Published in "The Idler", July 2009
Idler: For a man who’s been held in solitary for more than three decades, you must have come up with some interesting ways to be idle; what are your preferred ways of passing the time?
Zulu: I am in this cage for 23 hours a day, but I make good use of my time. In 1980, Robert King [released from Angola prison in 2001 after his conviction was overturned], Albert Woodfox [still in Angola though his conviction was overturned in September 2008] and I started an exercise routine where we used to get up at 3.30 am and work out for two hours six days a week. Even when we were separated we kept it up. To this day I still work out for an hour and a half six days a week.
After that I’ll catch the World News on NPR [National Public Radio] and/or meditate until breakfast, which comes between 6.30 and 7.30 am. Then I might catch the local news on TV Baton Rouge.
At 8 am or thereafter I set up my stand-up desk in the cell – my locker on top of the table. I write and/or read until 4pm. If I am responding to my many supporters, I write sometimes until 7pm. Legal work will also pass the time.
I take short breaks throughout the day. I read a lot when time allows. My absolute favourite book is ‘Native Son’ by Richard Wright. Right now I am reading ‘Silent Gesture’ by Tommie Smith. He and John Carlos were two of the most courageous brothers in America to raise the black power salute on the world stage at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
I get one hour on the yard three times a week where I and other guys run behind the football for an hour.
In solitary confinement one must find something to keep the mind active or risk going insane as I have witnessed more than I would have liked to. For me, everything I do is about self-discipline and continuing to educate myself.
Idler: You recently spent more than a year in the Dungeon of Camp J Disciplinary Unit; how did that compare with Closed Cell Restriction [CCR or solitary confinement, where Zulu has spent most of his time in prison]?
Z: Well, Camp J is the worst disciplinary unit in the system here in Louisiana. While I was there, I smelled gas, Freeze Plus P [pepper spray] and Mace as regularly as if it was air freshener. Early in the morning, the guards would gas someone at will. If someone passed out because of the heat, they would get gassed. If the lady bringing medication said you did or said something to her, they would spray you down like a cockroach and beat you.
You must wear an orange jumpsuit, and when any female comes on the tier, everyone must have it buttoned all the way up, summer or winter.
The food is some shit you wouldn’t give your dog. It is very poorly prepared, and you get a small amount. I lost 30 pounds in there.
Idler: Does the disciplinary unit have a canteen?
Z: Yes, once a week you can buy tuna, bread, chips, cookies, etc., but you are not allowed to have a plastic spoon or drinking cup in your cell without being written up for contraband, so you’ve nothing to use if you want to mix mayonnaise or mustard into your food. You can buy Kool Aid, but if you get caught with a spoon, sugar or a cup, you are sent to Level 1 to start all over [the disciplinary unit has different levels, which you slowly move up].
Idler: Did they have Yard Call?
Z: Yes, three times a week. You can only wear a T-shirt and shorts under the orange jumpsuit. You are fully restrained – waist chain and leg irons. Only the leg irons are removed. During the winter months you are given a coat; the coat someone else has just run around the yard in, so I never wore one.
Idler: What about people’s mental health?
Z: Camp J disciplinary unit has a large number of mentally ill dudes. On the tier I was on, I was one cell from a guy who screamed and hollered and talked out loud all the time. The guards used to gas him and have the entire tier sneezing and coughing with our eyes burning. It was a crazy situation.
Idler: Does the disciplinary unit allow visiting?
Z: Yes, but very few people let their family and friends come because the visiting booth is like 4x10 ft with a screen separating you; no water nor bathroom. You burn up in there during summer and freeze in winter. Though they have an air conditioner on the wall, it hardly ever works; like the heater.
Idler: How is CCR, where you are now, different?
Z: Here in CCR you have more political prisoners in this building, which houses 111 dudes. CCR is long-term. Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 stayed in here from April 1972 to March 2008. Robert King did 29 years. I have been held captive here in CCR since 1978, except for a 14-month stay in general population. Then I took my physical freedom [escaped] in 1986. I was free for 24 hours. I guess it’s more than what others could expect.
In CCR you get three days of yard in a jumpsuit. All restraints are removed. You have your own clothing: three pairs of jeans, three blue shirts, three pairs of socks, three sweatsuits, two winter caps and tennies [trainers]. You get two contact visits per month. Five visitors can come in at a time. We do not have a GED [General Educational Development] program in CCR nor do they in any cell block.
The food is better prepared, but like all over the plantation, we do not get enough fresh vegetables. We get powdered potatoes, old corn and a green salad twice a year – at Thanksgiving and Christmas; fresh fruit once a year at Christmas. In the dormitory where my brothers of the A3, Herman and Albert, are being housed, they have an inmate club with a deli that sells fresh salads, fish and other stuff. This is how I get fresh vegetables. But like anywhere in Angola, you are in prison.
Idler: What are your top tips for ‘smashing the system’?
Z: It’s going to take a collective effort by you the people. You need to petition your legislators and politicians and DEMAND change. You have more power than you may realise. Smash the system by saying no to new prisons and yes to new schools. Here in the USA, more than two million people are incarcerated. The State of Louisiana Department of Corrections has a budget of nearly $700 million dollars to warehouse people for 40-50 years, with no sign of rehabilitation programs. The American public is paying members of the pardon and parole boards up to $80,000 a year to deny people pardon and parole; voters need to make them put pardon and parole into practice. You hired the politicians – you are the employers; they the employees.
Idler: How do you continue to fight the system from a 6x9 ft cell?
Z: I use my pen; I have made friends worldwide; I educate, educate and educate.
Idler: What changes do you think there will be to the system with Barack Obama, a black man, in the White House?
Z: By the American voters electing their first African-American to be commander-in-chief I truly hope it means that the country is finally ready to move out of the racist time-warp it has been stuck in for too many centuries, and we as a nation are ready to move forward.
On the criminal justice system, I think it would be unrealistic to think that Obama, after his first day in his new job on January 20, would go into the Oval Office, take his pen, and change a system that has been in place for the last 100 years. It ain’t going to happen.
Obama has a full plate with the financial crisis – a crisis that was created by multi-billion-dollar banks, investment houses and the largest companies in the world: Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, AIG. The sub-prime mortgage crisis has meant thousands of people have lost their homes. African-Americans were hit hard in this scam, and those homeless people are left holding a $700 billion bill to pay for the very m-f$%*!ers who kicked them out of their homes. So Obama will first have to tackle the crisis that George W. Bush and his cronies created.
But I do think that during his second term we will begin to see some changes in the criminal justice system with his choice of attorney general and the possibility of his appointing two new justices to the US Supreme Court. But let’s wait and see.
Idler: What do you think is the difference between Angola the Slave Plantation and Angola the Prison?
Z: The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery within the borders of the United States, but that didn’t include prison. The day it came into effect, prison became the new plantation – they legalized it. Angola the Prison has basically the same rules to govern its slaves as did Angola the Plantation. The only difference is the name changed from plantation to prison.
Idler: Do you think that Obama really represents change?
Z: I am like most African-Americans in this country – I want to believe Barack Obama represents change, because he knows first-hand of African suffering in this country. I think he’s bringing fresh ideas to the table, like sitting down with Iran’s head of state without pre-conditions, and de-privatising the student-loan system.
But I do not want to pre-judge him in the way I and my comrades Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox of the A3 have been. Albert recently won a new trial, and on November 12 , a federal judge ruled that he be released on bail pending re-trial. But Louisiana’s Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has pre-judged Albert to be a flight risk due to some unsubstantiated charges from 1967, and is blocking his release. So I won’t pre-judge Obama.
Z: Ona Move. Free Zulu, A3 and Move 9
On Feb. 19, an Angola social worker was arrested for the aggravated rape of an inmate housed in the mental health unit of the prison.
While the general public has been exposed to stories of rape among prisoners, there is little awareness about the high incidence of brutal rape of both men and women by prison employees. These cases remain under the radar because victims are threatened with violence to prevent them from speaking out, while the employees involved, who generally feel shielded from society, might simply be charged with “malfeasance in office.” I have heard many of the guards in Angola say, “Society thinks you are animals,” with the implication that whatever a prison employee does to one of us, society couldn’t care less.
The social worker in this case, Gary D. Widkiff, is said to have used threats of violence on Oct. 7, 2008, to force the inmate to allow Widkiff to perform oral sex on him.
At Angola, threats and violent behavior by prison employees against inmates are not uncommon. An employee may accuse a prisoner of spitting on him, with the result that the inmate in question can be gassed, badly beaten or sent to Camp J, a house of horror that I have been unlucky enough to experience for an extended period.
In this case, the victim did not immediately report the incident to Angola authorities, reportedly for fear of not being believed. A claim like that can also lead to a disciplinary report, with the victim accused of spreading rumors.
Four other inmates had complained about Widkiff’s inappropriate sexual conduct, to put it mildly, yet Angola authorities did nothing. Had they thoroughly investigated the complaints made, they could have acted to prevent another individual from being sexually assaulted.
Many men in prison who are raped choose to suffer in silence – ashamed and conscious of the social stigma associated with being sexually violated. No one inside or outside prison should have to suffer alone as a result of a degrading act of violence. I urge everybody with a similar experience to rise above their fear and speak out; if you stay silent, you remain a victim for life.Send our brother some love and light: Kenny Zulu Whitmore, #86468, RC/CCR, U/C 11, Louisiana State Prison, Angola, LA 70712.
Published in SF Bay View, June 24th, 2009
I had had a wonderful visit with my father the last time I saw him, at the end of February. At 84, he was still full of charisma, and came to visit me in his typical style, dressed in a three-piece suit and a cowboy hat.
But a few days later, he suffered a tragic accident. While getting ready for church, his bathrobe caught fire as he was warming himself in front of the heater, leaving 60 percent of his body burned; he died March 13.
Though it was a very painful time for my family and me, for the first time in my several years in prison, I could share my grief with other family members. I cannot describe how painful it is to be forced to grieve alone, and what it can do to a person’s mind.
(Photo: From his cell in the notorious Angola prison in Louisiana, Kenny Zulu Whitmore, treated more harshly than other prisoners for decades because he was a member of the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party, thanks his supporters. He writes: “My supporters, my people, thank you all for your love and sympathy during this trying time that my family and I are going through. But we have our father’s strength and we will get through this. This pain that we are experiencing, this too will pass. Anja Carrie, I’m OK. I have the strength of an elephant. I will be all right. – Zulu”)
When I was arrested in 1975, I had just celebrated my 19th birthday. I come from a large family: sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunties and uncles, grandparents. My mother was a woman of 45 back then, my father 49 – younger than I am now.
Since being held in prison, I have lost nearly two generations of family members, starting with the devastating loss of my mother in January 1976. Grieving alone was hard enough; I also had to endure beatings by prison guards, racial slurs, death threats and psychological torture.
They took me out of the cellblock to the clothing room to dress up for her funeral, which I then wasn’t allowed attend. My family was told that the paperwork was “misplaced” – a deliberate and cruel action to further imbalance me. Worse still, I was awaiting trial at the time, so the presumption of innocence didn’t mean a thing.
The grief over the loss of my mother and not being allowed to go and see her for the last time nearly drove me insane. It took me several years to get over the pain of not being able to get to that church. I also felt guilty, because I couldn’t do anything to attend her funeral.
After losing my mother, I thought it had prepared me for all that was to come, but over the years I have still suffered through countless family deaths. My favourite uncle, Uncle Pasco, passed in 1989. My grandmother, who had come to see me once a month until she developed life-threatening health problems at the age of 85, died in 1991. Then, one after another, all of my aunties, uncles, cousins and a nephew died.
Through it all, I have not once been allowed to attend a funeral. Not because it’s Angola’s policy to not allow prisoners to go on funeral trips – guys in my housing area go to funerals all the time – but simply for my political beliefs: because I was a member of the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
My dad, a wonderful character, was the last member of the Whitmore family of nearly two generations back. My family wanted me to come to the funeral. They called the warden’s office and requested that I be brought to the funeral; my sister said that my father had served his country and worked for the state for 26 years.
But I knew the administration could not resist dealing me one more blow. The warden denied their request and told them his decision didn’t have anything to do with politics – it was due to my housing status: Confined Cell Restriction.
However, the day after his funeral, my son and sisters came to visit me, and I was able to grieve in a way that had been denied to me for decades – sharing my sorrow with those closest to me. We cried, hugged and talked about fun memories of our parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
For the first time in 35 years, I had the opportunity to grieve and heal with my family, albeit during a prison visit. All the pain of losing a generation of loved ones fell with the tears cried in the visiting room. It felt great.
I hurt, I cry, I grieve just like other human beings. However, my captors have labelled me a criminal, scum and a murderous animal. They denied the child I used to be to attend his mother’s funeral, and they denied the grown-up man I am to go to his father’s funeral.
Where is their humanity? Prison, your dehumanising labels do not define me. Although I am forcibly held here, prison will never be held in me.
Send our brother some love and light: Kenny Zulu Whitmore, 86468, RC CCR u/c tier, Louisiana State Prison, Angola, LA 70712.
A I was probably six or seven months old when my father was framed for robbery and murder. As much as I would like to, I can't recall any of the time preceding my father's incarceration that we spent as a family; consequently robbing me of an experience that many of my peers, friends, and other American youths enjoyed.
(Photo: Zulu, his son Rodney (in dark blue) and nephews)
Q How did growing up without a father affect you?
A Growing up without a father affected me in various ways. I believe not having a father present in my life affected me emotionally, and in some ways spiritually. The one thing that came out of this tragedy was the closeness that my mother and me shared, and the hope that one day my father would be released and totally exonerated.
Q At what age did you realize your dad was framed and sent to prison on false charges?
A I can't be 100% sure, but I believe around the age of 10 or 11 years of age. I could remember people always telling me how good of a guy my father was and that the Ku Klux Klan had set him up and tried to kill him, but it wasn't until later in life that I fully knew the gravity of the situation.
Q How did it make you feel being robbed of your father's presence?
A Being robbed of my father's presence from an early age until now has been a big blow. I missed out on all the things that a father does with his son; ex: playing catch, going fishing, helping me with homework, and the days at school when we would have father – son day.
Q Do you currently have a relationship with your father?
A YES! From the time that I was able to visit until now. The relationship isn't as I would like it to be, but considering his current situation (incarceration) I feel as though we are closer than most fathers who are free.
Q Have you ever been harassed because of being Zulu Whitmore's son? And if yes, how and when.
A Yes, when I was in high school working an after school job as a fast food restaurant, after about two months on the job work got around to the manager that Zulu was my father, 2 days later he let me go, and said my service was no longer deeded, I know it was because I am Zulu's son.
Q What are your thoughts of a system in which innocent people can be randomly charged for crimes they never committed?
A The system in which we have today has too many flaws, leeways, and obstacles for District Attorneys to maliciously convict innocent people of crimes that they didn't commit and were victims of themselves, more burden has to be put on District Attorneys, Judges and administrators whose job is to uphold the law, to make sure that each individual whether black, white, rich or poor has the opportunity at a fair and equal trial. I f they were held to a standard that would eliminate unfair judicial practices, then, and only then will the justice system work for all. I believe that punishment for District Attorneys, and Judges that allow this should result in disbarment.
Q At this time what do you think the motive of your father's imprisonment has been?
A I think the motive behind my father's imprisonment is racism; this was their way of silencing a powerful voice in the African American community.
Q Are you aware of your dad's community activism? How does that make you feel about your father?
A A lot of the guy's in the community use to tell me about my father and how he use to tell the people in the neighborhood to stand up to the racist practice of the police, and how he spoke out against the drug dealers selling to their own people doing the dirty work for the KKK. The police hated my father Zulu for being man enough to speak out against the destruction of the neighborhood, the community and the people the they cared nothing about.
Q Have you met the members of the Angola 3, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox?
A Yes, I have met Hooks and Woodfox of the Angola 3. It was Herman Hooks Wallace who made my father Zulu a member of the Black Panther Party. Hooks and Woodfox are two knowledgeable brothers, there's an urgent need for men like Zulu, Hooks, and Woodfox in the community today.
Q How would you describe your relationship with them?
A As I grew to know them, talk, and listen to them my knowledge of social issues has been enlightened, I consider myself lucky to have known these guys, and when the Angola 3 has been released, I would like to continue my friendship with them so the movement of knowledge and perseverance can continue to go forth
Q Do you still see the level of racism that took place in the seventies?
A Yes, to a certain degree racism has increased into many more segments of daily life. Racism has become more prevalent in the workforce, application process for rental units, and obtaining loans from our financial institutions. Hidden racism is the worst of all. Until the judicial, educational, and financial institutions become more open to all and not just a few, racism will always be alive and well.
Q Do you have any children of your own?
A Yes, I have one biological daughter, and two stepdaughters.
Q Are they having a relationship with their granddad? How do they call him?
A Yes, my daughter has a relationship with Zulu, she calls him Big Poppa. She visits whenever possible, and talks with him when he calls.
Q How do you think you can protect your children from the system they are brought up in?
A I'm a big proponent in education, and character building. I believe in learning as much as possible to increase ones chance to become successful. Character will build self-esteem, and with self-esteem one will have a greater sense of themselves and the people around them.
Q Are you at this time politically involved as well?
A Yes, I am, I'm involved in my church, I try to point younger guys in the right direction, a path that won't lead them to drugs and or any criminal activity. I'm also connected with supporters of Zulu's; Anja, Judith, Kari, Erin and many other political minded people
Q Can you tell us if the same things that happened to your dad 30 years ago are still happening to young people this time around? How does that make you feel?
A Yes, the same things that happened 30 years ago, still happens today. The youth of today seem to have no or very little direction, and respect for life. The only enemy at times are themselves.
Q Are you involved in the struggle to free your dad? In which way?
A Yes, I have been for a while, but I'm also connected with some other strong supporters Anja, Judith, Kari, and Erin.
Q Are you ready for your father to come home?
A Yes, Yes, Yes, we have a lot of catching up to do, and he would be a good babysitter.
Q Do you have any final comments to make or a personal/general statement for the readers of the interview?
A To all the political activist, and other social conscious people, I would like to thank you for your continual support, dedication that you show through your financial, emotional and spiritual support. TO MAKE CHANGE, EVERYONE HAS TO BE WILLING TO CHANGE.
Mr. Whitmore, I’d like to bring you back to the year 1975 and the day your son was arrested on trumped up arm charges. While being held he was also charged with the 1973 murder on the ex mayor marshal Bond. What were your thoughts at that time?
(1A) My thoughts at that time and to this day, is that this is a grave mistake, because I did not raise any of my children that way and Zulu always worked for what he wanted, so either this is a tragic mistake or he was deliberately targeted.
(2) Were you at the 1975 hearing where the original robbery charges were dismissed? Can you tell us on what grounds the charges were dismissed?
(2a) Yes! I was at the 1975 hearing when the judge dismissed the charges on Zulu. The judge said the victim refused to come to court because Zulu was not the person who robbed them. I still don’t understand how he was charged with that crime.
(Photo: Zulu's dad, who passed on from this life on March 13th 2009)
(3) How did it make you feel that one year later Zulu was recharged with the same robbery crime, even after the victim said Zulu wasn’t the perpetrator?
(3a) This happened a year or more later, and I knew at that time something sinister was taking place. If the victim says you are not the one; how could anyone else say different?
(4) Mr. Whitmore, when Zulu was taken out of jail to a forest in Zachary where he was beaten up and chocked until he confessed, what influence did that have on your family?
(4a) When I first heard of this, that the police had taken Zulu out of the East Baton Rouge Parish Jail and beat a confession out of him, I was outraged; I immediately had flashes of Black Men during my days of being hung in the woods by the KKK. I will never forget this, which is an image that will probably be with met till the day I die. That incident devastated my wife and it still hurts to think of what my son went through.
Do you think a racist system framed your son on robbery and murder charges?
(5a) No, I don’t think a racist system framed my son for robbery and murder, I know it for a fact that they did. They allowed a miscarriage of justice to take place, and by doing so his life, his son’s life has been changed forever.
(6) Mr. Whitmore, do you recall your reaction when your family was told Zulu would be allowed to attend his mother’s funeral, but instead the whole thing turned out to be but a game to beat him up and unsettle him?
(6a) I was told by the warden of the prison that Zulu would be allowed to attend his mother’s funeral. The pastor of my church the Rev. Albert Anderson Sr. had a son, who was a sheriff deputy at the time, and he was to bring Zulu to the church, but instead; some deputies at the jail beat up the day of the funeral Zulu. The reason for this my family was told that Zulu jumped them while dressing out for his mother’s funeral. He was still bruised up when I went to the jail to seem him that Wednesday. Zulu’s case was a political and racial issue.
(7) It has been proven that the only evidence brought up was a poorly taped confession with unrecognizable voices and a rusty bucket. What do you think about the lack of evidence?
(7a) Yes, that was the only evidence that they had against my son. A confession that they nearly killed him to get, yet no one could make out what was being said in parts of it, and a rusty bucket they claimed sat in a recreational park in the same place for tow years never being touched or moved, by kids or adults playing, or by the people responsible for cutting grass; UNBELIEVABLE.
(8) Mr. Whitmore, you are now 81 years of age. You were a young man of 49 years of age when this ordeal happened. When you think about your son being older than you at the time of his kidnapping, how does it make you feel?
(8a) It really breaks my heart, I was only 49 at that time and I am now 82 years old. Zulu is 53 now; older than I was. He never got the chance to live to the fullest and attain that elusive "American Dream".
9) Few people are aware of the family friend who turned into a snitch for the DA. Do you have any idea how this may have happened? Can you tell us something about this man? Did you ever see him afterwards?
(9a) Samuel Harris is his name, he have spent nights at my house, ate my food; he and my son Raymond was the best of friends. I saw him just a few times after that. The first time he came to my house I told him under no uncertain terms was he ever to be caught on my property again, he says that they threaten him into framing Zulu, but he haven’t did anything to correct this. He now lives in Denver I think.
(10) What happens to a father who sees his innocent son disappearing behind bars in a harsh U.S. system? Has it changed your view on life and your behavior in general? Do you feel Louisiana needs to change its judicial and parole system and if so how?
(10a) This is a devastating reality for a parent to live with, always thinking what you could have done to make things better. Living with the fact that he is innocent grips my heart like a vice. Angola was one of the bloodiest prisons in the United States, and just knowing he was around that type of violence left me with many sleepless nights. Louisiana system of parole need to be changed so that lifers at some point can make parole, and there must be solid evidence to send someone off to prison for life. Recently my son was denied parole because he has a life sentence but his sentence carries parole after 20 years. Even though he’s innocent I would rather have him back on parole than not at all. Zulu have now been incarcerated for 33 years for nothing, now how do you think a father should feel??
(11) Do you think Louisiana needs to change it’s judicial and parole system and if so, how?
(11a) I think the parole and pardon boards should be made up of the people from the communities where that person going before the board from each of the 64 parishes should have a equal number of people. R/W to make that decision. Because as it is now, you have ex judges, policeman and one or two members o the victim rights group on the parole and pardon board, and no one should be denied on the nature of the crime because that will never change, but people do.
(12) Did people from the parole department ever visit your home regarding Zulu’s possible release? Did the victim of the armed robbery ever have a problem with Zulu’s possible parole?
(12a) Yes, they did. I think it was back in 1999, the people from the parole board wanted to know and inspect where Zulu would live if he were paroled. I let them know that he had a place to live and a job waiting on him, and they talked to the victim’s wife who didn’t have any problem with Zulu being paroled.
(13) Despite your age you are visiting your son on a regular basis. You also visited Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3; how did you feel about your son being granted membership of the BPP by Herman Wallace in 1975? Has your view changed over the years?
(13a) I visit Zulu as often as possible, but right now I haven’t visited in a few month because Zulu is still in the disciplinary unit at camp J, and visiting him in that unit is horrible. The room is very small with no water, bathrooms and to go you must have the guard come out and open the door, and they do not come right away. I have experienced this Zulu understands, but during the years I have met Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace of the Angola Three (3) who I accept as family. It was no surprise when Zulu told me that Herman Wallace, Albert King, and others made him a member of the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party. I remember Zulu’s mother saying that Kenny is a black panther because of his activism in the community; I love my son.
(14) Now that Zulu is fighting like Herman and Albert do, do you see your son coming home?
(14a) I have always been a religious person and I know this kind of injustice can’t continue without God intervening on the behalf of Zulu, Albert, and Herman; and they will never give up the fight for their freedom. I pray for justice.
(15) How did the framing of your son Zulu affect the whole family life?
(15a) My whole family have been devastated by this hateful sick racist act that have put their brother in the worse prison in America for no other reason than he was dared to speak out against the injustice, police brutality taking place around him. This whole mess affected my youngest child Sheila more than the other because Zulu was her big brother who took time out with her, bought her bicycles and stuff that brothers do, and more than anyone else, she is there for him.
(16) Would you like to leave any final comments or make a general or personal statement?
(16a) I would like to personally thank each and everyone who have taken it upon them to join my son in this very difficult fight in proving his innocence. You all have stepped forward where many have chosen to remain silent. To Anja, Erin, Pam, Judith and the people Zulu calls his UK Family; Thank you, Thank you, and to those that I may be forgetting, please forgive me and may God have a blessing upon your life.
By Kari Lydersen
The Angola Three – Robert King Wilkerson, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace – have gotten much attention for their activism and the way they were scapegoated by a racist, archaic southern justice system. But they point out that their cases are hardly unique – there are many others in Angola – the infamous Louisiana prison known as “The Farm” -- also targeted for speaking and acting out against the system.
Kenneth “Zulu” Whitmore was arrested in 1975 for robbing a shoe store. The charges were dropped, but while he was in custody prosecutors decided to name him a suspect in the 1973 armed robbery and murder of the ex-mayor of Zachary, La., a small town not far from Angola. Whitmore says the District Attorney wanted him to make a deal and testify against another suspect in exchange for a short prison term.
“The DA told me outright, you are going to take the stand against this guy and say what I have prepared in that confession for y’all,” says Whitmore, who has now been in Angola for 29 years. “And I am going to give you five years. You will not go to Angola, and you will be out in two and a half. I told him I don’t have any idea what you are talking about. He said, ‘I am the district attorney and my word is three against yours. I can do what I want to you. Now help me get this guy or I will send you to Angola for the rest of your life.’ I refused and they immediately started beating me with sticks.”
The DA made good on his promise. Whitmore was convicted of second degree murder, based largely on a supposed confession which he and his supporters say was fake, as described below. In 1977 he was sentenced to life and 99 years in prison.
A pre-sentence investigation report described Whitmore as having an extensive juvenile record, a total fabrication as evidenced when Whitmore obtained an affadavit from the juvenile court showing he had no record.
“This was to show I have been a fuck up all my life since age 12 and that I am unrehabilitable,” said Whitmore.
The falsified juvenile record is one of the things Whitmore hopes will ultimately free him. He also notes that at the time he was sentenced, state law said someone sentenced to life for second degree murder could be eligible for parole after 20 years. That policy was later changed, which Whitmore argues violates the ex post facto law protecting people from retroactive changes to legal consequences. He currently has no lawyer to help him make these arguments, though he hopes to raise money to hire one.
“This is just how this racist, corrupt, irreparable system is,” he said. “My writ of habeas corpus won’t be denied because my claim lacks merit. It will be denied because I am a political and economic prisoner. Simply put, I cannot retain counsel to get out of prison.”
When Whitmore was sent to Angola in 1978, he met King and Woodfox of the Angola Three. He had met Wallace previously, during a 1973 stint in the Baton Rouge jail for a robbery charge which was later dropped. Wallace planted the seed of political activism then, which continued to grow in Whitmore’s mind. At Angola he became close friends with Woodfox and King, and later reunited with Wallace, and he joined the Black Panther Party.
“Once in the cage a Big Brother stopped and spoke to me,” he said. “He told me his name was King, and went on to explain to me that the tier was organized in a way to benefit everyone and explained to me what was expected of me if I decided to remain on the tier” – which was known as the “militant tier.”
Today King is a free man, released in 2001. He continues working for the freedom of Wallace, Woodfox and Whitmore, among others. Here he talks about Whitmore’s struggle.
Q: How did Zulu get connected with the Angola Three?
A: Herman (Wallace) was going to trial in Baton Rouge parish at the time Zulu was arrested (in 1973) – he met Herman in a holding cell. A relationship developed. Zulu went back out in the community in the mid-1970s, trying to organize the community. That was in
Zachary – a little town where it’s like you’re going back into the past.
Zulu became a target when he became outspoken about some things going on in the community.
As a result of that he was arrested on a charge, and then later charged with another crime while being held. That was around 1977. He got caught up in the same thing so many other people got caught up in – Zulu wasn’t really any exception, it was a nationwide conspiracy to squelch dissent wherever it was. When you’re in custody, you’re already in the belly of the beast – all they needed to do was plant evidence. If they really wanted to mess you up good, it was easy -- Albert’s and Herman’s cases, mine, there are so many more. Lots of people are still in prison as a result of being targeted and really not realizing they were targeted. There was a green light from J. Edgar Hoover that if you were militant, non-comformist, “incorrigible,” they would come after you. They came after you with a vengeance because they felt you would be a threat in the future. They did this with the Black Panther Party and individuals who were just sympathizers, who were in the struggle.
Q: And Zulu was framed…?
A: If you read the alleged confession they attributed to him and if you read the court transcripts of the trial where you hear his answers to their questions, you would know there’s no way possible that the confession was his. I got intrigued by reading the legal documents for the drama. When Zulu entered the drama, (testifying in court), it’s almost like he has a speech impediment – his dialect and vernacular was indistinguishable – he was the epitome of this thing they call “ebonics.” He didn’t have a vocabulary above the fourth grade, at the time. Then the statement that implicated Zulu was so articulate and the vernacular was perfect, you don’t have to be an expert to know it was a fake. If he had had a linguistics expert as a witness, Zulu wouldn’t be in prison right now.
Q: How have things changed politically or in the justice system since Zulu was convicted? Does this figure into his case or his chances for getting out?
A: It’s no better, if anything it’s worse. At one time if you had a life sentence, you could get out of Angola . Now 90 to 95 percent of people will die in Angola . Now if you have a life sentence, life means life. And life in Angola means death -- is there any difference? There is psychological torture and physical torture. Angola has both. The psychological trauma is worse.
At one time the maximum for armed robbery was three years. When Zulu got there, the (maximum sentence allowed under the) law had changed from 30 to 66 to 99 years. They put laws in place that would keep people permanently in prison.
Q: Would you say Zulu has been a leader in prison?
A: Yes, the entire time. He’s always there helping others with legal work. He’s learning more and more, you couldn’t begin to appreciate the progress he’s made – before he had a speech impediment and he couldn’t really articulate ideas -- now he’s always learning and he’s passing his knowledge on. He said people call him Red Cross and come to him with their problems. He is very well regarded among prisoners, he’s respected as a prisoner with principles. I’m sorry to say some prisoners don’t have principles. He’s among one of the few who maintain principles. He’s always been quiet, but when I was at Camp J I came back and he had been on his tier with Woodfox, and he was Woodfox’s number one support. Zulu and Albert were real close. Zulu and I got real close too. I worked on Zulu’s legal case before I worked on my own or anyone else’s.
Q: Is he still targeted by guards or other powers that be in prison?
A: His affiliation has placed a stamp on him – like I was he’s been relegated to be in CCR or Camp J or some type of closed, restricted area, the whole time he’s there. I think this is because of his affiliation with the Angola Three. The administration is aware of Zulu’s potential. Same with Roy Hollingsworth – they have been targeting Roy and Zulu for his affiliation with Roy .
Q: What do you think his chances are, since he’s representing himself?
A: They appoint you a lawyer, but it’s like a roll of the dice. He could be incompetent. He could be a competent lawyer, but still he could not be competent for you, not aggressively dealing with your case. He could have good intentions, but not be knowledgeable. Or he may not be aggressive enough to command people’s respect. Then there’s the jury and the prosecutor. They tell you the jury decides your fate, but the jury is influenced by the DA.
Zulu was targeted – he’s a victim. Morally he should be out; legally he’s a slave- the legal system has made him a slave, lock stock and barrel. I think (his release) could happen with this campaign that is growing. And other campaigns. I think more people are speaking out. The focus is definitely there by the supporters. People around the country are consumed by the latest case, the San Francisco 8. The “Legacy of Torture” campaign, a film being shown around the US and Canada in conjunction with the Black Panther film, films about Mumia. Work around political prisoners is really picking up. He’s optimistic and I am too that he could be released.
Q: If he does get out, do you see Zulu being a strong activist and positive force in the community?
A: I believe strongly that Zulu understands the nature of the beast. He understands that there’s really no alternative. Struggle becomes like wearing a second skin. You aren’t going to come out of your skin. It goes on. Zulu has the volition to do so. He’s been there. He’s developed a sensitivity that people develop in prison – a quiet respect for life – you don’t have to go to prison to do this, but being in prison you become more reflective. Seeing your life flash by you on a daily basis, seconds seem like hours. You learn to appreciate and internalize life a little more. Zulu is one of those who will continue to do what’s necessary, to speak out. I do believe he will.
For more information, visit:
WWW.ANGOLA3.ORG or contact:
Ann Karkness at harkness.ann at gmail.com
Robert King Wilkerson at kingsfreelines at gmail.com
This message does not concern my comrades Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace of the Angola 3, but the plight of all political prisoners, as well as the poor and oppressed. As Leonard Peltier recently expressed: there should be a degree one could receive for have expertise on doing prison time. My name would be Doctor Zulu Wit-More instead of Whitmore, with almost 33 years experience in changing my depression and despair into giving my fellow inmates strength and hope and trying to make them smile.
During my journey I have prevented guys from hurting themselves, kept some from going insane and taught them the principles of the Black Panther Party. I encouraged fellow inmates to continue their education, helped them to research their cases, gave them insight into prison rules and set up’s by prison guards. But above all I encouraged them to fight for their rights, as I am doing for my self, all of this while being held innocently in solitary confinement for over 29 years.
My struggle has been a quite but ongoing one. On sound advice of my comrades King, Wallace and Woodfox I fought my struggle in the shadows, throwing pebble after pebble into the ocean of the US injustice system. I have been shedding light on the silent, but continuous genocide of the poor and minorities of the US population. Just to name a few: the recent and painful reminder of the brutal torture and murder of James Byrd in Texas, the hideous and brutal hate crime perpetrated against Megan Williams in Charleston, West Virginia, the injustice of the Jena 6 in Jena, LA, the ordeal Wilson in Atlanta went through, the current injustice The San Francisco 8 are facing and many, many more.
After I decided the time had come to throw stones I stepped out of the shadows into a visible struggle, Prison Administration immediately set me up and placed me I the dungeon for four months, followed by a stay in the most punitative camp in the whole of Louisiana: Camp J. I am now ready to throw bricks, as soon as donations will allow me to do so.
Like the struggle of the Angola 3, mine is not just about Zulu. It is about a racist and oppressive system, about our struggle to survive within the legalized injustice that inflicts the minorities and poor part of US population, about the government’s attempts to keep us poor, powerless and incarcerated. The legacy of E. J. Hoover’s COINTELPRO is still very much alive: “Frame them and keep them locked down forever”. The 19th Judicial District proved it again by denying Herman Wallace’s release with one single line after the Magistrate judge concluded Herman should not have been tried AT ALL! (For more information visit: www.angola3.org)
The common man in this country is still being exploited, abused and victimised in America’s quest to destroy us in exchange of global power, wealth and influence. The Bush Administration’s response on Katrina proves that once more.
Because of my willingness as a teenager to stand up and speak for those who were maltreated and abused, I was innocently framed for the murder of an influential wealthy KKK member, the ex major of Zachary. The only evidence was a messed up tape and a rusty bucket; both did not have anything to do with the case.
After centuries of exploitation during slavery the rights of basic needs, such as proper housing, food, education and access to what every citizen of this country has access to, is still being denied to the less fortunate. The right to pursue freedom and happiness as written in our constitution has become a damn right struggle for those who belong to a minority in the USA. I have been fighting this kind of injustice since I was a teenager and I will continue doing so till I join my ancestors in the spirit world.
Lots of people are struggling with the A3 and me for all who have been victims of a failing system. Every attempt to point out and criticise the failures of our legal system meets utmost denial and harsh measurements to suppress the truth.
I therefore ask you, THE PEOPLE, to stand with me and support my fight to expose decades, if not centuries of ongoing injustice within the USA. I ask you to support me in any way you can, whether morally by writing me and/or, if possible, financially to obtain an attorney, to hire investigators to locate and purchase documents that will solidify my innocence. It also would allow our coordinator Anja de Graaff to maintain the needs of our info centre. Help me to set me free, so I will be able to join my comrade Robert King in his quest to shine light upon the USA failing legal system and the Louisiana judicial system in particular.
Those who can’t contribute on a monetary basis I ask to help get the word out by passing flyers, pamphlets etc and help committee members to organize events around my situation.
My friends and supporters, remember: ONLY through action and involvement can we bring
For more information or to obtain flyers you can contact the coordinator of the Dutch Zulu movement Anja de Graaff at: agdegraaff at casema.nl.
For more background information about my case, please visit www.myspace.com/awhw
Peace and one love, Zulu.
He talked about how African Americans are disproportionately unemployed and imprisoned, facing foreclosure and limited access to healthcare: "African Americans are out of work more than just about anybody else.....We know that even as spiraling health care costs crush families of all races, African Americans are more likely to suffer from a host of diseases but less likely to own health insurance than just about anybody else. We know that even as we imprison more people of all races than any nation in the world, an African American child is roughly five times as likely as a white child to see the inside of a prison."
He called upon the country to understand that "the pain of discrimination is still felt in America."
President Obama's speech touched on the history of the NAACP, the courageous men and women who led the way for him to break the color barrier that has existed for hundreds of years in the White House.
He reiterated to those in attendance the same challenge he issued to every citizen on Inauguration Day — for every person to do their part for a better America.
However, his speech was clear on the fact that personal responsibility will not remove the barriers that a legacy of racism and exclusion has left for millions of African Americans. And that for every person to realize the American Dream, we must work to eliminate discrimination and continue to fight for civil rights for all.
Thank you for standing with us.
President Obama promises to close Guantanamo, but a court proceeding in Louisiana exposes brutality closer to home
The torture of prisoners in US custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. If President Obama is serious about ending US support for torture, he can start here in Louisiana.
The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is already notorious for a range of offenses, including keeping former Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, in solitary for over 36 years- as well as Kenny Zulu Whitmore - in solitary for over 30 years. Now a death penalty trial in St. Francisville, Louisiana has exposed widespread and systemic abuse at the prison. Even in the context of eight years of the Bush administration, the behavior documented at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola stands out both for its brutality and for the significant evidence that it was condoned and encouraged from the very top of the chain of command.
In a remarkable hearing that explored torture practices at Angola, twenty-five inmates testified last summer to facing overwhelming violence in the aftermath of an escape attempt at the prison nearly a decade ago. These twenty-five inmates — who were not involved in the escape attempt — testified to being kicked, punched, beaten with batons and with fists, stepped on, left naked in a freezing cell, and threatened that they would be killed. They were threatened by guards that they would be sexually assaulted with batons. They were forced to urinate and defecate on themselves. They were bloodied, had teeth knocked out, were beaten until they lost control of bodily functions, and beaten until they signed statements or confessions presented to them by prison officials. One inmate had a broken jaw, and another was placed in solitary confinement for eight years.
While prison officials deny the policy of abuse, the range of prisoners who gave statements, in addition to medical records and other evidence introduced at the trial, present a powerful argument that abuse is a standard policy at the prison. Several of the prisoners received $7,000 when the state agreed to settle, without admitting liability, two civil rights lawsuits filed by 13 inmates. The inmates will have to spend that money behind bars — more than 90% of Angola’s prisoners are expected to die behind its walls.
During the attempted escape at Angola, in which one guard was killed and two were taken hostage, a team of officers — including Angola warden Burl Cain — rushed in and began shooting, killing one inmate, Joel Durham, and wounding another, David Mathis.
The prison has no official guidelines for what should happen during escape attempts or other crises, a policy that seems designed to encourage the violent treatment documented in this case. Richard Stalder, at that time the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, was also at the prison at the time. Yet despite — or because of — the presence of the prison warden and head of corrections for the state, guards were given free hand to engage in violent retribution. Cain later told a reporter after the shooting that Angola’s policy was not to negotiate, saying, ”That’s a message all the inmates know. They just forgot it. And now they know it again.” .
Five prisoners — including Mathis — were charged with murder, and currently are on trial, facing the death penalty — partially based on testimony from other inmates that was obtained through beatings and torture. Mathis is represented by civil rights attorneys Jim Boren (who also represented one of the Jena Six youths) and Rachel Connor, with assistance from Nola Investigates, an investigative firm in New Orleans that specializes in defense for capital cases.
The St. Francisville hearing was requested by Mathis’ defense counsel to demonstrate that, in the climate of violence and abuse, inmates were forced to sign statements through torture, and therefore those statements should be inadmissible. 20th Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr. ruled that the documented torture and abuse was not relevant. However, the behavior documented in the hearing not only raises strong doubts about the cases against the Angola Five, but it also shows that violence against inmates has become standard procedure at the prison.
The hearing shows a pattern of systemic abuse so open and regular, it defies the traditional excuse of bad apples. Inmate Doyle Billiot testified to being threatened with death by the guards, “What’s not to be afraid of? Got all these security guards coming around you everyday looking at you sideways, crazy and stuff. Don’t know what’s on their mind, especially when they threaten to kill you.” Another inmate, Robert Carley testified that a false confession was beaten out of him. “I was afraid,” he said. “I felt that if I didn’t go in there and tell them something, I would die.”
Inmate Kenneth “Geronimo” Edwards testified that the guards “beat us half to death.” He also testified that guards threatened to sexually assault him with a baton, saying, “that’s a big black . . . say you want it.” Later, Edwards says, the guards, “put me in my cell. They took all my clothes. Took my jumpsuit. Took all the sheets, everything out the cell, and put me in the cell buck-naked . . . It was cold in the cell. They opened the windows and turned the blowers on.” At least a dozen other inmates also testified to receiving the same beatings, assault, threats of sexual violence, and “freezing treatment.” .
Some guards at the prison treated the abuse as a game. Inmate Brian Johns testified at the hearing that, “one of the guards was hitting us all in the head. Said he liked the sound of the drums — the drumming sound that — from hitting us in the head with the stick.” .
Two of Angola’s most famous residents, political prisoners Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, (and alongside of them Kenny Zulu Whitmore) have become the primary example of another form of abuse common at Angola — the use of solitary confinement as punishment for political views. The two have now each spent more than 36 years in solitary, despite the fact that a judge recently overturned Woodfox’s conviction (prison authorities continue to hold Woodfox and have announced plans to retry him). Woodfox and Wallace — who together with former prisoner King Wilkerson are known as the Angola Three — have filed a civil suit against Angola, arguing that their confinement has violated both their 8th amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment and 4th amendment right to due process. .
Recent statements by Angola warden Burl Cain makes clear that Woodfox and Wallace are being punished for their political views. At a recent deposition, attorneys for Woodfox asked Cain, “Lets just for the sake of argument assume, if you can, that he is not guilty of the murder of Brent Miller.” Cain responded, “Okay. I would still keep him in (solitary) . . . I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kind of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them . . . He has to stay in a cell while he’s at Angola.”
In addition to Cain’s comments, Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell has said the case against the Angola Three is personal to him. Statements like this indicate that this vigilante attitude not only pervades New Orleans’ criminal justice system, but that the problem comes from the very top.
The problem is not limited to Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola — similar stories can be found in prisons across the US. But from the abandonment of prisoners in Orleans Parish Prison during Katrina to the case of the Jena Six, Louisiana’s criminal justice system, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world, often seems to be functioning under plantation-style justice. Most recently, journalist A.C. Thompson, in an investigation of post-Katrina killings, found evidence that the New Orleans police department supported vigilante attacks against Black residents of New Orleans after Katrina. .
Torture and abuse is illegal under both US law — including the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment — and international treaties that the US is signatory to, from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified in 1992). Despite the laws and treaties, US prison guards have rarely been held accountable to these standards. .
Once we say that abuse or torture is ok against prisoners, the next step is for it to be used in the wider population. A recent petition for administrative remedies filed by Herman Wallace states, “If Guantanamo Bay has been a national embarrassment and symbol of the U.S. government’s relation to charges, trials and torture, then what is being done to the Angola 3 . . . is what we are to expect if we fail to act quickly . . . The government tries out it’s torture techniques on prisoners in the U.S. — just far enough to see how society will react. It doesn’t take long before they unleash their techniques on society as a whole.” If we don’t stand up against this abuse now, it will only spread.
Despite the hearings, civil suits, and other documentation, the guards who performed the acts documented in the hearing on torture at Angola remain unpunished, and the system that designed it remains in place. In fact, many of the guards have been promoted, and remain in supervisory capacity over the same inmates they were documented to have beaten mercilessly. Warden Burl Cain still oversees Angola. Meanwhile, the trial of the Angola Five is moving forward, and those with the power to change the pattern of abuse at Angola remain silent. .
* Research assistance for this article by Emily Ratner.
Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans, and an editor of Left Turn Magazine. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and his reporting on post-Katrina New Orleans has been published and broadcast in outlets including Die Zeit (in Germany), Clarin (in Argentina), Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, and Democracy Now!. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read other articles by Jordan, or visit Jordan's website. .
Brother, how are you holding up under our present circumstances and conditions? State your name fro the record, my brother.
My name is Roy Hollingsworth # 82716 and I am taking this madness one day at the time.
Roy, how long have you known Herman Wallace?
I first heard of hooks (Herman) when I arrived here at Angola in 1973, after the death of the guard 35 years ago now. And I have lived in CCR Solitary Confinement together with Hooks, Albert, you and King since 1998. King went home in 2001.
What kind of person is Herman and what do you think of him?
Being around Hooks and you guys was the best thing that happened to me since I have been in Angola – apart from my wish to be going home of course-. Herman is a great human being.
What do you think of the long overdue ruling in Herman Wallace’s criminal case by the 19th Judicial district court judge Mike Erwin?
Man, Zulu, where is the justice in the land of democracy and equality for all???!!! It is for “all who can buy it”. Zulu, we all know Hooks’ innocence was proven at his evidentiary hearing over a year ago after it had become clear a snitch named Hezekiah Brown was paid a carton of cigarettes a week and a promise of freedom by helping to frame Hooks for the murder of this guard. The magistrate judge in her recommendation for a new trial cited the inconsistency in the snitches testimony. She said Hooks should never have tried on that charge. Now, what I think about judge Mike Erwin adverse ruling is: that bastard needs to be disbarred from ever being a judge again in this country. Hooks could not have said it any better “This is a classic case of prosecutional misconduct”.
Roy, how does this miscarriage of justice affect you and other guys here in Angola?
Man, Zulu, that kind of injustice should have had a negative effect on the tax payers who pay judge Erwin’s salary, because if he can ignore the laws of this state in Hooks’ case, it will be me today and you tomorrow.
So, the ruling in Herman’s case, who has a highly recommended attorney named Nick Trenticosta, is viewed negatively by dudes on your unit?
Zulu, about 95 % of the guys in this prison is indigent. We must fight our court cases pro se. So the ruling in Hooks’ case says to the rest of us that we don’t stand a chance representing ourselves in the Louisiana Judicial system. This ruling is like a deathblow to prisoners and an insult to tax paying public. I have lost the little faith I did have in this system.
Roy, how is the ruling in the Angola 3 civil case on long term cell confinement viewed by guys here at amp J? A 19th JDC commissioner has ruled in their favour, saying it IS a cruel and unusual punishment for the DOC. They have held them in solitary confinement for over 35 years now, though King Wilkerson is on the streets now.
Guys on my unit and others whom I have talked with here at Camp J disciplinary unit (which is single cell confinement) view the commissioner favourable decision in the light of the recent ruling in Hooks criminal case. So everyone is on an “I will wait until after the trial to get excited”.
Why is that Roy?
Well, a jury could come right along in this trial and say the stated did nothing wrong – as those racist, all-white juries have done in a lot of other cases. I know you remember what a white jury just did in the Florida boot camp case, where 6 or 7 racist pigs were caught on their security camera, beating up a young brother to death. They acquitted them caught on camera for the world the world to see, and they GOT acquitted!! So we will see once the A3 case goes on trial.
Any final thoughts or anything you would like to say?
Yes! I like to say that Hooks is a great human being; he is well liked and respected throughout this whole prison. Hooks, Woodfox, King and you have done more to educate guys and to stop the rape and the violence in this prison than the administration it self. Look at me! The influences you guys have had in the changes I have made in my life are huge. I have nothing but love for that old warrior and I wish him the best outcome in both his criminal and civil case.
Thanks Roy, for spending your precious yard time sharing your thoughts with me on this serious matter. You still have some time to get you some running in, my brother. Take care, keep your head up and your eyes open by all means.
Roy Hollingsworth is a close friend of the A3.
My decision is based upon the fact that we knew back in the 1970’s and 80’s mostly that the administration – Angola and the F.B.I. was, well had an all out war against members of the Angola chapter of the BPP. Panthers were being set up for vicious attacks by the guards, set up on contraband charges, murdered, and framed for murder, as in the case with Herman and Albert. Robert King Wilkerson “King” wasn’t even at Angola when the guard was killed, but yet he was connected to the guard’s death by the administration and their only reason for doing so was because he was a Panther. And for this reason everyone became shadows. But now that the truth is out about the guard’s death back in the 70’s I along with other Panthers decided that it was time to step out and claim my rightful position in the struggle. And no, I have never and will never underestimate the viciousness of these people to still try to carry out their attacks, as in my present situation here in the dungeon. No doubt I know that my statement was read by the administration here in what use to be CCR/TU. Just weeks later I, along with Roy Hollingsworth, was set up on a contraband charge. Other shit storms might come my way, but as in any struggle there will always be some kind of repression from authority. Do I regret my decision? No, not one bit. I knew that Angola authority knew of my connection to A3 and BPP. For this is the real reason why I am continued to be held in CCR, Solitary Confinement, because of my ties to A3 and BPP. What I am doing is trying to get other brothers to follow my lead.
Yes, Albert [Woodfox] and Hooks´ [Herman Wallace] case played a big part in my decision to step out of the shadows. As I said the truth is now out. A3 are now in a strong position support wise and I do feel like they are in the position to help me get the support that I need, not that the A3 owe me anything. Hooks will be free soon. Albert and my case are still pending in court and I feel that with what I have in court now is my time to build the support that I need around my case because the equally political nature of it.
You said that your case is in the Middle District Court, and that they are trying to dismiss your petition. What is the petition about/for exactly?
My petition in the U.S. Middle District Court was this: I filed a suit in 1983, challenging the LA Parole board and Department of Corrections for not allowing me to go before a parole board until my life sentence is fixed to a number of years. They are violating the ex post facto clauses of the U.S. and LA constitution. I was seeking a declaratory injunctive relief specifically to have my master prison record to reflect that I am entitled to a parole hearing and to enjoin the parole board from denying me that right. See I was sentenced to life in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence for a period of twenty years. I am arguing that my sentence is fixed at 20 year for parole. So my master prison record should reflect that I have a 20 year sentence. The LA legislature in 1979 retroactively took away parole for lifers but they cannot make or pass laws that will increase my sentence after the fact. Now they have guys that is getting out of prison on this very same issue, but all of them had attorneys to fight their case in court. What it is with LA is they will not let a petition filed by a prisoner win. A good example, Robert King had filed his case in court himself but was getting denied. As soon as he got an attorney he went home on the very same issue he had gotten denied on. My case is on www.myspace.com/awhw. I will have the U.S. M.D.C. decision on there soon for anyone who is interested in justice to peep out. What the Middle District Court is saying is that I should file my case in the trial court.
What is the the status of your legal case?
Well right now the administration have not made any more moves on me since the set of contraband, well except the one confrontation that Roy and I had with these people shaking down our cells. And they felt the need to separate us by sending Roy Hollingsworth to Camp J disciplinary Unit in March. I think the incident had more to do with racism than anything because on March 24 and 25 ’07 me, Roy, Herman and Albert had a visit together with Judith and Kari who happen to be white and these 1707 minded racist don’t think white women should be visiting with us (N) criminal, their way of thinking. I think Herman and Albert cell were hit around that same time. So, shit is just suspect around here right now, but I know at Camp J it will be worse.
What has it meant to be in the “shadows” and what does it mean to “come out of the shadows”.
Well in the shadows you work under ground and you are not visible to the public, nor the administration. You do not speak out, you pass on information to the ones above ground. As I did with Hooks, King, and Albert. Coming out of the shadow means you yourself can speak out report facts to other members, media, etc. You are out front. People that knew you were active, now know you are connected.
Have there been repercussions from Angola administration that you didn’t expect?
As I have already said I would be crazy not to think there wouldn’t be some kind of repression from the authority in any struggle regardless of its magnitude. There will be some kind of sacrifice. Look at what is happening in Iraq. Those Iraqi are making the ultimate sacrifice everyday for their people. In my transition I am saying Long Live A3 BPP 4Life.
How was it that King and Albert and Herman were more openly visible than you?
It was Albert and Herman who opened the chapter of the Black Panther Party here in Angola, so of course there were no way for them to be nothing but visible. King came to Angola a little later, but he was already targeted as a BP and place in solitary “CCR” as soon as he got to Angola where Albert and Herman were already. It was because member of the BPP was being targeted by the administration and the F.B.I. So my comrades couldn’t be anything else but visible.
What has your action/statement meant for the culture of Angola now? Does this have an impact on others inside?
I think my statement has security saying yes, we was right all along to keep him in solitary confinement with the others, King, Herman, and Albert. As for the other in the shadows, yes it does have an impact on them. Their decision to come out or stay in the shadows. They’re watching to see what security will do because they know it was because of my “out of the shadows” statement that Roy and I was set up for contraband and everyone is watching. So I guess I will say yes my statement is having an impact.
Was and is your affiliation or membership with the BPP known by other incarcerated men inside? How have others reacted to you making a statement, or do people know? Do they care?
As I just said, others are watching, so of course other members knew I was a member, maybe not all. But whenever one of us out of the CCR goes on call out, we would have to pass on information and I don’t think that kind of information was going to non members. And if they’re Panthers they care.
Is the BPP still a topic of discussion inside Angola?
The BPP will always be a topic of discussion inside or outside of Angola. A lot of younger guys here now hear about how fucked up it was in here with the rape, killing, etc. and BPP come up often especially the names of Herman, Albert because they was in general population and then King and my name because CCR was the BPP headquarter, and in many ways guys still see it that way.
Do you think there is an element of performance in coming out of the shadows? What I mean is, in what way is this act symbolic for you, and what is it symbolic of?
Well, I do not see what I did as a performance nor an act. This wasn’t part of a play or an opera of some kind. But I will say it is symbolic in the fact that we are still standing, still struggling, still educating, teaching moral principle. It says the world now know the murder was a frame up. Its says I am out of the shadows and more will follow. It says that I am a Muslim and a Black Panther and I am not now, nor have I ever been afraid to openly say that I am a Panther and that we are large in number. And we will recruit these young brothers in Angola to help restore their moral principles and dignity which is lacking in Angola right now.
Does being part of the BPP still hold an element of mystique or power? If so, how has that caused the prison admin to treat you differently?
The BPP will always hold an element of mystique and power because when one think of the BPP you get the mental imagine brothers protecting the community from the murderous rage of the cops and brothers and sisters setting up social programs in the community. As far as the administration is concerned, fuck them. They are doing to do what they do. A coward dies a thousand deaths, a warrior dies only once.
Does being with the A3/BPP allow you to create an image of yourself that wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t part of otherwise? Do guys inside recognize the A3? What kind of power does the A3/BPP have in Angola today?
I would say yes because A3/BPP is well known throughout the world right now. But I have always been a part of BPP. My coming out of the shadow just solidify my connection with my comrades. Yes guys inside recognize the A3. A3/BPP have BIG RESPECT here in Angola. Guys in here refer to Herman as Mr. Hooks and Mr. Woodfox. They refer to me as Zulu because of my youthful appearance, but for those reasons this is why we are still being held in solitary confinement.
Does coming out of the shadows put you in a position to change things inside Angola? Or is this something that is more so going to help you get out of Angola? What changes are you aiming to create?
As I have stated, there are a real need for recruitment with the large number of young brothers in Angola and the lack of moral conduct and dignity among these young brothers. There is a need for older Panthers to come out of the shadow and teach, since the truth is now out now is the time to be visible. Sure the Admin. will be pissed off but if brothers start to get transferred to out camps, lockdowns, cellblock and Camp-J there will be other panthers in the open struggling for dignity and in time we’ll be able to turn places like Camp-J into Panthers strong holds. Those would be changes I would like to see but of course there is others to consider…My aim is to show other brothers in the shadows that now is the time to come out and pull some of these younger guys into the BPP. A lot of them is ready for it. I am in contact with some of them here in Camp J. And yes I do hope I can generate enough support to get out of Angola. I have labored long and hard alone for my physical freedom. The system will not let me win alone. I need support to get out of Angola so that I can lend my support to the struggle in the community because today police brutality and drug activity in the community is worse now than it was when I was out there and I know I can contribute.
If people want to support you, how should they do that? If donations are a kind of support you are requesting, how and where should people send money to?
Well, soon an account will being set up where people can donate tax deductable funds into my account. The account information will appear on myspace soon. For now I can receive money sent to:
Louisiana State Prison
Angola, LA 70712
For Kenny Zulu Whitmore
(see sidebar for more directions to send money to Zulu)
BY JUDITH KATZ
I met Kenny for the first time five years ago through my friendship with the Angola 3, who have suffered the longest documented solitary confinement in American history. I went to visit them in the Closed Cell Restricted unit of Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana. On that day, Zulu was one of the prisoners allowed “contact visits” in the meeting area. Despite the heavy chains on his ankles, I sensed his lightness and gentility. He showed his visitors tremendous affection and care.
Since then Kenny and I have been in correspondence by regular mail. Over the years, he has sent me so many beautiful letters and cards which always reflect a true understanding of my communications. His responses are sensitive, thoughtful and often with a humorous edge.
Over the last year or so, Kenny and I have been corresponding about spiritual practice, as I am now living in a spiritual community, and I have felt touched to learn more about his strong faith, his practice of meditation and his openness to the philosophy of Nonviolence. Not all Black Panthers are open to this ideal. The Black Panther Party is an organization of vulnerable peoples seeking to resist oppression and domination. For someone from that place, who has been incarcerated by this domination system for half their life, for that person to demonstrate an openness to nonviolent resistance is a powerful statement of that person's integrity and morality. This is part of the reason why I am proud to support Kenny's freedom with all my heart.
When I saw Kenny again this last March, he was not given a contact visit. He had to stay in a small room behind glass, chained, and wearing an orange jumpsuit. When I pointed out that he had the jumpsuit on inside out, he told me that wearing it this way was a gesture of protest. I was saddened and shocked to see how the depth and passion of a cry for freedom had been reduced to the turning of one's clothes inside out.
Zulu has been locked up for more than thirty years now, most of that time in solitary confinement. People of Louisiana: I urge you to take action towards the resolution of this prolonged tragedy. I ask you to give Zulu his freedom.
To say that Zulu became a target of harrassment by the Baton Rouge police department, and the prosecutor's office, is putting it mildly. The proper perspective would be this: Consider the following. After coming into contact with BPP principles and after leaving the parish prison and going back out into his community, in Zachary, La, organizing and being active, is when Zulu real trouble started. Zulu was falsly arrested and accused of armed robbery. And still later, while awaiting in the parish prison for the initial robbery charge to be resolved, Zulu was slammed with another false charge of allegedly robbing and murdering a well known KKK wizard. Zulu was falsly convicted, along with another person, of this crime, notwithstanding the fact that evidence at his trial (an alleged taped confessions) was obviously tampered with.
Zulu is just one more of a growing list of comrades and brothers who, over the years, has quietly given of themselves, sacrificing much! It is now OUR TIME to proclaim loudly our support!
Robert King Wilkerson/aka Robert H. King
But none of you might know I was a working, young African tax payer, engaged to the mother of my son Rodney, who was born 12 January 1974. I was able to spent 13 of the best months of my life, being a father to my son. However, in June 1973 my wife to be was arrested by the police on a false theft charge. They rode her around town in the police car and threatened her with jail for being my fiancée. Then they put her out in front of our house with a warning to stay away from me. This was one of the police’s attempts to intimidate me, but their attempt failed.
I used to be a member of the Union Baptist Church and attended church on a regular basis under the pastor ship of the late reverent Albert Anderson. I did yard work and ran errands for the elderly in my community. My father, my older brother and I once came to the rescue of our neighbour, who was victim of a burglary and while the man was forcing him self upon her with a gun, we stopped him.
However, the power that is will have you, the people, believe that I am a criminal, running around stealing, robbing and murdering. But no, that s not who and what I am. I was raised by loving and caring parents who instilled pride, responsibility and work ethics in all of their children.
Today my political knowledge has broadened and my education has expanded, but I am still the person I used to be. I have not allowed the years innocently behind bars harden my heart or destroy me, nor will I ever let that happen.
Other than navigating my way out of this judicial maze, I am very concerned about our planet, the global warming and the epidemics of HIV/Aids, in particular among the African American communities.
These three issues: the environment, the spread of aids and the systematic incarceration of the powerless in the USA need immediate attention. These issues affect us all, directly or indirectly. What will become of our children, our grandchildren? What will they inherit? A dieing earth, aids orphans or a prison cell.
No, I am not the criminal here! I will NEVER give up the moral principals that made me who I am: Kenneth Zulu Whitmore.
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