Plantations Were Prisons: Mobilizing for the Aug. 19 Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington DC –Part one of an interview with Law Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell

(VIDEO: 2011 Amnesty International interview with Robert H. King, entitled “Slavery Still Reigns in US prisons.”)
Plantations Were Prisons: Mobilizing for the Aug. 19 Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington DC
–Part one of an interview with Law Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell
By Angola 3 News
Robert H. King and Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 are issuing a call to everybody concerned about the human rights of US prisoners: “We know the economic situation for African Americans, other minority communities, and poor whites is very difficult. However, if there is any way possible for you to get to the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington DC on August 19, so that your voice can be heard, so that we can speak in one voice, please join us. Enough is Enough!”
Albert Woodfox was released from prison in February, 2016 after over 43 years in solitary confinement. Robert King, the other surviving member of the Angola 3, spent 29 years in solitary confinement until his release in 2001. Along with personally traveling to Washington DC for the March on August 19, both King and Woodfox are currently working to spread the word and raise awareness about the upcoming event.
The August 19 March will gather near the White House, in Lafayette Park, at 12:00 Noon. The organizers “seek to unite activists, advocates, prisoners, ex-prisoners, their family and friends, as well as all others committed to the fight to drastically reduce or eliminate prisons and the prison system, and replace them with more humane and effective systems. Our aim is to expose the prison industrial complex for what it is. We want to challenge the idea that caging and controlling people keeps communities safe.” 

Albert Woodfox emphasizes the importance of the March: “This is an opportunity to bring to light a lot of stuff that has been kept in the dark about prisons and the judicial system. August 19 will give an opportunity for a mother, father or grandparents to speak about the horrors of their loved ones being in prison.”
The impact of the US prison system on families is a central focus of the March, and is an issue Woodfox speaks directly to: “If you consider the degrading and humiliating experiences that family members sometimes have to endure just to visit, in my opinion it has risen to the point now where the judge sends an individual to prison, he is also sentencing the whole family.” Furthermore, “because of economic hardship, particularly with minorities, it js very difficult for a family to give the kind of support that they want to give to their loved ones. Those are the kinds of things people will get a chance to talk about on August 19.”
The event’s two core demands involve the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which was ratified in 1865, following the end of the Civil War. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, except for prisoners, stating specifically: “Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
The organizers of the March are demanding that “the 13th amendment enslavement clause of the United States Constitution be amended to abolish legalized slavery in America.” Furthermore, they demand “a Congressional hearing on the 13th Amendment enslavement clause being recognized as in violation of international law, the general principles of human rights and its direct links to” several different issues, including “private entities exploiting prison labor,” “companies overcharging prisoners for goods and services,” and “producing the world’s largest prison population.”
For many years now, the Angola 3 have criticized the existence of legalized slavery in US prisons, particularly given that Angola State Prison in Louisiana (where the Angola 3 organized a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party in the early 1970’s) was built on a former slave plantation, and in its current state is arguably a modern day slave plantation. Robert King extends this critique to today, asserting that: “Because of the 13th Amendment’s impact, there needs to be a reconciliation period. The system is oppressive with economic discrimination, racism, bigotry, and more. We want to make the connections, to show how broad the impact of the 13th Amendment is, and how well thought out it was. It may have been a small idea in 1865 but it has since magnified itself greatly.”
Albert Woodfox argues that the enslavement clause was added to the 13th Amendment “to appease Southern politicians and wealthy men. A lot of people think that slavery is over, but it is not.” Woodfox continues: “Anyone who has been convicted of a felony in this country becomes a slave of the state, and you lose your human rights and in most cases your citizen rights for a long time, in some cases forever. Some states have laws where if you are convicted of a felony, then you lose your right to vote. The American Revolution was about exactly that: ‘taxation without representation.’ If I am a former prisoner and I am lucky enough to get a job, I will be paying taxes but I don’t have the right to vote because I went to prison. Okay, I went to prison and I paid my dues, so why when I come back into society do I not have the basic human right in an organized society and that is to vote. Those are the kinds of things we are trying to bring to light to American citizens.”
As the August 19 March approaches, we are publishing a new interview with Southern University Law Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell. In our discussion featured below, Prof. Bell provides an in depth analysis and further historical context for properly understanding what she argues are the legitimate criticisms presented by organizers and participants in the March.
For example, Prof. Bell confronts the history and legacy of slavery head-on, asserting: “When it comes to African Americans, we have been incarcerated from the time we arrived in this country. Plantations were prisons. The change from incarceration on a plantation, to incarceration in custodial institutions, to incarceration where there are no physical limitations, but where one exists in a state of civic and political oppression, in my view, is nothing more than semantics. Mass incarceration started when slavery started.”
This interview with Prof. Bell is now the fourth in an extended series. Our previous interviews also focused on human rights and the criminal justice system, and are entitled Prolonged Solitary Confinement on Trial(2012), Terrorism, COINTELPRO and the Black Panther Party(2014), Healing Our Wounds: Restorative Justice Is Needed For Albert Woodfox, The Black Panther Party & The Nation (2015).
Part two of our interview will be published next week, in advance of the August 19 March.

(PHOTO: Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell)
Angola 3 News:  Your recent article published by the Mercer Law Review, entitled “How The Narrative About Louisiana’s Non-Unanimous Criminal Jury System Became a Person of Interest in the Case Against Justice in the Deep South” examines “instances where twelve-person juries are allowed to cast judgement with fewer than twelve individuals voting in favor of a finding of guilt in non-capital, criminal cases involving hard labor sentences.” 
Can you please explain what your critique of this policy is, and how it relates to your broader critique of institutionalized white supremacy in the US criminal justice system?
Angela A. Allen-Bell:  In felony cases that are not death penalty cases, Louisiana seats twelve jurors, but allows a conviction upon the vote of only ten of those jurors.
In 1803, when Louisiana became a territory, unanimous verdicts were required. Non-unanimous verdicts were introduced in Louisiana after slavery ended. This Jim Crow era law made its way to the Constitution of 1898 after a convention of all white males expressed that their:  “mission was…to establish the supremacy of the white race.”
The change from unanimity was to: (1) obtain quick convictions that would facilitate the use of free prisoner labor (vis-à-vis Louisiana’s convict leasing system) as a replacement for the recent loss of free slave labor;  and (2) ensure African American jurors would not use their voting power to block convictions of other African Americans. In my view, this law:
•    Creates an arbitrary system whereby defendants of 48 states are afforded greater 6th Amendment protections than defendants in Louisiana and Oregon, the only two states that allow the use of criminal, non-unanimous juries.
•     Establishes an illogical disparity in 6th Amendment protections between state courts and federal courts since all federal courts require unanimous juries (even federal courts in Louisiana and Oregon).
•    Contributes to wrongful convictions.
•    Ignores the credible research on group thinking, which suggests that unanimous verdicts are more reliable, more careful and more thorough.
•    Creates a legal means for prosecutors to discriminate when it comes to jury practices by allowing them to circumvent the US Supreme Court’s 1986 Batson v. Kentucky decision, which prohibits prosecutors from using race as a reason not to select someone for jury service. 
•    Contributes to the creation of an automated justice system whose aim is speed as opposed to justice and genuine concern for public safety.
•    Ignores longstanding 6th Amendment tenants calling for unanimity dating back to the enactment of the 6th Amendment and the time of the Framers.
•    Allows different standards between the states and the federal government for the protection of fundamental rights in defiance of the Bill of Rights, which mandates otherwise. 
•    Undermines public trust in the judicial system.
•    Contributes to the oppression of classes of people.
•    Contributes to mass incarceration.
We often think of slavery in racial terms. The scale of slavery is often overlooked. When slavery was abolished, it was the largest financial asset in the American economy. This is significant because it speaks to the coveted nature of the system and hints to the veraciousness of the appetite that would have existed to maintain it.
Laws such as the 13th Amendment and Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury law create the appearance of legitimacy in government while simultaneously serving as legal blueprints for the oppression of certain people. They were written to ensure that African Americans could not achieve social or political equality. These laws represent the legislation of oppression and white supremacy. Justice and oppression can’t coexist. Therein lies the problem.   
The historical record is replete with examples of this taking form under the cover of law, policy and/or practice. For example, following the end of segregation in Louisiana, the legislature created a Segregation Committee and an Association of Citizens Councils. These bodies were to work in close cooperation with the legislature to preserve white supremacy. One of the things they did was set up programs for parish voting registrars where registrars were trained on how to promote white political control.
Mississippi’s legislature created a Sovereignty Commission for using legislation to maintain white supremacy. Alabama added language to its constitution that prevented people from voting if they were convicted of certain enumerated crimes. The crimes that they included in the legislation came from conviction statistics. They used those statistics to select crimes that African Americans were mostly convicted of and then those crimes were put into the constitutional enumeration with the intent of disenfranchising African Americans.
I encourage people to stop viewing these injustices as solitary wrongs. They are so much more than bad laws or bad policies. Justice seekers must view these laws within the context of the system they were designed in. Fixing these laws will accomplish a very narrow goal:  one bad law gone. I discourage a fix. I encourage a solution.
The real issue is the system that plays host to such injustices and human rights abuses. The focus of this generation has to be on systemic change. This is the only way to finally confront the complex layers of institutionalized racism and supremacy in the criminal justice system.
Since the late 1980s, Congressman John Conyers has repeatedly introduced H.R. 40, which calls for the establishment of a “Commission to Study the Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.” What’s important about this legislation is the aspect that would create a federal commission to review the institution of slavery, the resulting racial and economic discrimination against African Americans, and the impact of these forces on African Americans who are living today. Studies are routinely done in this country concerning lesser matters. It makes logical sense for the government to devote its resources to fully acknowledging the far-reaching impact that slavery has had on us―all of us.
Since slavery ended, there have been too many instances of law and policy being used as an agent of repression. And it is law and policy that has defined our economic, political and social existence. At what point have we collectively confronted this reality and what it has done to the infrastructure of our government and our legal system? The upcoming march wisely seeks to confront this void.
A3N:  What is the current status of the non-unanimous jury rule in Louisiana? Are there currently any challenges to it in the courts or elsewhere?
AB:  The law remains in the criminal code and in the state constitution. It continues to be championed and used by many prosecutors on a regular basis. At the same time, there are continuous defense challenges in Louisiana (and Oregon) state courts. Louisiana courts render predictable and ritualistic rulings that maintain the status quo.
On rare occasions when Louisiana courts have agreed to review the merits of non-unanimous jury challenges, they harmoniously declare that the solution to this injustice is to place a toilsome burden of proof on criminal defendants. Notably, on February 9, 2017, in the case of State v. Lee, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter ruled that proof of disproportionate impact requires the testimony of a statistician or social scientist who has:
 
“[P]reformed a peer-reviewed study which looked at raw data concerning jury verdicts. This data would have been divided based on unanimous and non-unanimous juries. The data then would have been analyzed for guilty, not guilty, hung juries, and overturned verdicts. The data would also be teased apart based on race, gender, and even religion…To show disparate impact, the court needs to see a full-scale study which looks at the numbers to provide conclusive demographic data…”
There are ongoing efforts by Oregon and Louisiana defense attorneys to have this issue reviewed by the US Supreme Court (who last spoke on this issue in its flawed, 1972 Apodaca v. Oregon plurality opinion). A mounting grassroots advocacy effort led by the ACLU of Louisiana, the Innocence Project New Orleans, myself and a few other local lawyers and exonerees devoted to the dismantling of this law has also formed.
A3N:  In your Mercer Law Review article and earlier in this interview, you present the historical context for the non-unanimous jury rule by citing how the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, except for prisoners. The 13th Amendment is a central focus of the upcoming Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington DC August 19.
In your opinion, in order to understand our present circumstances, how significant are these historical origins of the US prison system? What is the legacy of the laws criminalizing former slaves, known as the Black Codes and the convict lease system that accompanied the 13th Amendment’s legalization of slavery for prisoners?
AB:  After Abraham Lincoln was elected, Southern states started to secede from the Union.  The Civil War ended in May 1865. The 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865. The 13th Amendment was an attempt by Congress to get those Southern states back. Thus, the exceptions clause. The primary architect of the legislation was a slaveholder. In his recent book, Slaves of the State, Dennis Childspoignantly describes this legislative charade. He writes:
“The grandest emancipatory gesture in U.S. history contained a rhetorical trapdoor, a loophole of state repression, allowing for the continued cohabitation of liberal bourgeois law and racial capitalist terror; the interested invasion of ‘objective,’ ‘color-blind,’ and ‘duly’ processed legality by summary justice and white supremacist custom; and the constitutional sanctioning of state-borne prison-industrial genocide.” 
The legacy is that they all contributed to the continuation of the conditions of slavery.  They collectively ensured that slavery never ended, but merely changed forms. These historical origins help us understand the current state of affairs as much as they underscore the significance of the upcoming march, which seeks to eradicate these structural defects in our “injustice” system.
A3N:  You write that your Mercer Law Review article “advocates against impersonal, mechanized systems of justice that are built upon defendants, dockets, cases, quotas, formulas and rapidity. This article calls for the justice community to see cases in a highly personal way—to see cases as stories written about humans.”
In this same vein, even human rights activists can perhaps get so caught up in the statistics of injustice (like mass incarceration and the racially discriminatory so-called “war on drugs.”) that we can downplay or even forget the human story behind the statistics. What is that story? What do you think is the US prison system’s impact on prisoners, prisoners’ families, and the broader human community?
AB:  Nothing about who we are as a mass incarcerator should be viewed as a current event.  When it comes to African Americans, we have been incarcerated from the time we arrived in this country. Plantations were prisons. The change from incarceration on a plantation, to incarceration in custodial institutions, to incarceration where there are no physical limitations, but where one exists in a state of civic and political oppression, in my view, is nothing more than semantics. Mass incarceration started when slavery started. And, since that time, African Americans have experienced some form of imprisonment―the differences are in the degrees.
The notion of incarcerating people as a form of individual punishment did not always exist. The practice was to convict then punish, not to confine. Death and corporal punishment were used extensively before opposition to the death penalty formed. The practice of using physical structures to separate people from society came as an alternative to this.
These institutions (along with immigrant detention centers) have transcended the Southern racist and exploitative agenda and morphed into incubators for capitalist contrivances. At this moment in America, there are over 2.2 million incarcerated people. Incarceration has increased by more than 500% in the last forty years. My research does not offer justification for such sweeping efforts to lock people up. What it does show is that laws, policies, racism, bias, unjust practices, abuses and a nearly automated judicial system has led to the creation of what I liken to an organized human trafficking system where poor people are ushered through courts on virtual conveyor belts and funneled into the unyielding grip of custodial detention and state supervision.
As people understand this, they will approach conversations about prisons and convictions with caution and begin to develop the capacity to see inmates as something more than just “defendants” or “criminals.” This matters because perception and characterization shapes our level of empathy.
In no way am I suggesting that every prisoner is free of culpability and is undeservingly in custody. I don’t feel that way at all. I am suggesting that the system is so inherently flawed and so riddled with bias (both implicit and explicit) that it often treats the innocent and the guilty the same and, once in it, the system engulfs a person and often fast-tracks them to becoming their worse self.
Prisons are breeding grounds for sickness, recidivism, exploitation, cruelty and destruction. In their current form, they are not a good use of public dollars. With this appreciation, we can no longer dismiss conversations about prisoners. We can’t rest on the notion that inmates put themselves there.
In this same vein, we must fight the overuse and abuse of solitary confinement, both in the general population and on death row. This system affords too much unchecked authority to prison officials. The harms far outweigh the benefits. The situation has been too well studied to be refuted at this point. Prolonged solitary confinement causes anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, psychosis and a host of other medical and emotional challenges. It costs more. It is disproportionately used on minorities and vulnerable populations, such as the mentally ill and members of the LGBT community.
The march organizers are correct when they refer to solitary confinement as torture and torture as a human rights violation.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has declared it to be so. 
This march represents a moment for people to see what prisons are as much as what they are not. Certainly, they are needed for public safety in some instances. But the scale of the situation in the United States far exceeds what is necessary for public safety.
Prisons create and ensure an underclass. Prisons provide a free labor base. Prisons destroy families and kill potential in people. Prisons provide profits to those who have a stake in them.
–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com, where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. Additionally we are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling –An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling  
–An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

By Angola 3 News

Canadian filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla has never shied away from examining politically controversial topics. Nor does he play down his own artistic goal of using media to foster political change. Bhalla’s first independent work, entitled U.A.I.L. Go Back amplified the voices of Indian villagers resisting an alumina project backed by the Canadian company Alcan. The film became an important organizing tool used to pressure Alcan into ending its involvement in the project.

Bhalla has since co-founded Time of Day Media.and while working as a community organizer for immigrant rights, he produced videos for the Service Employees International Union, Working America, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups. His award-winning short on the lives of Indian street artists, Writings on the Wall, was broadcast on Canada’s Bravo! and Al Jazeera English.

Bhalla’s debut feature documentary was the 2012 film Herman’s House, about Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 and the collaborative project Wallace worked on with artist Jackie Sumell, entitled The House That Herman Built. The film screened at more than 40 festivals, was distributed theatrically in the US and Canada, and won an Emmy Award for its 2013 POV broadcast on PBS.


The newly released, interactive website-based documentary film made by Bhalla, entitled The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace, builds upon Herman’s House by further examining Herman Wallace’s life, following Wallace’s death from liver cancer on October 4, 2013, just three days after being released from prison. This latest film has already been well received. Along with a recent screening at the 28th annual International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, The Deeper They Bury Me has also been selected by Favourite Website Awards as the “Site of the Day” for December 14, where it is being displayed on the website’s front page for the full day.

In this interview, filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla discusses his latest film, The Deeper They Bury Me, while also reflecting upon his 2012 film Herman’s House, his personal relationship with Wallace and more. Bhalla concludes the interview with a focus on the call by Amnesty International and the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, who is the last of the Angola 3 behind bars. Despite three overturned convictions, Woodfox remains in prison and in solitary confinement, where he was first placed over 43 years ago.

(VIDEO: Coverage of the panel discussion following a recent screening of The Deeper They Bury Me at the 53rd New York Film Festival. Photos from this event by Lindsey Seide/NFB are featured below alongside still images taken from the film itself.)

Angola 3 News:  Can you please tell us how you first heard of Herman Wallace and the Angola 3?

Angad Singh Bhalla:  I first heard about Herman Wallace and the Angola 3 in 2002, shortly after Robert King’s release from prison. Artist Jackie Sumell organized a lecture for King at Stanford University, where I co-hosted a political talk show on the campus radio station at the time. Robert King remains one of the most memorable discussions we ever had on that show.

(PHOTO: Filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla at NY Film Festival)

A3N:  Your bio states that you use your films “to call attention to voices we rarely hear” and “as a means of fostering political change.” Your 2012 film Herman’s House certainly helped to amplify Herman’s voice and it created more public attention to Herman and the Angola 3. 

Looking beyond the immediate campaign for Herman’s release from prison and solitary confinement, as well as the continuing call today for Albert Woodfox’s release from prison and solitary, what do you feel were the central messages that you sought to focus on with Herman’s House?

ASB:  With the documentary Herman’s House, the real central message was that Herman Wallace, like all the other people we incarcerate, is a human being. As simple as that sounds, I think the prison industrial complex’s most devastating impact has been to dehumanize the people it incarcerates. We did not show any images of prisons in the documentary because I believe even the very sight of a prison can contribute to this dehumanization process.

With the film I hoped to transform Herman and indirectly everyone else we incarcerate from a convict or felon into a brother, a mentor, a friend and like all of us a dreamer. In that sense, unlike other profiles, I was not as focused on Herman’s innocence. While Herman was wrongfully convicted, I wanted to focus on the nature of his incarceration which ties him to the 2.3 million other Americans we put in prison.


 

A3N:  Now with the release of The Deeper They Bury Me a few years after Herman’s House, do the fundamental themes and issues addressed in this film differ at all? Otherwise, how do you think The Deeper They Bury Me complements Herman’s House?

ASB:  Similar to Herman’s House, I think the theme of humanizing Herman and focusing on the conditions of his incarceration remain in The Deeper They Bury Me. But at the same time I think The Deeper They Bury allowed me to bring more attention to the specific circumstances around Herman’s story.

In that sense I tried to highlight Herman’s past growing up in a segregated New Orleans to highlight how America’s racist history relates directly to America’s racist present. This experience of it being more a telling of Herman’s story by Herman, allowed me to explore his political convictions and work with the Black Panther Party more than I could in the film. I tried to highlight Herman’s position as a political prisoner in The Deeper They Bury Me.

Overall I think the interactive aspect compliments the film by providing much more of the historical and political conditions of Herman’s incarceration. While Herman’s situation may have been unique, those conditions are not. I hope that through this interactive telling of  Herman’s experience viewers begin to understand that history is present.

There is a reason that in the United States, people of color account for nearly 60% of the imprisoned while making up only 30% of the population. There is a reason that the United States, black Americans are six times more likely to be imprisoned than white Americans.

These reasons are not simple and go back to the founding myths of this country, which is why there are more black men under some form correctional supervision (imprisoned, on parole, or probation) than were enslaved in 1850.

A3N:  The interactive format of The Deeper They Bury Me is very cutting edge. Can you tell us more about the various interactive features that our readers will find when they go to watch the film? What do you feel that this interactive format adds? How does it change or enrich the viewing experience?

ASB:  Well, the entire experience is set up to determine what aspects of Herman’s life the user wants to hear him talk about. In many ways the prison industrial complex relies on framing spaces as tools of punishment and coercion. This interactive format allows people to actually explore 3D replicas of Herman’s cell, his dream bedroom, and prison dorm. Interacting with these spaces in relation to one another, I think, allows users to really question our notions of freedom and confinement.

While not all the environments are available at the same time, the user gets to decide which spaces she wants to linger in and which elements of Herman’s story she wants hear more about. Not being constrained by a linear narrative structure and the idea of always moving an audience forward, the interactive format provides audiences the opportunity to go deeper into what would be considered Herman’s back-story in a traditional documentary.

While of course the linear documentary is my point of reference in many ways, The Deeper They Bury Me is an entirely different kind of storytelling. It will never replace the linear form, but at the same time, it allows the user to get to enter Herman’s world from the point that is most relevant to them. Further, as a tool, being able to access each of the 25 one-minute videos independently allows activists to craft a narrative that best suits their campaign work. Herman’s story is so relevant for today’s young activists that I wanted to try to tell it in a form that is more relevant to young people who communicate so much now online.

(PHOTO: Harry Belafonte at NY Film Festival screening)

A3N:  Along with your two films about Herman, in 2014 another Angola 3-related film was made in Canada, entitled Hard Time, by Ron Harpelle, which focused on Robert H King. Seen in the context of these three films, how do you think Canadian audiences have responded to the story of the Angola 3?

ASB:  I think like most audiences, Canadian audiences are shocked when they first hear the story of the Angola 3. I think the Angola 3 story may find more receptive outlets in Canada and other countries outside the US simply because people feel good pointing out injustices happening in other countries.

In the ‘learn more’ section of site we included the fact that Aboriginal Canadians are ten times more likely to be incarcerated that other Canadians. As much as we Canadians might like to deny it, our criminal justice system extends from a sordid history of oppression and remains a racist tool of social control.

(PHOTO: NY Film Festival speaker panel)

A3N:  What is the significance of the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) involvement with The Deeper They Bury Me, both producing it and hosting the film on their website? How did the NFB become involved with the film?

ASB:  In 2010, I approached the NFB looking for their support to help produce Herman’s House, the linear film. It was producer Anita Lee at the NFB, who proposed the idea of creating an independent interactive piece that became The Deeper They Bury Me.

The NFB has been leading the development of interactive online storytelling since the field first emerged, so I was extremely excited that they saw interactive potential in Herman’s story. The NFB is not only a Canadian institution but it has a global legacy of producing critical independent documentary films, including films that inspired me to get into the field, like Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and The Media. As an NFB production, The Deeper They Bury Me becomes a part of an essential collection and will most importantly introduce Herman’s Story to an even broader audience.

A3N:  In October, 2013 after battling liver cancer for several months, Herman Wallace was released from prison. Just a few days later, he passed away in the company of family and friends. In the days following, tributes to Herman ranged from US Congressmen to the Washington Post and New York Times. As someone who has studied Herman’s life so closely, can you please reflect on his life and share with us what you think his legacy is today?

ASB:  It’s would be hard to overstate the impact Herman has had on my life. More than merely the subject of my past two documentary projects, over the 6 years that we conversed by phone he became both a friend and teacher in so many ways.

To be exonerated and released three days before passing away was undoubtedly tragic, but in so many ways Herman’s story is one of victory. His legacy will forever be that of someone who stood up to injustice and won. Not in the Hollywood way of winning where everything turns out okay in the end but in the messy way people who have struggled for justice get to win.

For four decades the system tried to silence Herman for his resistance. But like Herman’s poem from which this piece is titled, the deeper they tried to bury Herman the louder his voice became. The system had planned for Herman to die in prison, and even through he enjoyed only three days of freedom, he defied that system and that defiance made headlines around the world.

Herman decided long ago that he was willing to sacrifice his life to serve as symbol for so much of what is wrong with America’s prison industrial complex. As sad as I am that I lost a friend, I can feel his spirit smiling with the knowledge that his struggle and eventual victory is still inspiring a new generation of activists.

A3N:  We in the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 have sought to honor Herman’s legacy by “turning grief into strength,” and working for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox from both prison and solitary confinement, so that he will be able spend more time outside prison walls than Herman was able to.  In February 2013, several months before Herman’s cancer diagnosis, Albert’s conviction was overturned for a third time. Subsequently, in November 2014, this third overturned conviction was upheld by the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then in June 2015, US District Court Judge James Brady ruled for Albert’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as banning a retrial. Yet, to this day Albert remains in solitary confinement. 

What do you think about Albert’s treatment in recent years, especially following Herman’s death? How about this US “criminal justice” system where an elder prisoner’s conviction can be overturned for a third time, but still be held captive and in solitary confinement?

ASB:  Sadly nothing about Albert’s treatment both prior to and following Herman’s death surprises me.

Like Herman, Albert has always been used by the state as an example to others who might fight back against state oppression. There is not a criminal justice system in America, there is a system of social control that relies on incarceration and violence. The state must put all the resources it has at its disposal to keep torturing people like Albert to make sure other people who even consider exposing the system’s contradictions think twice.

Look at how the NYPD have been continuing to harass and abuse Ramsay Orta, the man who recorded the NYPD murder of Eric Garner and his family. Albert’s case has never been about the evidence that had him convicted of Brent Miller’s murder, because there isn’t any.  It has always been about the state displaying its ruthless power.

Unfortunately for the state, the truth is the truth and the more the state tries to display power the more desperate and pathetic it looks.

(PHOTO: Herman Wallace, left, with Albert Woodfox, right)

–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com, where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. Additionally we are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more. Our articles and videos have been published by Alternet, Truthout, Counterpunch, Monthly Review, Z Magazine, Indymedia, and many others.

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling –An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling  
–An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

By Angola 3 News

Canadian filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla has never shied away from examining politically controversial topics. Nor does he play down his own artistic goal of using media to foster political change. Bhalla’s first independent work, entitled U.A.I.L. Go Back amplified the voices of Indian villagers resisting an alumina project backed by the Canadian company Alcan. The film became an important organizing tool used to pressure Alcan into ending its involvement in the project.

Bhalla has since co-founded Time of Day Media.and while working as a community organizer for immigrant rights, he produced videos for the Service Employees International Union, Working America, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups. His award-winning short on the lives of Indian street artists, Writings on the Wall, was broadcast on Canada’s Bravo! and Al Jazeera English.

Bhalla’s debut feature documentary was the 2012 film Herman’s House, about Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 and the collaborative project Wallace worked on with artist Jackie Sumell, entitled The House That Herman Built. The film screened at more than 40 festivals, was distributed theatrically in the US and Canada, and won an Emmy Award for its 2013 POV broadcast on PBS.


The newly released, interactive website-based documentary film made by Bhalla, entitled The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace, builds upon Herman’s House by further examining Herman Wallace’s life, following Wallace’s death from liver cancer on October 4, 2013, just three days after being released from prison. This latest film has already been well received. Along with a recent screening at the 28th annual International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, The Deeper They Bury Me has also been selected by Favourite Website Awards as the “Site of the Day” for December 14, where it is being displayed on the website’s front page for the full day.

In this interview, filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla discusses his latest film, The Deeper They Bury Me, while also reflecting upon his 2012 film Herman’s House, his personal relationship with Wallace and more. Bhalla concludes the interview with a focus on the call by Amnesty International and the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, who is the last of the Angola 3 behind bars. Despite three overturned convictions, Woodfox remains in prison and in solitary confinement, where he was first placed over 43 years ago.

(VIDEO: Coverage of the panel discussion following a recent screening of The Deeper They Bury Me at the 53rd New York Film Festival. Photos from this event by Lindsey Seide/NFB are featured below alongside still images taken from the film itself.)

Angola 3 News:  Can you please tell us how you first heard of Herman Wallace and the Angola 3?

Angad Singh Bhalla:  I first heard about Herman Wallace and the Angola 3 in 2002, shortly after Robert King’s release from prison. Artist Jackie Sumell organized a lecture for King at Stanford University, where I co-hosted a political talk show on the campus radio station at the time. Robert King remains one of the most memorable discussions we ever had on that show.

(PHOTO: Filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla at NY Film Festival)

A3N:  Your bio states that you use your films “to call attention to voices we rarely hear” and “as a means of fostering political change.” Your 2012 film Herman’s House certainly helped to amplify Herman’s voice and it created more public attention to Herman and the Angola 3. 

Looking beyond the immediate campaign for Herman’s release from prison and solitary confinement, as well as the continuing call today for Albert Woodfox’s release from prison and solitary, what do you feel were the central messages that you sought to focus on with Herman’s House?

ASB:  With the documentary Herman’s House, the real central message was that Herman Wallace, like all the other people we incarcerate, is a human being. As simple as that sounds, I think the prison industrial complex’s most devastating impact has been to dehumanize the people it incarcerates. We did not show any images of prisons in the documentary because I believe even the very sight of a prison can contribute to this dehumanization process.

With the film I hoped to transform Herman and indirectly everyone else we incarcerate from a convict or felon into a brother, a mentor, a friend and like all of us a dreamer. In that sense, unlike other profiles, I was not as focused on Herman’s innocence. While Herman was wrongfully convicted, I wanted to focus on the nature of his incarceration which ties him to the 2.3 million other Americans we put in prison.


 

A3N:  Now with the release of The Deeper They Bury Me a few years after Herman’s House, do the fundamental themes and issues addressed in this film differ at all? Otherwise, how do you think The Deeper They Bury Me complements Herman’s House?

ASB:  Similar to Herman’s House, I think the theme of humanizing Herman and focusing on the conditions of his incarceration remain in The Deeper They Bury Me. But at the same time I think The Deeper They Bury allowed me to bring more attention to the specific circumstances around Herman’s story.

In that sense I tried to highlight Herman’s past growing up in a segregated New Orleans to highlight how America’s racist history relates directly to America’s racist present. This experience of it being more a telling of Herman’s story by Herman, allowed me to explore his political convictions and work with the Black Panther Party more than I could in the film. I tried to highlight Herman’s position as a political prisoner in The Deeper They Bury Me.

Overall I think the interactive aspect compliments the film by providing much more of the historical and political conditions of Herman’s incarceration. While Herman’s situation may have been unique, those conditions are not. I hope that through this interactive telling of  Herman’s experience viewers begin to understand that history is present.

There is a reason that in the United States, people of color account for nearly 60% of the imprisoned while making up only 30% of the population. There is a reason that the United States, black Americans are six times more likely to be imprisoned than white Americans.

These reasons are not simple and go back to the founding myths of this country, which is why there are more black men under some form correctional supervision (imprisoned, on parole, or probation) than were enslaved in 1850.

A3N:  The interactive format of The Deeper They Bury Me is very cutting edge. Can you tell us more about the various interactive features that our readers will find when they go to watch the film? What do you feel that this interactive format adds? How does it change or enrich the viewing experience?

ASB:  Well, the entire experience is set up to determine what aspects of Herman’s life the user wants to hear him talk about. In many ways the prison industrial complex relies on framing spaces as tools of punishment and coercion. This interactive format allows people to actually explore 3D replicas of Herman’s cell, his dream bedroom, and prison dorm. Interacting with these spaces in relation to one another, I think, allows users to really question our notions of freedom and confinement.

While not all the environments are available at the same time, the user gets to decide which spaces she wants to linger in and which elements of Herman’s story she wants hear more about. Not being constrained by a linear narrative structure and the idea of always moving an audience forward, the interactive format provides audiences the opportunity to go deeper into what would be considered Herman’s back-story in a traditional documentary.

While of course the linear documentary is my point of reference in many ways, The Deeper They Bury Me is an entirely different kind of storytelling. It will never replace the linear form, but at the same time, it allows the user to get to enter Herman’s world from the point that is most relevant to them. Further, as a tool, being able to access each of the 25 one-minute videos independently allows activists to craft a narrative that best suits their campaign work. Herman’s story is so relevant for today’s young activists that I wanted to try to tell it in a form that is more relevant to young people who communicate so much now online.

(PHOTO: Harry Belafonte at NY Film Festival screening)

A3N:  Along with your two films about Herman, in 2014 another Angola 3-related film was made in Canada, entitled Hard Time, by Ron Harpelle, which focused on Robert H King. Seen in the context of these three films, how do you think Canadian audiences have responded to the story of the Angola 3?

ASB:  I think like most audiences, Canadian audiences are shocked when they first hear the story of the Angola 3. I think the Angola 3 story may find more receptive outlets in Canada and other countries outside the US simply because people feel good pointing out injustices happening in other countries.

In the ‘learn more’ section of site we included the fact that Aboriginal Canadians are ten times more likely to be incarcerated that other Canadians. As much as we Canadians might like to deny it, our criminal justice system extends from a sordid history of oppression and remains a racist tool of social control.

(PHOTO: NY Film Festival speaker panel)

A3N:  What is the significance of the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) involvement with The Deeper They Bury Me, both producing it and hosting the film on their website? How did the NFB become involved with the film?

ASB:  In 2010, I approached the NFB looking for their support to help produce Herman’s House, the linear film. It was producer Anita Lee at the NFB, who proposed the idea of creating an independent interactive piece that became The Deeper They Bury Me.

The NFB has been leading the development of interactive online storytelling since the field first emerged, so I was extremely excited that they saw interactive potential in Herman’s story. The NFB is not only a Canadian institution but it has a global legacy of producing critical independent documentary films, including films that inspired me to get into the field, like Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and The Media. As an NFB production, The Deeper They Bury Me becomes a part of an essential collection and will most importantly introduce Herman’s Story to an even broader audience.

A3N:  In October, 2013 after battling liver cancer for several months, Herman Wallace was released from prison. Just a few days later, he passed away in the company of family and friends. In the days following, tributes to Herman ranged from US Congressmen to the Washington Post and New York Times. As someone who has studied Herman’s life so closely, can you please reflect on his life and share with us what you think his legacy is today?

ASB:  It’s would be hard to overstate the impact Herman has had on my life. More than merely the subject of my past two documentary projects, over the 6 years that we conversed by phone he became both a friend and teacher in so many ways.

To be exonerated and released three days before passing away was undoubtedly tragic, but in so many ways Herman’s story is one of victory. His legacy will forever be that of someone who stood up to injustice and won. Not in the Hollywood way of winning where everything turns out okay in the end but in the messy way people who have struggled for justice get to win.

For four decades the system tried to silence Herman for his resistance. But like Herman’s poem from which this piece is titled, the deeper they tried to bury Herman the louder his voice became. The system had planned for Herman to die in prison, and even through he enjoyed only three days of freedom, he defied that system and that defiance made headlines around the world.

Herman decided long ago that he was willing to sacrifice his life to serve as symbol for so much of what is wrong with America’s prison industrial complex. As sad as I am that I lost a friend, I can feel his spirit smiling with the knowledge that his struggle and eventual victory is still inspiring a new generation of activists.

A3N:  We in the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 have sought to honor Herman’s legacy by “turning grief into strength,” and working for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox from both prison and solitary confinement, so that he will be able spend more time outside prison walls than Herman was able to.  In February 2013, several months before Herman’s cancer diagnosis, Albert’s conviction was overturned for a third time. Subsequently, in November 2014, this third overturned conviction was upheld by the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then in June 2015, US District Court Judge James Brady ruled for Albert’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as banning a retrial. Yet, to this day Albert remains in solitary confinement. 

What do you think about Albert’s treatment in recent years, especially following Herman’s death? How about this US “criminal justice” system where an elder prisoner’s conviction can be overturned for a third time, but still be held captive and in solitary confinement?

ASB:  Sadly nothing about Albert’s treatment both prior to and following Herman’s death surprises me.

Like Herman, Albert has always been used by the state as an example to others who might fight back against state oppression. There is not a criminal justice system in America, there is a system of social control that relies on incarceration and violence. The state must put all the resources it has at its disposal to keep torturing people like Albert to make sure other people who even consider exposing the system’s contradictions think twice.

Look at how the NYPD have been continuing to harass and abuse Ramsay Orta, the man who recorded the NYPD murder of Eric Garner and his family. Albert’s case has never been about the evidence that had him convicted of Brent Miller’s murder, because there isn’t any.  It has always been about the state displaying its ruthless power.

Unfortunately for the state, the truth is the truth and the more the state tries to display power the more desperate and pathetic it looks.

(PHOTO: Herman Wallace, left, with Albert Woodfox, right)

–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com, where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. Additionally we are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more. Our articles and videos have been published by Alternet, Truthout, Counterpunch, Monthly Review, Z Magazine, Indymedia, and many others.

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling –An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling  
–An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

By Angola 3 News

Canadian filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla has never shied away from examining politically controversial topics. Nor does he play down his own artistic goal of using media to foster political change. Bhalla’s first independent work, entitled U.A.I.L. Go Back amplified the voices of Indian villagers resisting an alumina project backed by the Canadian company Alcan. The film became an important organizing tool used to pressure Alcan into ending its involvement in the project.

Bhalla has since co-founded Time of Day Media.and while working as a community organizer for immigrant rights, he produced videos for the Service Employees International Union, Working America, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups. His award-winning short on the lives of Indian street artists, Writings on the Wall, was broadcast on Canada’s Bravo! and Al Jazeera English.

Bhalla’s debut feature documentary was the 2012 film Herman’s House, about Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 and the collaborative project Wallace worked on with artist Jackie Sumell, entitled The House That Herman Built. The film screened at more than 40 festivals, was distributed theatrically in the US and Canada, and won an Emmy Award for its 2013 POV broadcast on PBS.


The newly released, interactive website-based documentary film made by Bhalla, entitled The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace, builds upon Herman’s House by further examining Herman Wallace’s life, following Wallace’s death from liver cancer on October 4, 2013, just three days after being released from prison. This latest film has already been well received. Along with a recent screening at the 28th annual International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, The Deeper They Bury Me has also been selected by Favourite Website Awards as the “Site of the Day” for December 14, where it is being displayed on the website’s front page for the full day.

In this interview, filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla discusses his latest film, The Deeper They Bury Me, while also reflecting upon his 2012 film Herman’s House, his personal relationship with Wallace and more. Bhalla concludes the interview with a focus on the call by Amnesty International and the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, who is the last of the Angola 3 behind bars. Despite three overturned convictions, Woodfox remains in prison and in solitary confinement, where he was first placed over 43 years ago.

(VIDEO: Coverage of the panel discussion following a recent screening of The Deeper They Bury Me at the 53rd New York Film Festival. Photos from this event by Lindsey Seide/NFB are featured below alongside still images taken from the film itself.)

Angola 3 News:  Can you please tell us how you first heard of Herman Wallace and the Angola 3?

Angad Singh Bhalla:  I first heard about Herman Wallace and the Angola 3 in 2002, shortly after Robert King’s release from prison. Artist Jackie Sumell organized a lecture for King at Stanford University, where I co-hosted a political talk show on the campus radio station at the time. Robert King remains one of the most memorable discussions we ever had on that show.

(PHOTO: Filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla at NY Film Festival)

A3N:  Your bio states that you use your films “to call attention to voices we rarely hear” and “as a means of fostering political change.” Your 2012 film Herman’s House certainly helped to amplify Herman’s voice and it created more public attention to Herman and the Angola 3. 

Looking beyond the immediate campaign for Herman’s release from prison and solitary confinement, as well as the continuing call today for Albert Woodfox’s release from prison and solitary, what do you feel were the central messages that you sought to focus on with Herman’s House?

ASB:  With the documentary Herman’s House, the real central message was that Herman Wallace, like all the other people we incarcerate, is a human being. As simple as that sounds, I think the prison industrial complex’s most devastating impact has been to dehumanize the people it incarcerates. We did not show any images of prisons in the documentary because I believe even the very sight of a prison can contribute to this dehumanization process.

With the film I hoped to transform Herman and indirectly everyone else we incarcerate from a convict or felon into a brother, a mentor, a friend and like all of us a dreamer. In that sense, unlike other profiles, I was not as focused on Herman’s innocence. While Herman was wrongfully convicted, I wanted to focus on the nature of his incarceration which ties him to the 2.3 million other Americans we put in prison.


 

A3N:  Now with the release of The Deeper They Bury Me a few years after Herman’s House, do the fundamental themes and issues addressed in this film differ at all? Otherwise, how do you think The Deeper They Bury Me complements Herman’s House?

ASB:  Similar to Herman’s House, I think the theme of humanizing Herman and focusing on the conditions of his incarceration remain in The Deeper They Bury Me. But at the same time I think The Deeper They Bury allowed me to bring more attention to the specific circumstances around Herman’s story.

In that sense I tried to highlight Herman’s past growing up in a segregated New Orleans to highlight how America’s racist history relates directly to America’s racist present. This experience of it being more a telling of Herman’s story by Herman, allowed me to explore his political convictions and work with the Black Panther Party more than I could in the film. I tried to highlight Herman’s position as a political prisoner in The Deeper They Bury Me.

Overall I think the interactive aspect compliments the film by providing much more of the historical and political conditions of Herman’s incarceration. While Herman’s situation may have been unique, those conditions are not. I hope that through this interactive telling of  Herman’s experience viewers begin to understand that history is present.

There is a reason that in the United States, people of color account for nearly 60% of the imprisoned while making up only 30% of the population. There is a reason that the United States, black Americans are six times more likely to be imprisoned than white Americans.

These reasons are not simple and go back to the founding myths of this country, which is why there are more black men under some form correctional supervision (imprisoned, on parole, or probation) than were enslaved in 1850.

A3N:  The interactive format of The Deeper They Bury Me is very cutting edge. Can you tell us more about the various interactive features that our readers will find when they go to watch the film? What do you feel that this interactive format adds? How does it change or enrich the viewing experience?

ASB:  Well, the entire experience is set up to determine what aspects of Herman’s life the user wants to hear him talk about. In many ways the prison industrial complex relies on framing spaces as tools of punishment and coercion. This interactive format allows people to actually explore 3D replicas of Herman’s cell, his dream bedroom, and prison dorm. Interacting with these spaces in relation to one another, I think, allows users to really question our notions of freedom and confinement.

While not all the environments are available at the same time, the user gets to decide which spaces she wants to linger in and which elements of Herman’s story she wants hear more about. Not being constrained by a linear narrative structure and the idea of always moving an audience forward, the interactive format provides audiences the opportunity to go deeper into what would be considered Herman’s back-story in a traditional documentary.

While of course the linear documentary is my point of reference in many ways, The Deeper They Bury Me is an entirely different kind of storytelling. It will never replace the linear form, but at the same time, it allows the user to get to enter Herman’s world from the point that is most relevant to them. Further, as a tool, being able to access each of the 25 one-minute videos independently allows activists to craft a narrative that best suits their campaign work. Herman’s story is so relevant for today’s young activists that I wanted to try to tell it in a form that is more relevant to young people who communicate so much now online.

(PHOTO: Harry Belafonte at NY Film Festival screening)

A3N:  Along with your two films about Herman, in 2014 another Angola 3-related film was made in Canada, entitled Hard Time, by Ron Harpelle, which focused on Robert H King. Seen in the context of these three films, how do you think Canadian audiences have responded to the story of the Angola 3?

ASB:  I think like most audiences, Canadian audiences are shocked when they first hear the story of the Angola 3. I think the Angola 3 story may find more receptive outlets in Canada and other countries outside the US simply because people feel good pointing out injustices happening in other countries.

In the ‘learn more’ section of site we included the fact that Aboriginal Canadians are ten times more likely to be incarcerated that other Canadians. As much as we Canadians might like to deny it, our criminal justice system extends from a sordid history of oppression and remains a racist tool of social control.

(PHOTO: NY Film Festival speaker panel)

A3N:  What is the significance of the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) involvement with The Deeper They Bury Me, both producing it and hosting the film on their website? How did the NFB become involved with the film?

ASB:  In 2010, I approached the NFB looking for their support to help produce Herman’s House, the linear film. It was producer Anita Lee at the NFB, who proposed the idea of creating an independent interactive piece that became The Deeper They Bury Me.

The NFB has been leading the development of interactive online storytelling since the field first emerged, so I was extremely excited that they saw interactive potential in Herman’s story. The NFB is not only a Canadian institution but it has a global legacy of producing critical independent documentary films, including films that inspired me to get into the field, like Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and The Media. As an NFB production, The Deeper They Bury Me becomes a part of an essential collection and will most importantly introduce Herman’s Story to an even broader audience.

A3N:  In October, 2013 after battling liver cancer for several months, Herman Wallace was released from prison. Just a few days later, he passed away in the company of family and friends. In the days following, tributes to Herman ranged from US Congressmen to the Washington Post and New York Times. As someone who has studied Herman’s life so closely, can you please reflect on his life and share with us what you think his legacy is today?

ASB:  It’s would be hard to overstate the impact Herman has had on my life. More than merely the subject of my past two documentary projects, over the 6 years that we conversed by phone he became both a friend and teacher in so many ways.

To be exonerated and released three days before passing away was undoubtedly tragic, but in so many ways Herman’s story is one of victory. His legacy will forever be that of someone who stood up to injustice and won. Not in the Hollywood way of winning where everything turns out okay in the end but in the messy way people who have struggled for justice get to win.

For four decades the system tried to silence Herman for his resistance. But like Herman’s poem from which this piece is titled, the deeper they tried to bury Herman the louder his voice became. The system had planned for Herman to die in prison, and even through he enjoyed only three days of freedom, he defied that system and that defiance made headlines around the world.

Herman decided long ago that he was willing to sacrifice his life to serve as symbol for so much of what is wrong with America’s prison industrial complex. As sad as I am that I lost a friend, I can feel his spirit smiling with the knowledge that his struggle and eventual victory is still inspiring a new generation of activists.

A3N:  We in the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 have sought to honor Herman’s legacy by “turning grief into strength,” and working for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox from both prison and solitary confinement, so that he will be able spend more time outside prison walls than Herman was able to.  In February 2013, several months before Herman’s cancer diagnosis, Albert’s conviction was overturned for a third time. Subsequently, in November 2014, this third overturned conviction was upheld by the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then in June 2015, US District Court Judge James Brady ruled for Albert’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as banning a retrial. Yet, to this day Albert remains in solitary confinement. 

What do you think about Albert’s treatment in recent years, especially following Herman’s death? How about this US “criminal justice” system where an elder prisoner’s conviction can be overturned for a third time, but still be held captive and in solitary confinement?

ASB:  Sadly nothing about Albert’s treatment both prior to and following Herman’s death surprises me.

Like Herman, Albert has always been used by the state as an example to others who might fight back against state oppression. There is not a criminal justice system in America, there is a system of social control that relies on incarceration and violence. The state must put all the resources it has at its disposal to keep torturing people like Albert to make sure other people who even consider exposing the system’s contradictions think twice.

Look at how the NYPD have been continuing to harass and abuse Ramsay Orta, the man who recorded the NYPD murder of Eric Garner and his family. Albert’s case has never been about the evidence that had him convicted of Brent Miller’s murder, because there isn’t any.  It has always been about the state displaying its ruthless power.

Unfortunately for the state, the truth is the truth and the more the state tries to display power the more desperate and pathetic it looks.

(PHOTO: Herman Wallace, left, with Albert Woodfox, right)

–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com, where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. Additionally we are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more. Our articles and videos have been published by Alternet, Truthout, Counterpunch, Monthly Review, Z Magazine, Indymedia, and many others.

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling –An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling  
–An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

By Angola 3 News

Canadian filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla has never shied away from examining politically controversial topics. Nor does he play down his own artistic goal of using media to foster political change. Bhalla’s first independent work, entitled U.A.I.L. Go Back amplified the voices of Indian villagers resisting an alumina project backed by the Canadian company Alcan. The film became an important organizing tool used to pressure Alcan into ending its involvement in the project.

Bhalla has since co-founded Time of Day Media.and while working as a community organizer for immigrant rights, he produced videos for the Service Employees International Union, Working America, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups. His award-winning short on the lives of Indian street artists, Writings on the Wall, was broadcast on Canada’s Bravo! and Al Jazeera English.

Bhalla’s debut feature documentary was the 2012 film Herman’s House, about Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 and the collaborative project Wallace worked on with artist Jackie Sumell, entitled The House That Herman Built. The film screened at more than 40 festivals, was distributed theatrically in the US and Canada, and won an Emmy Award for its 2013 POV broadcast on PBS.


The newly released, interactive website-based documentary film made by Bhalla, entitled The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace, builds upon Herman’s House by further examining Herman Wallace’s life, following Wallace’s death from liver cancer on October 4, 2013, just three days after being released from prison. This latest film has already been well received. Along with a recent screening at the 28th annual International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, The Deeper They Bury Me has also been selected by Favourite Website Awards as the “Site of the Day” for December 14, where it is being displayed on the website’s front page for the full day.

In this interview, filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla discusses his latest film, The Deeper They Bury Me, while also reflecting upon his 2012 film Herman’s House, his personal relationship with Wallace and more. Bhalla concludes the interview with a focus on the call by Amnesty International and the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, who is the last of the Angola 3 behind bars. Despite three overturned convictions, Woodfox remains in prison and in solitary confinement, where he was first placed over 43 years ago.

(VIDEO: Coverage of the panel discussion following a recent screening of The Deeper They Bury Me at the 53rd New York Film Festival. Photos from this event by Lindsey Seide/NFB are featured below alongside still images taken from the film itself.)

Angola 3 News:  Can you please tell us how you first heard of Herman Wallace and the Angola 3?

Angad Singh Bhalla:  I first heard about Herman Wallace and the Angola 3 in 2002, shortly after Robert King’s release from prison. Artist Jackie Sumell organized a lecture for King at Stanford University, where I co-hosted a political talk show on the campus radio station at the time. Robert King remains one of the most memorable discussions we ever had on that show.

(PHOTO: Filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla at NY Film Festival)

A3N:  Your bio states that you use your films “to call attention to voices we rarely hear” and “as a means of fostering political change.” Your 2012 film Herman’s House certainly helped to amplify Herman’s voice and it created more public attention to Herman and the Angola 3. 

Looking beyond the immediate campaign for Herman’s release from prison and solitary confinement, as well as the continuing call today for Albert Woodfox’s release from prison and solitary, what do you feel were the central messages that you sought to focus on with Herman’s House?

ASB:  With the documentary Herman’s House, the real central message was that Herman Wallace, like all the other people we incarcerate, is a human being. As simple as that sounds, I think the prison industrial complex’s most devastating impact has been to dehumanize the people it incarcerates. We did not show any images of prisons in the documentary because I believe even the very sight of a prison can contribute to this dehumanization process.

With the film I hoped to transform Herman and indirectly everyone else we incarcerate from a convict or felon into a brother, a mentor, a friend and like all of us a dreamer. In that sense, unlike other profiles, I was not as focused on Herman’s innocence. While Herman was wrongfully convicted, I wanted to focus on the nature of his incarceration which ties him to the 2.3 million other Americans we put in prison.


 

A3N:  Now with the release of The Deeper They Bury Me a few years after Herman’s House, do the fundamental themes and issues addressed in this film differ at all? Otherwise, how do you think The Deeper They Bury Me complements Herman’s House?

ASB:  Similar to Herman’s House, I think the theme of humanizing Herman and focusing on the conditions of his incarceration remain in The Deeper They Bury Me. But at the same time I think The Deeper They Bury allowed me to bring more attention to the specific circumstances around Herman’s story.

In that sense I tried to highlight Herman’s past growing up in a segregated New Orleans to highlight how America’s racist history relates directly to America’s racist present. This experience of it being more a telling of Herman’s story by Herman, allowed me to explore his political convictions and work with the Black Panther Party more than I could in the film. I tried to highlight Herman’s position as a political prisoner in The Deeper They Bury Me.

Overall I think the interactive aspect compliments the film by providing much more of the historical and political conditions of Herman’s incarceration. While Herman’s situation may have been unique, those conditions are not. I hope that through this interactive telling of  Herman’s experience viewers begin to understand that history is present.

There is a reason that in the United States, people of color account for nearly 60% of the imprisoned while making up only 30% of the population. There is a reason that the United States, black Americans are six times more likely to be imprisoned than white Americans.

These reasons are not simple and go back to the founding myths of this country, which is why there are more black men under some form correctional supervision (imprisoned, on parole, or probation) than were enslaved in 1850.

A3N:  The interactive format of The Deeper They Bury Me is very cutting edge. Can you tell us more about the various interactive features that our readers will find when they go to watch the film? What do you feel that this interactive format adds? How does it change or enrich the viewing experience?

ASB:  Well, the entire experience is set up to determine what aspects of Herman’s life the user wants to hear him talk about. In many ways the prison industrial complex relies on framing spaces as tools of punishment and coercion. This interactive format allows people to actually explore 3D replicas of Herman’s cell, his dream bedroom, and prison dorm. Interacting with these spaces in relation to one another, I think, allows users to really question our notions of freedom and confinement.

While not all the environments are available at the same time, the user gets to decide which spaces she wants to linger in and which elements of Herman’s story she wants hear more about. Not being constrained by a linear narrative structure and the idea of always moving an audience forward, the interactive format provides audiences the opportunity to go deeper into what would be considered Herman’s back-story in a traditional documentary.

While of course the linear documentary is my point of reference in many ways, The Deeper They Bury Me is an entirely different kind of storytelling. It will never replace the linear form, but at the same time, it allows the user to get to enter Herman’s world from the point that is most relevant to them. Further, as a tool, being able to access each of the 25 one-minute videos independently allows activists to craft a narrative that best suits their campaign work. Herman’s story is so relevant for today’s young activists that I wanted to try to tell it in a form that is more relevant to young people who communicate so much now online.

(PHOTO: Harry Belafonte at NY Film Festival screening)

A3N:  Along with your two films about Herman, in 2014 another Angola 3-related film was made in Canada, entitled Hard Time, by Ron Harpelle, which focused on Robert H King. Seen in the context of these three films, how do you think Canadian audiences have responded to the story of the Angola 3?

ASB:  I think like most audiences, Canadian audiences are shocked when they first hear the story of the Angola 3. I think the Angola 3 story may find more receptive outlets in Canada and other countries outside the US simply because people feel good pointing out injustices happening in other countries.

In the ‘learn more’ section of site we included the fact that Aboriginal Canadians are ten times more likely to be incarcerated that other Canadians. As much as we Canadians might like to deny it, our criminal justice system extends from a sordid history of oppression and remains a racist tool of social control.

(PHOTO: NY Film Festival speaker panel)

A3N:  What is the significance of the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) involvement with The Deeper They Bury Me, both producing it and hosting the film on their website? How did the NFB become involved with the film?

ASB:  In 2010, I approached the NFB looking for their support to help produce Herman’s House, the linear film. It was producer Anita Lee at the NFB, who proposed the idea of creating an independent interactive piece that became The Deeper They Bury Me.

The NFB has been leading the development of interactive online storytelling since the field first emerged, so I was extremely excited that they saw interactive potential in Herman’s story. The NFB is not only a Canadian institution but it has a global legacy of producing critical independent documentary films, including films that inspired me to get into the field, like Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and The Media. As an NFB production, The Deeper They Bury Me becomes a part of an essential collection and will most importantly introduce Herman’s Story to an even broader audience.

A3N:  In October, 2013 after battling liver cancer for several months, Herman Wallace was released from prison. Just a few days later, he passed away in the company of family and friends. In the days following, tributes to Herman ranged from US Congressmen to the Washington Post and New York Times. As someone who has studied Herman’s life so closely, can you please reflect on his life and share with us what you think his legacy is today?

ASB:  It’s would be hard to overstate the impact Herman has had on my life. More than merely the subject of my past two documentary projects, over the 6 years that we conversed by phone he became both a friend and teacher in so many ways.

To be exonerated and released three days before passing away was undoubtedly tragic, but in so many ways Herman’s story is one of victory. His legacy will forever be that of someone who stood up to injustice and won. Not in the Hollywood way of winning where everything turns out okay in the end but in the messy way people who have struggled for justice get to win.

For four decades the system tried to silence Herman for his resistance. But like Herman’s poem from which this piece is titled, the deeper they tried to bury Herman the louder his voice became. The system had planned for Herman to die in prison, and even through he enjoyed only three days of freedom, he defied that system and that defiance made headlines around the world.

Herman decided long ago that he was willing to sacrifice his life to serve as symbol for so much of what is wrong with America’s prison industrial complex. As sad as I am that I lost a friend, I can feel his spirit smiling with the knowledge that his struggle and eventual victory is still inspiring a new generation of activists.

A3N:  We in the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 have sought to honor Herman’s legacy by “turning grief into strength,” and working for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox from both prison and solitary confinement, so that he will be able spend more time outside prison walls than Herman was able to.  In February 2013, several months before Herman’s cancer diagnosis, Albert’s conviction was overturned for a third time. Subsequently, in November 2014, this third overturned conviction was upheld by the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then in June 2015, US District Court Judge James Brady ruled for Albert’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as banning a retrial. Yet, to this day Albert remains in solitary confinement. 

What do you think about Albert’s treatment in recent years, especially following Herman’s death? How about this US “criminal justice” system where an elder prisoner’s conviction can be overturned for a third time, but still be held captive and in solitary confinement?

ASB:  Sadly nothing about Albert’s treatment both prior to and following Herman’s death surprises me.

Like Herman, Albert has always been used by the state as an example to others who might fight back against state oppression. There is not a criminal justice system in America, there is a system of social control that relies on incarceration and violence. The state must put all the resources it has at its disposal to keep torturing people like Albert to make sure other people who even consider exposing the system’s contradictions think twice.

Look at how the NYPD have been continuing to harass and abuse Ramsay Orta, the man who recorded the NYPD murder of Eric Garner and his family. Albert’s case has never been about the evidence that had him convicted of Brent Miller’s murder, because there isn’t any.  It has always been about the state displaying its ruthless power.

Unfortunately for the state, the truth is the truth and the more the state tries to display power the more desperate and pathetic it looks.

(PHOTO: Herman Wallace, left, with Albert Woodfox, right)

–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com, where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. Additionally we are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more. Our articles and videos have been published by Alternet, Truthout, Counterpunch, Monthly Review, Z Magazine, Indymedia, and many others.

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling –An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

Never Silenced, Herman Wallace’s Spirit is Smiling  
–An interview with filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla

By Angola 3 News

Canadian filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla has never shied away from examining politically controversial topics. Nor does he play down his own artistic goal of using media to foster political change. Bhalla’s first independent work, entitled U.A.I.L. Go Back amplified the voices of Indian villagers resisting an alumina project backed by the Canadian company Alcan. The film became an important organizing tool used to pressure Alcan into ending its involvement in the project.

Bhalla has since co-founded Time of Day Media.and while working as a community organizer for immigrant rights, he produced videos for the Service Employees International Union, Working America, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups. His award-winning short on the lives of Indian street artists, Writings on the Wall, was broadcast on Canada’s Bravo! and Al Jazeera English.

Bhalla’s debut feature documentary was the 2012 film Herman’s House, about Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 and the collaborative project Wallace worked on with artist Jackie Sumell, entitled The House That Herman Built. The film screened at more than 40 festivals, was distributed theatrically in the US and Canada, and won an Emmy Award for its 2013 POV broadcast on PBS.


The newly released, interactive website-based documentary film made by Bhalla, entitled The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace, builds upon Herman’s House by further examining Herman Wallace’s life, following Wallace’s death from liver cancer on October 4, 2013, just three days after being released from prison. This latest film has already been well received. Along with a recent screening at the 28th annual International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, The Deeper They Bury Me has also been selected by Favourite Website Awards as the “Site of the Day” for December 14, where it is being displayed on the website’s front page for the full day.

In this interview, filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla discusses his latest film, The Deeper They Bury Me, while also reflecting upon his 2012 film Herman’s House, his personal relationship with Wallace and more. Bhalla concludes the interview with a focus on the call by Amnesty International and the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, who is the last of the Angola 3 behind bars. Despite three overturned convictions, Woodfox remains in prison and in solitary confinement, where he was first placed over 43 years ago.

(VIDEO: Coverage of the panel discussion following a recent screening of The Deeper They Bury Me at the 53rd New York Film Festival. Photos from this event by Lindsey Seide/NFB are featured below alongside still images taken from the film itself.)

Angola 3 News:  Can you please tell us how you first heard of Herman Wallace and the Angola 3?

Angad Singh Bhalla:  I first heard about Herman Wallace and the Angola 3 in 2002, shortly after Robert King’s release from prison. Artist Jackie Sumell organized a lecture for King at Stanford University, where I co-hosted a political talk show on the campus radio station at the time. Robert King remains one of the most memorable discussions we ever had on that show.

(PHOTO: Filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla at NY Film Festival)

A3N:  Your bio states that you use your films “to call attention to voices we rarely hear” and “as a means of fostering political change.” Your 2012 film Herman’s House certainly helped to amplify Herman’s voice and it created more public attention to Herman and the Angola 3. 

Looking beyond the immediate campaign for Herman’s release from prison and solitary confinement, as well as the continuing call today for Albert Woodfox’s release from prison and solitary, what do you feel were the central messages that you sought to focus on with Herman’s House?

ASB:  With the documentary Herman’s House, the real central message was that Herman Wallace, like all the other people we incarcerate, is a human being. As simple as that sounds, I think the prison industrial complex’s most devastating impact has been to dehumanize the people it incarcerates. We did not show any images of prisons in the documentary because I believe even the very sight of a prison can contribute to this dehumanization process.

With the film I hoped to transform Herman and indirectly everyone else we incarcerate from a convict or felon into a brother, a mentor, a friend and like all of us a dreamer. In that sense, unlike other profiles, I was not as focused on Herman’s innocence. While Herman was wrongfully convicted, I wanted to focus on the nature of his incarceration which ties him to the 2.3 million other Americans we put in prison.


 

A3N:  Now with the release of The Deeper They Bury Me a few years after Herman’s House, do the fundamental themes and issues addressed in this film differ at all? Otherwise, how do you think The Deeper They Bury Me complements Herman’s House?

ASB:  Similar to Herman’s House, I think the theme of humanizing Herman and focusing on the conditions of his incarceration remain in The Deeper They Bury Me. But at the same time I think The Deeper They Bury allowed me to bring more attention to the specific circumstances around Herman’s story.

In that sense I tried to highlight Herman’s past growing up in a segregated New Orleans to highlight how America’s racist history relates directly to America’s racist present. This experience of it being more a telling of Herman’s story by Herman, allowed me to explore his political convictions and work with the Black Panther Party more than I could in the film. I tried to highlight Herman’s position as a political prisoner in The Deeper They Bury Me.

Overall I think the interactive aspect compliments the film by providing much more of the historical and political conditions of Herman’s incarceration. While Herman’s situation may have been unique, those conditions are not. I hope that through this interactive telling of  Herman’s experience viewers begin to understand that history is present.

There is a reason that in the United States, people of color account for nearly 60% of the imprisoned while making up only 30% of the population. There is a reason that the United States, black Americans are six times more likely to be imprisoned than white Americans.

These reasons are not simple and go back to the founding myths of this country, which is why there are more black men under some form correctional supervision (imprisoned, on parole, or probation) than were enslaved in 1850.

A3N:  The interactive format of The Deeper They Bury Me is very cutting edge. Can you tell us more about the various interactive features that our readers will find when they go to watch the film? What do you feel that this interactive format adds? How does it change or enrich the viewing experience?

ASB:  Well, the entire experience is set up to determine what aspects of Herman’s life the user wants to hear him talk about. In many ways the prison industrial complex relies on framing spaces as tools of punishment and coercion. This interactive format allows people to actually explore 3D replicas of Herman’s cell, his dream bedroom, and prison dorm. Interacting with these spaces in relation to one another, I think, allows users to really question our notions of freedom and confinement.

While not all the environments are available at the same time, the user gets to decide which spaces she wants to linger in and which elements of Herman’s story she wants hear more about. Not being constrained by a linear narrative structure and the idea of always moving an audience forward, the interactive format provides audiences the opportunity to go deeper into what would be considered Herman’s back-story in a traditional documentary.

While of course the linear documentary is my point of reference in many ways, The Deeper They Bury Me is an entirely different kind of storytelling. It will never replace the linear form, but at the same time, it allows the user to get to enter Herman’s world from the point that is most relevant to them. Further, as a tool, being able to access each of the 25 one-minute videos independently allows activists to craft a narrative that best suits their campaign work. Herman’s story is so relevant for today’s young activists that I wanted to try to tell it in a form that is more relevant to young people who communicate so much now online.

(PHOTO: Harry Belafonte at NY Film Festival screening)

A3N:  Along with your two films about Herman, in 2014 another Angola 3-related film was made in Canada, entitled Hard Time, by Ron Harpelle, which focused on Robert H King. Seen in the context of these three films, how do you think Canadian audiences have responded to the story of the Angola 3?

ASB:  I think like most audiences, Canadian audiences are shocked when they first hear the story of the Angola 3. I think the Angola 3 story may find more receptive outlets in Canada and other countries outside the US simply because people feel good pointing out injustices happening in other countries.

In the ‘learn more’ section of site we included the fact that Aboriginal Canadians are ten times more likely to be incarcerated that other Canadians. As much as we Canadians might like to deny it, our criminal justice system extends from a sordid history of oppression and remains a racist tool of social control.

(PHOTO: NY Film Festival speaker panel)

A3N:  What is the significance of the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) involvement with The Deeper They Bury Me, both producing it and hosting the film on their website? How did the NFB become involved with the film?

ASB:  In 2010, I approached the NFB looking for their support to help produce Herman’s House, the linear film. It was producer Anita Lee at the NFB, who proposed the idea of creating an independent interactive piece that became The Deeper They Bury Me.

The NFB has been leading the development of interactive online storytelling since the field first emerged, so I was extremely excited that they saw interactive potential in Herman’s story. The NFB is not only a Canadian institution but it has a global legacy of producing critical independent documentary films, including films that inspired me to get into the field, like Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and The Media. As an NFB production, The Deeper They Bury Me becomes a part of an essential collection and will most importantly introduce Herman’s Story to an even broader audience.

A3N:  In October, 2013 after battling liver cancer for several months, Herman Wallace was released from prison. Just a few days later, he passed away in the company of family and friends. In the days following, tributes to Herman ranged from US Congressmen to the Washington Post and New York Times. As someone who has studied Herman’s life so closely, can you please reflect on his life and share with us what you think his legacy is today?

ASB:  It’s would be hard to overstate the impact Herman has had on my life. More than merely the subject of my past two documentary projects, over the 6 years that we conversed by phone he became both a friend and teacher in so many ways.

To be exonerated and released three days before passing away was undoubtedly tragic, but in so many ways Herman’s story is one of victory. His legacy will forever be that of someone who stood up to injustice and won. Not in the Hollywood way of winning where everything turns out okay in the end but in the messy way people who have struggled for justice get to win.

For four decades the system tried to silence Herman for his resistance. But like Herman’s poem from which this piece is titled, the deeper they tried to bury Herman the louder his voice became. The system had planned for Herman to die in prison, and even through he enjoyed only three days of freedom, he defied that system and that defiance made headlines around the world.

Herman decided long ago that he was willing to sacrifice his life to serve as symbol for so much of what is wrong with America’s prison industrial complex. As sad as I am that I lost a friend, I can feel his spirit smiling with the knowledge that his struggle and eventual victory is still inspiring a new generation of activists.

A3N:  We in the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 have sought to honor Herman’s legacy by “turning grief into strength,” and working for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox from both prison and solitary confinement, so that he will be able spend more time outside prison walls than Herman was able to.  In February 2013, several months before Herman’s cancer diagnosis, Albert’s conviction was overturned for a third time. Subsequently, in November 2014, this third overturned conviction was upheld by the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then in June 2015, US District Court Judge James Brady ruled for Albert’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as banning a retrial. Yet, to this day Albert remains in solitary confinement. 

What do you think about Albert’s treatment in recent years, especially following Herman’s death? How about this US “criminal justice” system where an elder prisoner’s conviction can be overturned for a third time, but still be held captive and in solitary confinement?

ASB:  Sadly nothing about Albert’s treatment both prior to and following Herman’s death surprises me.

Like Herman, Albert has always been used by the state as an example to others who might fight back against state oppression. There is not a criminal justice system in America, there is a system of social control that relies on incarceration and violence. The state must put all the resources it has at its disposal to keep torturing people like Albert to make sure other people who even consider exposing the system’s contradictions think twice.

Look at how the NYPD have been continuing to harass and abuse Ramsay Orta, the man who recorded the NYPD murder of Eric Garner and his family. Albert’s case has never been about the evidence that had him convicted of Brent Miller’s murder, because there isn’t any.  It has always been about the state displaying its ruthless power.

Unfortunately for the state, the truth is the truth and the more the state tries to display power the more desperate and pathetic it looks.

(PHOTO: Herman Wallace, left, with Albert Woodfox, right)

–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com, where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. Additionally we are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more. Our articles and videos have been published by Alternet, Truthout, Counterpunch, Monthly Review, Z Magazine, Indymedia, and many others.

New Orleans, Dec. 12: Art for Rights / Write for Rights, Amnesty Intl. event with Robert King and BMike


Join Amnesty International USA in New Orleans on December 12, from 10am to 6pm, to celebrate art, human rights and international solidarity. As part of the organization’s annual “Write for Rights” campaign, Amnesty International USA is partnering with New Orleans native, Brandan “BMike” Odums to host an “Art for Rights” pop-up exhibition at Studio Be, 2925-2999 Royal Street in New Orleans. Attendees will not only have the opportunity to write letters on behalf of prisoners and human rights defenders from around the world, they will witness the creation of 12 different murals honoring the struggles and activism of individuals on whose behalf Amnesty works.

Art can be a cultural tool during times of unrest to expose truths, helping to humanize social struggle and actualize grievances and fears. Often, it is what inspires us to action.

Amnesty has chosen to hold the inaugural event in New Orleans where Albert Woodfox, one of the 12 cases featured in this year’s Write for Rights campaign, has been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years.

Robert King, the first freed member of the Angola 3, will be joining BMike as the keynote speaker.

Art For Rights
Saturday, December 12th, 2015
10am – 6pm
StudioBe
2925-2999 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA

MORE INFORMATION: 

Through the Write for Rights campaign, every year in acknowledgement of Human Rights Day on December 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a message to someone they’ve never met. Letter writing has always been at the heart of Amnesty International’s human rights campaigning and 54 years of human rights activism shows us that the collective action of our members really does have the power to change lives. 

This year, Art For Amnesty is doing something different, we are amplifying Write for Rights with art. On December 12th, a historic event will take place: ART FOR RIGHTS. Through a partnership with New Orleans native, Brandan “BMike” Odums, we are collaborating with 12 artists to highlight the stories of 12 international cases through art and creative installations. In addition to an experience aimed to bring attention to Louisiana as the “Prison Capital of The World”, murals will call attention to cases of solitary confinement, torture, forced marriage, forced eviction, imprisonment for a miscarriage, LGBTQI rights, death penalty, enforced disappearance and prisoners of conscience.

The end goal remains the same: to inspire participants to write letters and take action.

Art can be a cultural tool during times of unrest to expose truths, helping to humanize social struggle and actualize grievances and fears. Often times, it is what inspires us to action. We’ve chosen to hold the inaugural event in New Orleans where Albert Woodfox, one of the 12 cases, has been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years. Art for Rights will be located in a 30,000 square foot warehouse, where over 5,000 people will join Art For Amnesty for a one-day, free, pop-up art event, with the unveiling of the work by these amazing artists.
   
OBJECTIVES: 
                    
–    10,000 letters for the Write for Rights Campaign (5,000 participants x 2 letters per person for entry) 
–    2,500 Letters Submitted Online
–    Draw attention and call for the release of Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement.
–    Engage with stakeholders from the criminal justice, human rights, arts, and activist communities to lay the groundwork for further action on mass incarceration in Louisiana.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED:

•    ATTEND ART FOR RIGHTS

–    Come Out and Bring Friends – Please help us make sure as many people as possible attend the inaugural Art For Rights pop-up exhibit by attending and/or organizing a group trip. Admission is simply two letters for the Write For Rights campaign.

Please contact Shasti Conrad at sconrad@mskolnik.com for additional information

New Orleans, Dec. 12: Art for Rights / Write for Rights, Amnesty Intl. event with Robert King and BMike


Join Amnesty International USA in New Orleans on December 12, from 10am to 6pm, to celebrate art, human rights and international solidarity. As part of the organization’s annual “Write for Rights” campaign, Amnesty International USA is partnering with New Orleans native, Brandan “BMike” Odums to host an “Art for Rights” pop-up exhibition at Studio Be, 2925-2999 Royal Street in New Orleans. Attendees will not only have the opportunity to write letters on behalf of prisoners and human rights defenders from around the world, they will witness the creation of 12 different murals honoring the struggles and activism of individuals on whose behalf Amnesty works.

Art can be a cultural tool during times of unrest to expose truths, helping to humanize social struggle and actualize grievances and fears. Often, it is what inspires us to action.

Amnesty has chosen to hold the inaugural event in New Orleans where Albert Woodfox, one of the 12 cases featured in this year’s Write for Rights campaign, has been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years.

Robert King, the first freed member of the Angola 3, will be joining BMike as the keynote speaker.

Art For Rights
Saturday, December 12th, 2015
10am – 6pm
StudioBe
2925-2999 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA

MORE INFORMATION: 

Through the Write for Rights campaign, every year in acknowledgement of Human Rights Day on December 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a message to someone they’ve never met. Letter writing has always been at the heart of Amnesty International’s human rights campaigning and 54 years of human rights activism shows us that the collective action of our members really does have the power to change lives. 

This year, Art For Amnesty is doing something different, we are amplifying Write for Rights with art. On December 12th, a historic event will take place: ART FOR RIGHTS. Through a partnership with New Orleans native, Brandan “BMike” Odums, we are collaborating with 12 artists to highlight the stories of 12 international cases through art and creative installations. In addition to an experience aimed to bring attention to Louisiana as the “Prison Capital of The World”, murals will call attention to cases of solitary confinement, torture, forced marriage, forced eviction, imprisonment for a miscarriage, LGBTQI rights, death penalty, enforced disappearance and prisoners of conscience.

The end goal remains the same: to inspire participants to write letters and take action.

Art can be a cultural tool during times of unrest to expose truths, helping to humanize social struggle and actualize grievances and fears. Often times, it is what inspires us to action. We’ve chosen to hold the inaugural event in New Orleans where Albert Woodfox, one of the 12 cases, has been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years. Art for Rights will be located in a 30,000 square foot warehouse, where over 5,000 people will join Art For Amnesty for a one-day, free, pop-up art event, with the unveiling of the work by these amazing artists.
   
OBJECTIVES: 
                    
–    10,000 letters for the Write for Rights Campaign (5,000 participants x 2 letters per person for entry) 
–    2,500 Letters Submitted Online
–    Draw attention and call for the release of Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement.
–    Engage with stakeholders from the criminal justice, human rights, arts, and activist communities to lay the groundwork for further action on mass incarceration in Louisiana.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED:

•    ATTEND ART FOR RIGHTS

–    Come Out and Bring Friends – Please help us make sure as many people as possible attend the inaugural Art For Rights pop-up exhibit by attending and/or organizing a group trip. Admission is simply two letters for the Write For Rights campaign.

Please contact Shasti Conrad at sconrad@mskolnik.com for additional information

New Orleans, Dec. 12: Art for Rights / Write for Rights, Amnesty Intl. event with Robert King and BMike


Join Amnesty International USA in New Orleans on December 12, from 10am to 6pm, to celebrate art, human rights and international solidarity. As part of the organization’s annual “Write for Rights” campaign, Amnesty International USA is partnering with New Orleans native, Brandan “BMike” Odums to host an “Art for Rights” pop-up exhibition at Studio Be, 2925-2999 Royal Street in New Orleans. Attendees will not only have the opportunity to write letters on behalf of prisoners and human rights defenders from around the world, they will witness the creation of 12 different murals honoring the struggles and activism of individuals on whose behalf Amnesty works.

Art can be a cultural tool during times of unrest to expose truths, helping to humanize social struggle and actualize grievances and fears. Often, it is what inspires us to action.

Amnesty has chosen to hold the inaugural event in New Orleans where Albert Woodfox, one of the 12 cases featured in this year’s Write for Rights campaign, has been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years.

Robert King, the first freed member of the Angola 3, will be joining BMike as the keynote speaker.

Art For Rights
Saturday, December 12th, 2015
10am – 6pm
StudioBe
2925-2999 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA

MORE INFORMATION: 

Through the Write for Rights campaign, every year in acknowledgement of Human Rights Day on December 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a message to someone they’ve never met. Letter writing has always been at the heart of Amnesty International’s human rights campaigning and 54 years of human rights activism shows us that the collective action of our members really does have the power to change lives. 

This year, Art For Amnesty is doing something different, we are amplifying Write for Rights with art. On December 12th, a historic event will take place: ART FOR RIGHTS. Through a partnership with New Orleans native, Brandan “BMike” Odums, we are collaborating with 12 artists to highlight the stories of 12 international cases through art and creative installations. In addition to an experience aimed to bring attention to Louisiana as the “Prison Capital of The World”, murals will call attention to cases of solitary confinement, torture, forced marriage, forced eviction, imprisonment for a miscarriage, LGBTQI rights, death penalty, enforced disappearance and prisoners of conscience.

The end goal remains the same: to inspire participants to write letters and take action.

Art can be a cultural tool during times of unrest to expose truths, helping to humanize social struggle and actualize grievances and fears. Often times, it is what inspires us to action. We’ve chosen to hold the inaugural event in New Orleans where Albert Woodfox, one of the 12 cases, has been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years. Art for Rights will be located in a 30,000 square foot warehouse, where over 5,000 people will join Art For Amnesty for a one-day, free, pop-up art event, with the unveiling of the work by these amazing artists.
   
OBJECTIVES: 
                    
–    10,000 letters for the Write for Rights Campaign (5,000 participants x 2 letters per person for entry) 
–    2,500 Letters Submitted Online
–    Draw attention and call for the release of Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement.
–    Engage with stakeholders from the criminal justice, human rights, arts, and activist communities to lay the groundwork for further action on mass incarceration in Louisiana.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED:

•    ATTEND ART FOR RIGHTS

–    Come Out and Bring Friends – Please help us make sure as many people as possible attend the inaugural Art For Rights pop-up exhibit by attending and/or organizing a group trip. Admission is simply two letters for the Write For Rights campaign.

Please contact Shasti Conrad at sconrad@mskolnik.com for additional information

New Orleans, Dec. 12: Art for Rights / Write for Rights, Amnesty Intl. event with Robert King and BMike


Join Amnesty International USA in New Orleans on December 12, from 10am to 6pm, to celebrate art, human rights and international solidarity. As part of the organization’s annual “Write for Rights” campaign, Amnesty International USA is partnering with New Orleans native, Brandan “BMike” Odums to host an “Art for Rights” pop-up exhibition at Studio Be, 2925-2999 Royal Street in New Orleans. Attendees will not only have the opportunity to write letters on behalf of prisoners and human rights defenders from around the world, they will witness the creation of 12 different murals honoring the struggles and activism of individuals on whose behalf Amnesty works.

Art can be a cultural tool during times of unrest to expose truths, helping to humanize social struggle and actualize grievances and fears. Often, it is what inspires us to action.

Amnesty has chosen to hold the inaugural event in New Orleans where Albert Woodfox, one of the 12 cases featured in this year’s Write for Rights campaign, has been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years.

Robert King, the first freed member of the Angola 3, will be joining BMike as the keynote speaker.

Art For Rights
Saturday, December 12th, 2015
10am – 6pm
StudioBe
2925-2999 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA

MORE INFORMATION: 

Through the Write for Rights campaign, every year in acknowledgement of Human Rights Day on December 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a message to someone they’ve never met. Letter writing has always been at the heart of Amnesty International’s human rights campaigning and 54 years of human rights activism shows us that the collective action of our members really does have the power to change lives. 

This year, Art For Amnesty is doing something different, we are amplifying Write for Rights with art. On December 12th, a historic event will take place: ART FOR RIGHTS. Through a partnership with New Orleans native, Brandan “BMike” Odums, we are collaborating with 12 artists to highlight the stories of 12 international cases through art and creative installations. In addition to an experience aimed to bring attention to Louisiana as the “Prison Capital of The World”, murals will call attention to cases of solitary confinement, torture, forced marriage, forced eviction, imprisonment for a miscarriage, LGBTQI rights, death penalty, enforced disappearance and prisoners of conscience.

The end goal remains the same: to inspire participants to write letters and take action.

Art can be a cultural tool during times of unrest to expose truths, helping to humanize social struggle and actualize grievances and fears. Often times, it is what inspires us to action. We’ve chosen to hold the inaugural event in New Orleans where Albert Woodfox, one of the 12 cases, has been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years. Art for Rights will be located in a 30,000 square foot warehouse, where over 5,000 people will join Art For Amnesty for a one-day, free, pop-up art event, with the unveiling of the work by these amazing artists.
   
OBJECTIVES: 
                    
–    10,000 letters for the Write for Rights Campaign (5,000 participants x 2 letters per person for entry) 
–    2,500 Letters Submitted Online
–    Draw attention and call for the release of Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement.
–    Engage with stakeholders from the criminal justice, human rights, arts, and activist communities to lay the groundwork for further action on mass incarceration in Louisiana.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED:

•    ATTEND ART FOR RIGHTS

–    Come Out and Bring Friends – Please help us make sure as many people as possible attend the inaugural Art For Rights pop-up exhibit by attending and/or organizing a group trip. Admission is simply two letters for the Write For Rights campaign.

Please contact Shasti Conrad at sconrad@mskolnik.com for additional information