers and threatened a contempt of court ruling when the prison officials flatly refused to follow his initial order. Dying or not, however, when the prison gates opened, Herman Wallace was quoted as saying, "Get me the f#@k outta here."
For those of you coming late to the party, who may never have heard of the Angola 3, suffice it to say that they are three men who have together suffered through more than a century in solitary confinement. Robert King was released after 29 years in a 9 X 6 cell in 2001. Albert Woodfox still remains -- after nearly forty-two years -- in a 9 X 6 cell himself, despite the fact that his conviction has been overturned three times. And Herman Wallace was released Tuesday knowing he was about to die, but die a free man.
State's Attorney "Buddy" Caldwell, an Elvis Presley impersonator when he's not in court, says the three men were tortured all these years because a young White guard was stabbed to death back in 1971. The fact that the Angola 3 were members of the Black Panther Party and had been instrumental in organizing the prisoners at the bloodiest prison in the United States to stop raping and killing each other and focus instead on court battles to better their conditions and free themselves from bogus sentences had nothing to do with it, of course. The fact that the prosecutor's principal "witness" was a jailhouse snitch and serial rapist who was released from his natural life sentence in return for his sworn "testimony" is, according to Caldwell, irrelevant. And the bloody fingerprint found at the scene not belonging to any of the accused men is meaningless to Caldwell. He has stated repeatedly, in fact, that his goal all along has been to see the Angola 3 die in prison -- whether or not they did the crime!
If this case is Caldwell's legacy (and it apparently is), then he's going to go down in history as a loser with a capital L. As of Tuesday night, two of the Angola 3 were already free and Albert Woodfox will follow them sooner than later, as well.
Louisiana is notorious for its commitment to White Supremacy. And it's true that the Constitutional, State, and procedural laws broken by the Powers-That-Be over a period of four decades related to this case alone have weakened justice here, but this has systematically strengthened the resolve of those of us who will never stop standing until we are replaced.
Together forever: Herman Wallace, Robert King, Albert Woodfox -- and us.