Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A3 Newsletter: Zulu Whitmore, National Book Awards, Smithsonian Scholars, upcoming events and more

A3 IN THE NEWS:    New Orleans Public Radio interviews Robert King  II  Albert Woodfox at the University of Chicago  II  NPR Illinois interviews Albert and others at National Book Awards event  II Reading Albert Woodfox's Solitary While Being Detained at Guantanamo  

(PHOTO: Albert Woodfox and Robert King join other supporters of Kenny "Zulu" Whitmore at Zulu's court hearing in Baton Rouge on Nov. 25.  Many of the supporters are Zulu's family members, who traveled from outside of the state. Read more about this inspiring day below. Click on photo for a larger image.)

A3 Newsletter, December 3, 2019: Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020

Winding up a wild year of non-stop, back-to-back events, Albert will be heading to the Making and Unmaking Mass Incarceration Conference in Oxford, Mississippi on Wednesday (see flyer below) and then on to San Francisco where he will be a special guest at the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice Conference on Saturday, December 7.

Above, we have compiled several new interviews with Albert and Robert and a great photo of them with a large group of supporters at Zulu's hearing on November 25th. 

Looks like the beat will go on in 2020. Albert and King are starting out the new year heading to San Francisco for the de Young Museum "Soul of the Nation" exhibit's free public panel discussion on January 11, in conversation with artist and longtime A3 supporter Rigo 23, discussing how art and artists helped create the visibility for the Angola 3 case.  

Wishing all Angola 3 supporters the very best over the holidays and we are all hoping for a much, much better New Year!!

(FLYER: Albert Woodfox will be a Keynote Speaker at the Making and Unmaking Mass Incarceration Conference, being held at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi on December 4-6, 2019. Other keynote speakers include Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Robin D.G. Kelley.)

Smithsonian Institute Scholar Chooses Solitary As His Favorite 2019 Book

(Illustration by Shaylyn Esposito, featured on the Smithsonian Magazine website)

The Smithsonian Magazine reports that Albert Woodfox's memoir Solitary was one of the books chosen by a cross-section of scholars from the Smithsonian Institute who were asked to recommend their favorite book of 2019. It was Paul Gardullo, a museum curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, who chose Solitary. In the article, Gardullo explains his decision:

(quote begins)

One of the inaugural exhibitions at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is entitled, Making a Way Out of No Way. The crucial phrase encapsulates the hope and strategies for making change and it mirrors the museum's mission, meaning and approach to understanding African American history and its influence on the world. With his searing memoir, Solitary: My Story of Transformation and Hope, Albert Woodfox has given voice to one of the most profound testaments to have been published in this century of this spiritual and existential act.

Woodfox was a member of the "Angola Three," the former inmates who were imprisoned at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (famously known as Angola). Originally convicted of armed robbery, Woodfox, along with Herman Wallace and Robert King, were placed in solitary confinement in April 1972, accused of killing a corrections officer. 

On November 20, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned Woodfox's murder conviction, and in April 2015, his lawyer applied for an unconditional writ for his release, which was granted on February 19, 2016. Woodfox was the last member of the Angola Three to be released from prison, where he served the world's longest term in solitary confinement.

His incredibly powerful and distressing book charts his life story, most of which was lived within a six-by-nine-foot cell in Angola, a former slave plantation and since then a working prison farm. 

I had the opportunity to collect Woodfox's oral history along with the last set of his prison-issued clothing after his release and just before NMAAHC opened to the public in 2016.

In Solitary, Woodfox delivers penetrating insight into American society and the deep humaneness that I witnessed in the short time I spent with him. It is a personal meditation that becomes a window into America's soul and the nation's troubled history with race and incarceration. 

In relating what he still holds dear as his greatest achievement--teaching another inmate to read--Woodfox writes, "After years in prison and solitary confinement, I'd experienced all the emotions the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections wanted from me-anger, bitterness, the thirst to see someone suffer the way I was suffering, the revenge factor, all that. But I also became something they didn't want or expect-self-educated. . . . Reading was my salvation." 

With Solitary, Woodfox gives readers an unexpected and profound gift: the ability to see humanity in the midst of the worst conditions and to find hope there. He makes visible the tools needed to set our country on a path for transformation toward reckoning, justice and reform.

(quote ends)

Congratulations to National Book Award Winner Sarah H. Broom!

We want to send our congratulations to New Orleans writer Sarah Broom, author of "The Yellow House," for winning the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction! 

Albert Woodfox's book "Solitary" was also one of four finalists nominated for the prestigious award's Nonfiction category. The New Orleans publication, The Advocate, concluded their article on Sarah Bloom and Albert's nominations by writing:

"The fact that two Louisiana-based titles were nominated underscores the state's outsized influence on American culture. For those of us who live here, it's a reality that's easy to overlook."

We were obviously rooting for Albert to win the National Book Award for Nonfiction. However, if that was not meant to be, we are glad that the award went to Broom for her excellent memoir, The Yellow House. 

The Advocate writes that Broom's "book about growing up in New Orleans East is a history of the city in the years before and after Hurricane Katrina told through the lens of Broom's family and the home they shared. Reviewers have praised the book since its August release as a major work whose evocative sketches elevated it above and beyond the ever-expanding collection of 'Katrina memoirs' into a foundational portrait of contemporary New Orleans and its people."

--Read more here.

New Reviews of Solitary by Counterpunch and Vox

In the past month, the online magazines Vox and Counterpunch published new reviews of Albert's book.

Vox Magazine featured a review of each book nominated for a 2019 National Book Award. In her review of Solitary, Vox writer Aja Romano calls it "a vital first-hand account of carceral brutality, told with astonishing aplomb...Woodfox rattles off detail after detail of the hellscape he's thrust into - a bogglingly complex ecosystem of violence and corruption. 'It's painful to remember how violent Angola was in those days,' he says at one point. 'I don't like to go into it.' But he does, with prose that shocks because it is so readable, plainspoken, and awful."

Romano reflects: "It seems unthinkable that anything can be uplifting in such a place, but the collective spirit and sense of brotherhood among the Angola Three sustains and animates their long, grueling fight for freedom." Read the full review here.

Another review from this past month was by Counterpunch's Eve Ottenberg, who writes that "this book is about a confrontation with evil. It is about being in the hands of wickedness itself and still, somehow, not succumbing, not submitting to utter powerlessness."

Ottenberg notes that Woodfox, King, and Wallace "helped their fellow inmates by treating them as human beings deserving of respect and dignity. Woodfox writes that his greatest achievement in Angola was teaching another prisoner to read. The Angola 3 made a special issue of prison rape, protecting victims and announcing to potential rapists that they would have to fight Woodfox, King and Wallace." Read the full review here.  

Angela A. Allen-Bell reports back from  Kenny "Zulu" Whitmore's Nov. 25 Court Hearing
--Zulu's next hearing is on December 11

SULC Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell was one of many supporters (including Robert King and Albert Woodfox) that attended Kenny "Zulu" Whitmore's court hearing on November 25 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

Following the hearing and a strong showing of public support at the courthouse, Prof. Bell told the A3 Coalition that "Zulu's spirits were really lifted by our presence today. The State now has until the next court date (December 11) to test the fingerprints."

If you live close enough, please help support Zulu by attending his court date next month. The December 11 hearing will be at the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, LA.

In the meantime, Prof. Bell urges supporters to keep up the public pressure: "The Louisiana courts need to know all eyes are on them."

For more information about Zulu's case, please visit www.freezulu.org

(PHOTO: Zulu celebrates Christmas with his family on December 28, 2016. This photo and several others taken of Zulu visiting with his family were published by the SF Bay View Newspaper in 2017.)

Send Zulu Some Holiday Season Love! 
Write Him:

Kenny Zulu Whitmore
86468 - Cypress #3
LA State Prison
Angola, LA 70712

Other Important News Stories
The New Black Codes  (Truthdig)

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