Tuesday, January 07, 2014
For the past few days, I've been examining how the criminal not-just, not-legal system is used against people of color, with special attention to how it targets young Black men. At 9:30 a.m. this morning, a panel of three judges will be hearing arguments related to the case of Albert "Shaka" Woodfox. Albert has been held in solitary confinement for 42 years because he was convicted of killing a White guard at Angola Prison in 1972.
He didn't do it. Prison administrators disappeared bloody footprint and fingerprint evidence so that the real killer wouldn't be identified, making it possible for them to railroad and persecute Albert and two other men, all of whom were active and effective members of the Black Panther Party. They are now world renowned as the Angola 3.
Robert King was released from prison in 2001. Herman Wallace died in October, shortly after being released as a result of a habeus corpus ruling. And Albert's conviction was overturned for the third time last year. He should have been released immediately, of course, but State's Attorney Buddy Caldwell has made it abundantly clear in the international mainstream media that he takes this case personally and will ride it to the bitter end.
Thus, the three judge panel must decide how things will unfold from here.
I am in New Orleans this morning to watch the proceedings in support of Albert, the Angola 3, and all those held in long-term solitary confinement anywhere in the world. But after five years visiting this extraordinary man, I'm so emotionally involved with it all that I'm not rational about it any more. I'm angry. And depressed. And frightened for Albert. And disgusted with the helplessness we are forced to accept in the face of the Power Structure. So I'm scheduling this post to appear as the judges enter the courtroom, presenting this YouTube video of Richie Havens singing his rendition of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child/Freedom" in 2009, fifty years after he performed it at Woodstock.
2009 was the year I first talked face to face with Albert Woodfox. I will go visit him again for his birthday next month, with hope for the future and my breath caught in my throat. I wish I believed that the criminal "justice" system in this country could be trusted. I know that Albert is sitting in his cell right now in suspended animation and will not truly exhale until the panel rules. May it be soon and in his favor.
Note: Eighty thousand emails have been sent to the Governor and State's Attorney in Louisiana and the Warden where Albert is being held. If you want to join the Amnesty International's demand for Albert Woodfox' immediately release, you can do so here.