A3 Newsletter: "Freedom Is A State Of Mind"

(PHOTO:  Albert at the Innocence Project’s Network Conference in San Diego this last month, alongside Valerie Jarret, a Chicago lawyer and former top adviser to President Barack Obama.)A3 Newsletter, April 17, 2017: Taking on the Clarion Call – “F…

Please Support Kickstarter Campaign for US release of A3 film ‘Cruel and Unusual’

To donate and help to spread the word, please visit the Kickstarter page directly. Featured below is the information from the campaign’s website.

‘Cruel and Unusual’ – The Angola 3 story, US Cinema Release

Help get the Angola 3’s story into cinemas to support their campaign against long-term solitary confinement & qualify for the Oscars

THE GOAL

Cinema release in NY and LA to bring ‘Cruel and Unusual’ – the story of the Angola 3 – to the big screen and qualify for Academy Award consideration.

THE FILM

‘Cruel and Unusual’ is the story of three men who have spent longer in solitary confinement than any other prisoners in the US because of the murder of a prison guard in 1972 at Angola, the Louisiana state penitentiary.

Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were convicted by bribed and blind eye witnesses and with no physical evidence. Targeted as members of the Black Panther Party, the film follows their struggle against the miscarriage of justice and their cruel and unusual treatment.

Their story culminated in 2016 with the release of Albert Woodfox after 43 years in solitary confinement.

THE STORY

‘Cruel and Unusual’ has been eight years in the making. But that pales into insignificance compared to the 43 years that Albert Woodfox spent in a 6 foot by 9 foot cell for a crime he did not commit. After years left forgotten in the depths of America’s bloodiest prison, their struggle against this injustice had become an international scandal; when on the 19th February last year, on his 69th birthday, Albert was finally released, it was headline news around the world. Here is a small selection of that coverage:

Last of ‘Angola 3’ Prisoners Released After 40 Years in Solitary Confinement, ABC News

For 45 Years in Prison, Louisiana Man Kept Calm and Held Fast to Hope, New York Times

Albert Woodfox speaks after 43 years in solitary confinement: ‘I would not let them drive me insane,’ UK Guardian

WHY

‘Cruel and Unusual’ shines a light on the overuse of long-term solitary in US prisons. It is also the story of three remarkable men who as members of the Black Panther Party have been fighting for justice since the early 1970s. Even though the Angola 3 have been released, their struggle continues. On any given day it is estimated that ten to fifteen thousand prisoners are kept in solitary in the US. We want to make sure as many people as possible hear the Angola 3’s story and support the continuation of their campaign to end long-term solitary confinement in US prisons.

A US cinema release aims to give a platform for their story and campaign. By starting in New York and Los Angeles, the film also becomes eligible for the Academy Awards, which hopefully will give the campaign even more visibility.

WHO

Vadim Jean – Director

I first heard about the Angola 3 from Anita and Gordon Roddick, the founders of The Body Shop stores, who had been helping the Angola 3 fight their case since 2001. Anita told everyone she knew about them. But she didn’t just talk about issues, she did something about it. In fact her big thing was, “just do something”. Do it from kindness, do it because you have faith, do it because you’re guilty, do it because it’s right; for her it didn’t matter. Just do something.

So when in 2007 I sat at her Memorial to celebrate her life, and Robert King came onto the stage to speak, I should have guessed that as this was Anita, it might change the course of the next eight years of my life. Robert was full of dignity, grace, sanity, courage and it must be said charisma. He also played two crackly telephone messages from Herman and Albert in solitary. It was profoundly moving. I cried. In seemingly one of the worst of the worst places on earth, somehow they had managed to find the best of the best that the human spirit has to offer. And like all of us that knew her, Anita had changed their lives. So now, her big finger was pointing down at me. And it had a big sign on it saying, “just do something”. For me, that thing was to make this film.

 If I’m honest, during most of the making of this film I doubted that Herman and Albert would ever be free. That these incredible men have been released is the consequence of a remarkable coalition against the injustice. But most of all it is because they are two of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. They fought for decades for justice and ultimately won their struggle, though for Herman, his freedom was won at the ultimate cost…

I hope the film may do its small part in helping to bring attention to this injustice. If you would like to “just do something” please help us to support the Angola 3 and their ongoing campaign by backing the US cinema release of ‘Cruel and Unusual’.

The Mob Film Company

As well as documentaries, the Mob also produces feature films and television drama, including the multi-BAFTA winning Terry Pratchett Discworld adaptations, which remain the highest ever rating shows on Sky One. They are currently completing the movie ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’, the story of Charles Dickens writing ‘A Christmas Carol’ starring Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer and Jonathan Pryce.

www.mobfilm.com

For more information on the Angola 3 and the ongoing campaign to end the long-term use of solitary confinement please see their website.

WHERE WILL THE MONEY GO?

While there will be distribution for DVD, streaming and online, we are doing our own cinema release in support of the campaign. This means taking a financial risk on the booking of cinemas and other associated costs, including prints, publicity, and travel for Albert and Robert – and it’s expensive. Sadly we don’t have budget for this. So it’s these costs that your support will contribute towards.

A one week release in New York and Los Angeles will also qualify the film for Academy Award consideration. Traditionally for feature documentaries this is one of the best ways for a film to get maximum exposure.

If we should exceed our Kickstarter goal we will introduce stretch goals to expand our release to other US cities, such as New Orleans, Louisiana (for obvious reasons!), Washington, Austin and Miami.

REWARDS

As thanks for your support we are offering some great rewards: tickets to either the NY or LA premieres with Albert and Robert or to a private screening with the filmmakers in London, exclusive ‘Cruel & Unusual’ T-shirts; DVDs; posters, etc.

In His Own Words: Albert Woodfox interviewed by Amnesty International UK

Amnesty International UK has released a new interview with Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3. Listen to the podcast here.

Accompanying the podcast interview is a post on Amnesty UK’s blog that features an extended statement by Albert Woodfox, entitled: It’s a human right to agitate the ‘injustice’ system. Albert’s full statement is featured below:

A year ago on 19 February 2016 I walked out of a Louisiana prison a free man after serving 44 years in solitary confinement.

At that moment I became ‘famous’ as the longest serving person in solitary confinement in the world, as well as being the last member of the Angola 3 to be free.

For over 44 years – along with fellow Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Robert King – we turned our death chambers into classrooms and courts of law from which we educated fellow inmates and stood up against a violent, racist and brutal prison system which targeted us for our activism.

We believed then, as we believe now, that it is a human right to challenge and agitate the ‘injustice’ system.

The confinement the Angola 3 endured was not only cruel and unusual punishment but also torture and as a result of our case, solitary confinement was recognized as such by the UN Rapporteur on Torture in 2013 and then later by Amnesty.

Also, since our freedom, we have seen positive legislative changes curbing the use of solitary confinement – most recently in Louisiana itself.

But the spotlight was not always on the Angola 3 and I know too well what it is to be an ordinary man put into extraordinary circumstances.

And so since my release I have travelled throughout the US and to Europe with King to continue to take a stand against the flawed US prison system and against the use of solitary confinement on behalf of the political prisoners still incarcerated in the US, including seventeen Black Panthers such as Russell Maroon Shoatz and Kenny Zulu Whitmore. I also continue to take a stand in honor of Herman Wallace who stands by my and King’s side in spirit and who we deeply miss.

Since my release, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is why after over four decades of struggle I continue to take a stand after what I have been through. To a young man who asked me this in England last year, this is what I said:

    “So future generations do not have to suffer like we did.

    So that people can be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. 

    Old men like us are fighting to make sure you see victory – as one day we are going to win.”

So even when it feels like you are not going to win, when you grow disillusioned with politics which put greed before people’s human rights, when you don’t think you can make a difference – please remember that if you had not taken a stand to support the Angola 3 and joined the hundreds of thousands of activists around the world who did, I may not have been able to write this to you today.

Keep strong.

The struggle continues.

Albert Woodfox
March 2017


Albert Woodfox and Robert King in Canada: Thunder Bay 3/2 and Montreal 3/17

WATCH:  Part one of Albert and Robert’s talk at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario  II  Albert and Robert in Montreal (listen to audio here)

IN THE NEWS:  Chronicle Journal, Thunder Bay  II  CBC Radio-Canada interviews Albert and Robert  II  The Argus reports on Lakehead University event 

(ABOVE PHOTOS: Robert King and Albert Woodfox join filmmaker Ron Harpelle on CBC Radio-Canada)

March 2, Thunder Bay, Ontario: Albert Woodfox and Robert King of the Angola 3 in Ontario, Canada for panel and screening of the film “Hard Time” about Robert King, made by Ron Harpelle. Event at 7pm, Trinity Hall, 310 Park Ave. Read our 2014 interview with Ron Harpelle.

In the context of the Week Against Police Brutality (https://cobp.resist.ca/), a discussion on incarceration and political repression with Albert Woodfox et Robert H. King will take place Friday March 17th at 6:00 pm at the Alumni Auditorium room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall Building (1455 de Maisonneuve West) of the Concordia University.

***English follows***

Dans le cadre de la semaine contre la Brutalité Policière (https://cobp.resist.ca/) se tiendra une discussion sur l’incarcération et la répression politique avec Albert Woodfox et Robert H. King le vendredi 17 mars, à 18h à l’auditorium H-110 du 1455, de Maisonneuve Ouest (édifice Henry F. Hall de l’université Concordia) à Montréal.


Albert Woodfox est un militant Black Panther et ex-prisonnier politique qui fut libéré en février 2016, à l’âge de 69 ans, après avoir été détenu et torturé pendant 45 ans, dont 43 ans en isolement, dans la prison d’Angola, en Louisiane. Il s’agit d’une durée record de temps passé en isolement pour un prisonnier américain. Cette punition cruelle et inhumaine lui fut infligée pour un crime qu’il n’avait pas commis, en raison de ses positions politiques et de la couleur de sa peau.

Albert Woodfox forme avec Herman Wallace et Robert King un groupe connu sous le nom des Angola 3 (http://angola3.org/), trois hommes afro-américains qui furent emprisonnés en 1971 dans un des pénitenciers les plus violents des États-Unis. Membres des Black Panthers, ils militèrent activement en prison en faveur des droits des détenus.

Robert King fut détenu à Angola pendant 32 ans, dont 29 furent passés en isolement. Dès sa sortie en 2001, il milita pour la libération de ses deux amis. Herman Wallace fut libéré en 2013, mais mourra peu de temps après. Depuis que Woodfox a recouvré sa liberté en février 2016, King et lui parcourent l’Europe et les États-Unis pour revendiquer l’abolition de l’isolement carcéral et la libération des prisonniers politiques aux États-Unis.

*Entrée gratuite*
*Accessible aux fauteuils roulants*
*Traduction vers le français et l’espagnol*
—————————————————————————————

In the context of the Week Against Police Brutality (https://cobp.resist.ca/), a discussion on incarceration and political repression with Albert Woodfox et Robert H. King will take place Friday March 17th at 6:00 pm at the Alumni Auditorium room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall Building (1455 de Maisonneuve West) of the Concordia University.

Albert Woodfox is a Black Panther activist and ex-political prisoner who was released in February 2016 at the age of 69 after having been detained and tortured for 45 years in the Angola Penitentiary (Louisiana), of which 43 years were spent in solitary confinement. No American prisoner has ever been put in solitary confinement for so long. This cruel and unusual punishment was inflicted to him for a crime he did not commit, because of his political beliefs and the colour of his skin.

With Herman Wallace and Robert King, Albert Woodfox was part of a group known as the Angola 3 (http://angola3.org/), three African-American men sent to prison in 1971 in one of the most violent detention facilities in the United States. Members of the Black Panthers, they fought to defend prisoners’ rights while inside.

Robert King stayed in Angola for 32 years, of which 29 years were spent in solitary. From the time he came out in 2001, he crusaded to free his two friends. Wallace was released in 2013, but died shortly after. Since Woodfox recovered his freedom in February 2016, he has been traveling Europe and the US with King to advocate for the abolition of solitary confinement and the liberation of political prisoner in the US.

***Free entrance***
***Wheelchair accessible***
***Translation into French and Spanish***

Albert Woodfox and Robert King of the Angola 3 to speak at Harvard on March 8

 Watch the full length video of Albert and Robert’s talk at Harvard here.


RELATED:  Jean Troustine writes “What I Learned From Albert Woodfox and Robert King” (about Harvard event)

At 5:30 pm on Wednesday, March 8, the Angola 3’s Robert King and Albert Woodfox will be speaking together at Harvard University it Cambridge, MA. Please check back here and at the Facebook event page for more information.

The Harvard Crimson has released a new article in advance of next month’s event, entitled “Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in a Louisiana Prison.”  Featured below is an excerpt. Read the full article here.

Albert Woodfox and Robert King are coming to Harvard on March 8th. They have dedicated their post-incarceration lives to fighting for “the abolishment of solitary confinement and freedom for political prisoners.” “I choose to use my anger as a means for changing things,” Woodfox said after his release.

“Everybody has fear,” Woodfox continued. “Fear is the soul telling the body that it’s in danger. Some people overcome that fear. I overcame it by having a cause.”

We hope you will join us.

The New Yorker’s In-Depth Article on Albert Woodfox’s Life After Release

Be sure to read this long New Yorker article reporting on Albert’s recent travels and life experiences,  as well as examining the months leading up to his release, nearly one year ago. An excerpt is featured below.

Read the full article here.

By summer, Woodfox felt that he was getting his “street legs,” as he called them. A sly sense of humor surfaced. But he was also increasingly exhausted. He spoke at panels about prisoners’ rights in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Baton Rouge. “I feel an obligation, because when I was in the position of the guys in prison I used to wonder why nobody spoke for us,” he told me. His friend Kenny Whitmore, who is still at Angola, told me that when Woodfox was freed “he took a part of me with him.” Whitmore said, “That old man is going full speed ahead.”

In early August, Woodfox flew to New York City to receive an award from the National Lawyers Guild, an association of progressive lawyers and activists, at the organization’s annual conference. He wore a gray blazer over a T-shirt that said “I Am Herman Wallace.” At the podium, he announced that he wanted to honor “my comrade and good friend.” He extended his palm toward King, who was in the third row of the auditorium, but became too choked up to say his name. Woodfox pressed his lips together and paused, regaining his composure. “I hope that my being here tonight is a testament to the strength and determination of the human spirit,” he said.

After the speech, Woodfox and King headed to a lounge on the second floor of the law school, where people were selling buttons, T-shirts, and posters that said “Free All the Angola 3.” Woodfox signed a dozen posters, writing in steady, capital letters, “I AM FREE! ALBERT WOODFOX.” People kept approaching him to ask if they could take selfies. “It’s amazing to be in the room with you,” one person told him. “Talk about moving and inspiring!” another said. “O.K.,” Woodfox said in response to most compliments.