Until Louisiana’s state Constitution was amended in the November 2018 election, Louisiana was the only state in the union where a person could be condemned to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole by a non-unanimous jury vote of 10 out of 12 jurors voting to convict – also known as a 10-2 verdict. This practice not only undermines justice by violating the standard of proof of beyond reasonable doubt, which accounts for Louisiana being a leading state in exonerations, but its origin is a direct violation of our guaranteed 14th Amendment right to equal protection of law under the United States Constitution.
Kanye West has never been afraid to speak out even if what he had to say wasn’t in line with popular opinion. Kanye saying slavery was “a choice” offended many people by degrading the lives of the millions of people who suffered for centuries as slaves. Recently, at the White House, Kanye sprinkled some gold gems in with the foolishness, especially his statement about the 13th Amendment, which did not abolish slavery, not in prison. I refuse to reject the help when entertainers like Kanye West join prisoners in advocating for prisoners’ rights.
Good morning and welcome to Wanda’s Picks, a Black arts and culture program with the African Sister’s Media Network. We are joined in the studio by Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Malik Rahim. Welcome to the show. Today we are going to be talking about the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington. We can talk about solitary confinement, political prisoners, the 13th Amendment. We can talk about what the need is for having such an event.
Despite scant media coverage, the largest prison strike in history is entering its third week. Retaliation is rampant, both against the organizers in prison and against the Bay View for spreading the word. The Free Alabama Movement that started the prison-strikes-to-end-slavery campaign is defeating a violent divide-and-conquer scheme to turn prisoner against prisoner with a Peace Summit, reminiscent of the Agreement to End Hostilities in California, which this month is entering its fifth year of keeping the peace.
Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old Black man, was standing in the parking lot selling CDs as he had for years when two white cops arrived on Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning he was dead and protesters were in the city’s streets. Calls erupted from Congress and the NAACP for an independent investigation into the shooting, which the Justice Department announced within hours. District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III said the “officers feel they were completely justified” in the shooting. Alton was the 558th person killed by police in the U.S. this year.
New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter, a former police officer, ruled that seven people awaiting trial in jail without adequate legal defense must be released. The law is clear. The U.S. Supreme Court, in their 1963 case Gideon v Wainwright, ruled that everyone who is accused of a crime has a Constitutional right to a lawyer at the state’s expense if they cannot afford one.
Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country, no longer provides public defenders to all its people accused of crimes; within months, over half its public defender offices are expected to become insolvent. “It’s a nightmare,” according to James Dixon, the chief Louisiana Public Defender. “You have people in jail that don’t have lawyers. It’s that basic.” The meltdown of the Louisiana public defender system makes it criminal to call it a justice system.
The fiery H. Rap Brown, chairperson of SNCC, minister of justice for the Black Panther Party and one of the original four targets of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO to neutralize Black power, is presently entombed in the federal prison at Florence, Colorado, one of the world’s 10 worst prisons. Pursued relentlessly since the ‘60s, he was wrongfully convicted in 2002 – the prosecutor bragging that they finally got him after trying for 24 years. His wife, attorney Karima Al-Amin, tells his story on the Block Report.
Russell Maroon Shoatz is out of solitary confinement! Hugo Pinnell had his first contact visit in 40 years last weekend. Kiilu Nyasha announced this wonderful news at a reception following the second public hearing on solitary confinement called by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Feb. 11.
For 41 years, Herman Wallace was shown no mercy by a system that has never shown any mercy to anyone it considers its historical or present enemy. Herman Wallace was made to suffer at the hands of local, state and federal governments. No matter how bad his situation got, there was not one human being within this system, or government, who sought to provide Herman Wallace any mercy.
Gina M. Paige explained that the organization, African Ancestry, started with Dr. Rick Kittles, genetic researcher at Howard University who was interested in isolating the gene that caused prostate cancer, one of the leading causes of death in our community. He found this research methodology applicable in other genetic detective research and so in 2003 African Ancestry was founded with Ms. Paige.
Herman Wallace’s greatest pride was joining the Black Panther Party for Self Defense! He believed in duty, honor and dedication. He never broke the faith of the party, his comrades or the people. As I bent to kiss his forehead, my heart said, “Goodbye, I love you forever”; my soul said, “Separated but never apart, never touching, but always connected.” He was the best of us. As long as we remember him, he lives on.
The original plan for the 1963 March was for a militant mass shut-down of the nation’s capital in order to compel the Kennedy administration and the U.S. Congress to enact immediate federal legislation to end the practices connected with segregation throughout the United States at that time. This proposal had come from the youth wing of the Civil Rights Movement, in particular those grouped in and around the SNCC.
Have you ever heard of a prisoner with life insurance or health care? No. This is because every prison sentence could very well end up in death to the inmate. We are not expected to survive prison. We have no health care insurance plan, and because we do not pay our doctors and caregivers, they have no motivation to give us reasonable care and respect.
Scalia has made it clear why this case is before the Court – it’s about race and white “race entitlement.” The Voting Rights Act was passed because no group is going to “apportion themselves out of power.” If the Court rules in favor of Shelby County in the face of its racist record, it will be doing nothing more than validating white power and racism.
When Hurricane Isaac hit the shores of the states of Mississippi and Louisiana, Operation People for Peace was able to take a truckload of supplies donated by Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., to Pearlington and Gulfport. Additionally, we visited Plaquemines Parish and LaPlace, La., passing out cleaning supplies, food and personal items to those in need.
With the storm approaching New Orleans, I spoke to Dwight Henry, co-star in the film, “Beasts of a Southern Wild,” currently in Bay Area theaters. I spoke to three men who are riding the storm out: Parnell Herbert, Angola 3 activist and playwright, Mwalimu Johnson, community organizer and prison abolitionist, and Malik Rahim, former Black Panther.
The history of racist violence, of lynchings, of state violence, or a complicit media and systemic injustice remain a reality despite our purportedly post-racial moment. In the first six months of 2012, the police, security guards and vigilantes have killed 120 African Americans, one every 36 hours. The media, political “leaders” and citizens alike ignore and justify these killings by blaming the victims.
On the morning of Tuesday, June 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights is having an important public hearing on “Reassessing Solitary Confinement.” This Senate hearing comes on the heels of widespread prisoner hunger strikes that have made the use of solitary confinement a central issue.
On April 20, 2010, a reckless attitude towards the safety of the Gulf Coast by BP caused a well to blow out 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. “People should be aware that the oil is still there,” says Wilma Subra, a chemist who travels widely across the Gulf. The reality she is seeing on the ground contrasts sharply with the image painted by BP.