Taken from an Oct. 10 column posted at prisonradio.org.
The long and tortured life of Herman Wallace, of the famed Angola 3, was meant to terrorize us; to stifle the resistance that flamed throughout Black America (and many others across the country) during the 1960s and 1970s.
If so, it failed utterly.
For Herman Wallace, former Black Panther, despite the monstrous torture he sustained over 41 years in the hole of Angola (I will not dignify it with the name “prison”) slave plantation, was one who was caged precisely because, in mind, if not in body, he was free.
He was one of three, [along with] his fellow ex-Panthers, Robert Hillary King and Albert Woodfox, who made up the Angola 3 and exemplified strength, determination and will during their hellish times in Louisiana’s wretched dungeons.
I have used the word “torture” and I don’t use it lightly.
Juan Méndez, special rapporteur for the United Nations, has found that solitary confinement, for any period past 14 days, constitutes real psychological torture that destroys human beings. Fourteen days.
Herman Wallace, convicted on trumped-up charges under poisonous Louisiana “justice,” spent 41 years in solitary.
In Angola. In Lousiana. In the United States of America.
Forty-one years. Let’s put it another way. Herman Wallace spent 14,965 days in solitary. Herman Wallace spent 359,160 hours in solitary. Herman Wallace spent 21,549,600 seconds in solitary.
When a federal judge tossed out his illegal and unconstitutional conviction, ordering his release, Herman Wallace, bed-ridden, spent three days in freedom until returning to his ancestors.
His flesh is returned to the earth, our Mother. But his spirit burns with strength and rock solid commitment to freedom for us all.
According to published reports, Herman’s last words were, “I am free!”
But he always was.
Herman’s contribution to freedom, even while in the vilest dungeons in America, while in shackles and chains, in Angola, was immense.
If he were still present, he would urge us all not to forget his brother-in-chains, Albert Woodfox. For, as the saying goes, “Freedom is a constant struggle!”
In the Black Panther Party, there was a saying: “When an oppressor dies, it is lighter than a feather; but when a revolutionary dies, it is heavier than a mountain.”
Herman’s death is heavier than a mountain, for he deserved more than three days of freedom, away from the stench of Angola and Louisiana “justice.”
Yet his death, his suffering, his torture, his loneliness reminds us all of the true nature of the System; and the dark, monstrous features of the prison-industrial complex; a complex of matchless cruelty and unbridled savagery.
Herman, Albert and Robert were subjected to such treatment because they courageously resisted and opposed such repression. They organized a chapter of the Black Panther Party while prisoners in Angola!
They were targeted and tortured for engaging in (I kid you not) “Black Pantherism”!
So remember Herman’s sacrifice: 41 years. 14,965 days. 359,160 hours. 21,549,600 seconds.
And his last words: “I am free!”
May we all live to find such freedom!