I wanted to share with you a letter I received from Albert Woodfox, the Angola Three political prisoner who recently filed an appeal for a new trial after spending more than 30 years in solitary confinement in an American prison for a crime he did not commit. I visited Albert this summer, and was gobsmacked by his strength and spirit.
Soon after we met, Albert's sister died of cancer. As her dying wish, she had asked him to be there for her funeral, and he made a promise to her that he would. But his captors at Angola prison refused to let him honor his promise. He is understandably heartbroken. Still, he and Herman Wallace -- the other Angola Three inmate who was framed for the murder of a white prison guard in 1972 and punished with three decades in solitary -- manage to bounce back from such abuse and demoralization as would kill lesser men.
Now that the prison administration knows that I have joined a growing worldwide coalition of fair-minded people in trying to publicize these men's fates and pressure the system for justice, they have stepped up their campaign to break Albert and Herman's spirits. They have thrown Herman in a punishment camp and are using endless delays and bureaucracy to block my efforts to visit Albert again. Of course, both men are far too strong to let such pettiness weaken their resolve.
Herewith, Albert's letter:
November 3, 2002
Dear Mrs. Roddick:
Please accept my apologies for not writing sooner.
So many things have happened since your visit! The loss of my sister being the most painful! I knew that I would lose her, and I thought that I had prepared myself, but as is always, one can never prepare for this!
The fact that these beasts that hold me captive, would not allow me to honour the only request that she has ever made of me in 30-plus years, is a constant pain in my soul! I have always had to do what I, and others expected of me and I think that I have honoured my obligations.
But not to be able to attend my sister's funeral and mourn her passing as a family member has left me once again without closure. Now I can add this latest cruelty to the loss of my mother and not being allowed to say goodbye! Every human should have at least one itch that they cannot scratch but two is a bit much.
I know that you are aware of what Herman and I are going through. I read your feelings on this matter. Let me assure you that this is nothing nor is it the last of it, but you must know that nothing but death could ever stop Herman and I from moving forward!
I am sorry to tell you that my effort to add you to my visiting list is still ongoing. I think that you and I both know that this is all b******t! At some point you may have to ask your legal staff to get involved on your behalf. I am hoping to visit with you in the coming year.
I'm sure that you know that my appeal has been filed and now the waiting game begins. So many people have worked so hard and made so many personal sacrifices to get to this point, how does one ever say thank you? My best to you, your family and all the people that you deem worthy.
Find out more about the Angola Three and how to get involved on our A3 campaign page.