Zulu’s tribute to Herman ‘Hooks’ Wallace: Freedom ain’t never been free

by Kenny Zulu Whitmore

Herman Wallace fist, shackles 040213I can imagine that when the founding brothers founded the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Calif., in 1966, they could not have envisioned the response: the mayhem, murder, hatred and the false imprisonment of our sisters and brothers by the evil empire, with hundreds who are languishing in the nation’s many solitary confinement units to this day.

I can also imagine that they could not have foreseen all of the accomplishments that were made as well. The Breakfast Program, Medicare, the influence that we have had and still have on revolutionary groups around the world and a legacy that is so vibrant, only a Panther can tell its history.

Now try to imagine those Panther brothers and sisters who took that courageous stand and founded chapters of the BPP in some of the nation’s most deplorable prisons. Well, shortly after my arriving at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, I joined one such chapter, founded by Herman Hooks Wallace, Robert King and Albert Shaka Woodfox. And to say that my comrades and I have endured hardship will be an understatement.

Chairman Hooks – it was upon his urging that I joined the Angola chapter of the BPP in March 1978.

I was put into solitary confinement (called CCR, or Closed Cell Restricted, in Louisiana) in February 1978 on D-tier. Several of the tiers were Panther tiers – others for Outlaw D.R. and a Skinhead tier.

My first two weeks on D-tier living next door to Albert Woodfox, aka Shaka, I was observing how things went. “Reach one Teach one” was in full effect. Tutors were helping guys to bring their reading and writing up to standards.

Albert Woodfox, Kenny Zulu Whitmore, Herman WallaceThere was BPP literature everywhere. Photos of Huey, Bobby, Angela, George – you name it, they had it. The BPP Ten Point Program was taught; the movement was alive and growing. Shaka used to give me lots of books to read and he used to talk with me about politics.

One book he gave me to read: “Native Son” by Richard Wright changed my life and my way of thinking. I looked in the mirror and saw Bigger Thompson. Like others around me, I made that conscious choice to transform from a street soldier mentality to a revolutionary one, and my comrade Shaka helped me do that.

There was BPP literature everywhere. Photos of Huey, Bobby, Angela, George – you name it, they had it. The BPP Ten Point Program was taught; the movement was alive and growing.

The Hill, as the reception center, CCR and death row building were known, was the “heart of the Black Consciousness Movement.” If a work stoppage or slow walk was called, the order came from the Hill, CCR, solitary confinement.

To better our deplorable living conditions, after agreement from all of the tiers, a list of demands would be sent to the supervisor. If they failed, a hunger strike would be agreed to and carried out until our demands were met.

Kenny Zulu Whitmore, Albert Shaka Woodfox shackled 2009King had strong leadership ability. He inspired guys to have confidence in themselves. He was a dispute solver for most of the guys, and he picked up the nickname Red Cross.

Chairman Hooks – it was upon his urging that I joined the Angola chapter of the BPP in March 1978. Hooks is a people person; he can talk with anyone. He has big love and respect among the prison population. Black and White.

Hooks assigned me my job. I would be responsible for delivering information to other Panthers in general population whenever I had a call-out to the prison hospital, the main artery of the prison grape vine. Anyone who is on call-out for any given day, name and location would appear on that day’s call-out sheet.

Hooks is a people person; he can talk with anyone. He has big love and respect among the prison population. Black and White.

All of the messages going and coming had to be memorized, because notes will be found during searches, and we could not have that kind of information falling into the enemy’s hands. My contact would come up and cite one of the 10 points like: “We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people.”

I had to in return recite the number of the point he just recited, No. 7. We exchanged greetings, took care of business and he was gone.

Angola 3

My other duty was to have Comrade Shaka’s back at all times. In 1983 during a Reclassification Board hearing that was strangely being held in the lobby, both Shaka and myself were put in full restraints to go out. His door was opened; mine was not. Shaka was stabbed in the back and nearly paralyzed.

Kenny Zulu Whitmore standing, fist, holding Robert King's book 2008Shaka stayed in the prison hospital for a week. The blade missed his spinal cord by an inch. The attacker was transferred out of the building immediately. King was at Camp J disciplinary unit. I had to meet with Hooks to piece this shit together. Shaka fully recovered – with minor problems. Set up or not, I felt really bad, because had I not been prevented from being out there, I could have done something.

Our last mass hunger strike was carried out in May 1999 because of conditions in the transitional unit of CCR. We got full participation. We demanded to see Warden Burl Cain. He asked for a grace period of three days before meeting with us. After the second day, the strike was put on hold.

The next morning, Herman Hooks Wallace, Robert King, Albert Shaka Woodfox, myself Zulu and Barbette Williams were all transferred to Camp J disciplinary unit. However, the warden did meet with the others, and most of our demands were met. Hooks, King, Shaka and myself stayed in the disciplinary unit 11-13 months.

We are all graying, getting old, sick, dying in prison. Do I have any regrets? No, because I made a conscious choice to join the Black Panther Party. To be a revolutionary. I know to whom much is given, much is required. I don’t give a fuck about the law, but I want justice.

There are still Panther brothers here in Angola who have never come out of the shadows. They have various jobs or are trustees and all see how administration after administration have left me, Shaka and Chairman Hooks in solitary confinement. Me for 27 consecutive years and 35 in total; Shaka and Hooks have been in CCR for 41 years.

Kenny Zulu Whitmore, Albert Shaka Woodfox 2009I understand those brothers’ situation. We are all graying, getting old, sick, dying in prison. Do I have any regrets? No, because I made a conscious choice to join the Black Panther Party. To be a revolutionary. I know to whom much is given, much is required. I don’t give a fuck about the law, but I want justice.

Herman, Robert King, Shaka Woodfox, we have entered many battles as comrades, won some, lost a few, but have survived them all. But from this most recent battle that we have undertaken, one of us will not return.

The Ancestors have made the call to come home to our beloved senior comrade. What can we do but heed their call? Even if you are late, the Black Panther Party will meet you at that gate, and when you get home, roam, old Panther, roam.

The Ancestors have made the call to come home to our beloved senior comrade. What can we do but heed their call? Even if you are late, the Black Panther Party will meet you at that gate, and when you get home, roam, old Panther, roam.

All power to the people. Freedom ain’t never been free.

Zulu Whitmore

Send our brother some love and light: Kenny Zulu Whitmore, 86468, D-Hawk 4L, Louisiana State Prison, Angola, LA 70712. Visit his website, created and maintained by supporters: Freezulu.org.