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Albert Woodfox mural reminds New Orleans of 43 years of injustice

July 13, 2015

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News broadcast July 5, 2015

A new 25-foot mural in the City of New Orleans reminds residents that Albert Woodfox, the last imprisoned member of the Angola 3, has been in prison and in solitary confinement for 43 years.

Transcript

The stunning Albert Woodfox mural, just completed by Brandan Odums, is on the building at 537 S. Claiborne Ave. at Poydras in New Orleans. – Photo: Doug MacCash, Times-Picayune

The stunning Albert Woodfox mural, just completed by Brandan Odums, is on the building at 537 S. Claiborne Ave. at Poydras in New Orleans. – Photo: Doug MacCash, Times-Picayune

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Cameron Jones: On Friday, July 3rd, artist-activist Brandan “Bmike” Odums, put the finishing touches on a 25-foot portrait of Angola 3 prisoner Albert Woodfox on the side of a stucco building near the Poydras Street intersection, at 537 S. Claiborne Ave. in New Orleans. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has the story.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Artist-activist Brandan “Bmike” Odums’s black and white mural depicts Albert Woodfox against a white setting sun striped with prison bars. Text beside the mural reads “Four Decades of Solitary, 43 Years of Injustice.” Odums created the mural with the support of Amnesty International-USA’s “Art for Amnesty” program.

Sixty-eight-year-old Albert Woodfox is the only member of the internationally celebrated Angola 3 who remains in prison – and in solitary confinement – in Louisiana, most of that time at Louisiana’s infamous Angola Prison, recently transferred to a detention center in St. Francisville, for charges related to the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller.

Angola 3 member Robert King was released after his conviction for murdering another prisoner was overturned in 2001.

Angola 3 prisoner Herman Wallace died in October 2013 after 41 years in solitary confinement. Wallace died of liver cancer three days after a federal judge ruled that his indictment had been unconstitutional and he was released in an ambulance.

A new 25-foot mural in the City of New Orleans reminds residents that Albert Woodfox, the last imprisoned member of the Angola 3, has been in prison and in solitary confinement for 43 years.

All three of the Angola 3 maintain that they were convicted on false charges and kept in solitary confinement because they organized a chapter of the Black Panther Party in prison and organized against inhuman prison conditions.

KPFA was able to speak to New Orleans community organizer and former Black Panther Malik Rahim while he was at the mural taking pictures today with surviving Angola 3 member Robert King.

Malik Rahim: Oh the mural is … it’s beautiful. I wish I could send you a copy of it right now. I mean it’s not only a picture of Albert. And under it’s his name, Albert Woodfox, and then it says, “Four Decades of Solitary, 43 Years of Injustice. Albert Woodfox has spent more than half his life trapped in a 6 feet by 9 feet cell for 23 hours a day fighting to prove his innocence. It’s time for him to walk free.”

And then they have the 43 years marked off on the wall, and then you have “Art for Amnesty.”

Brandan “Bmike” Odums is the artist-activist who created the mural. Visit his website at BrandanOdums.com. – Photo: Doug MacCash, Times-Picayune

Brandan “Bmike” Odums is the artist-activist who created the mural. Visit his website at BrandanOdums.com. – Photo: Doug MacCash, Times-Picayune

It’s a beautiful mural, and everybody that’s passing by is stopping and taking a look at it, and many of them with unbelief.

KPFA: Is there anyone expressing hostility? Is anyone coming by and expressing hostility about it?

Malik Rahim: Oh no. Oh no. That wouldn’t happen right here because this is right by where the Essence Festival is going on and most of the traffic now – I would say 90 percent of the traffic – is African Americans that are in town for the Essence.

KPFA: What’s the name of the event?

Malik Rahim: The Essence (Festival). Essence Magazine.

KPFA: Oh, OK. But you have some fear that the police may take this down?

Malik Rahim: Oh yeah, I mean listen. We live in a state – and you have to remember this: America leads the world in incarceration. Louisiana leads America in incarceration. And New Orleans leads Louisiana. This is a state and a city that is basically controlled by the criminal justice system. And when they’re against you, you know I mean there isn’t nothing, nothing else matters.

Albert and Herman, from a prison cell, in the aftermath of Katrina, helped save this city. Because of them we formed Common Ground, and Common Ground served over a half a million people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in direct and indirect services.

Albert and Herman, from a prison cell, in the aftermath of Katrina, helped save this city.

I mean in any civilized society, just that alone, that these individuals would be able to help form this organization from a prison cell would be enough to get them released. But here in this city, all it’s done is pushed them deeper into confinement and bled Herman out of the rest of his life.

So yeah, I believe that this city and this state is capable of doing anything.

Forty-three years you haven’t even been able to convince the guard’s wife, his widow, that he’s guilty.

KPFA: And that was New Orleans organizer Malik Rahim, speaking from the site of the new Albert Woodfox mural in New Orleans. Rahim’s final remark referred to the wife of murdered prison guard Brent Miller, who has testified that she does not believe Albert Woodfox or Herman Wallace were guilty of her husband’s murder.

Rahim also said that New Orleans Police had in the past removed an Angola 3 mural after its completion.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.

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