[Pnews] Vietnam General Vo Nguyen Giap, Angola 3 - Herman Wallace and Freedom
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 7 16:51:40 EDT 2013
**'Defined Voices': Giap, Wallace, and freedom**
By Ramzy Baroud
"Nothing is more precious than freedom," is quoted as being attributed
to Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general who led his country through
two liberation wars. The first was against French colonialists, the
second against the Americans. And despite heavy and painful losses,
Vietnam prevailed, defeating the first colonial quest at the Battle of
Dien Bien Phu (1954) and the second at Ho Chi Minh Campaign (1975).
General Giap, the son of a peasant scholar, stood tall in both
wars, only bowing down to the resolve of his people. "Any forces that
would impose their will on other nations will most certainly face
defeat," he once said. His words will always be true.
He died on Friday, October 4, at the age of 102.
On the same day, the former black panther Herman Wallace, who had spent
41-years of his life in solitary confinement in Louisiana State
Penitentiary, died from incurable liver cancer at the age of 71. Just a
few days before his death, Judge Brian Jackson had overturned a charge
that robbed Herman of much of his life. According to Jackson, Herman's
1974 conviction of killing a prison guard was 'unconstitutional.'
Despite the lack of material evidence, discredited witnesses and a sham
trial, Wallace, who was a poet and lover of literature, and two other
prisoners known as the Angola Three, were locked up to spend a life of
untold hardship for a crime they didn't commit.
Now that Wallace is dead, two remain. One, Robert King, 70, was freed in
2001, and the other, Albert Woodfox, 66, is still in solitary
confinement and "undergoes daily cavity searches," according to reported
the Independent newspaper.
"When his conviction was overturned it cleared the slate - he could die
a man not convicted of a crime he was innocent of," King said of the
release of Wallace, who died few days later.
One of the last photos released while on his hospital bed, showed
Wallace raising his clinched right fist, perpetuating the legendary
defiance of a whole generation of African Americans and civil rights
leaders. While some fought for civil rights in the streets of American
cities, Wallace fought for the rights of prisoners. The four decades of
solitary confinement were meant to break him. Instead, it made it him
"If death is the realm of freedom, then through death I escape to
freedom" Wallace quoted Frantz Fanon in the introduction to a poem he
wrote from prison in 2012.
In /A Defined Voice/, Wallace wrote, "They removed my whisper from
general population, To maximum security, I gained a voice; They removed
my voice from maximum security, To administrative segregation, My voice
gave hope; They removed my voice from administrative segregation, To
solitary confinement, My voice became vibration for unity .."
"Literature can and must elevate a man's soul," General Giap once said.
The son of the 'peasant scholar' was right, as Wallace's own words attest:
/"The louder my voice the deeper they bury me,
I SAID, THE LOUDER MY VOICE THE DEEPER THEY BURY ME!..."/
There was so much in common between Giap and Wallace.
Giap fought colonial powers and died free. Wallace, known as the
"Muhammad Ali of the Criminal Justice System", spent most of his life a
prisoner, but never lowered his clasped fist, not until he died. But
then again, "If death is the realm of freedom, then through death I
escape to freedom."
The words of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish can always find space in
any discussion concerning freedom:
/"It is possible...
It is possible at least sometimes...
It is possible especially now
To ride a horse
Inside a prison cell
And run away...
"It is possible for prison walls
For the cell to become a distant land
Without frontiers ..."/
Can death be that 'distant land without frontiers', where Fanon, Darwish
and Wallace meet and exchange notes on freedom and resistance?
Of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, 1,200 suffer
from various illnesses, and among them, according to UFree Network, 44
suffer from cancer. Among the nearly 5,000 prisoners, 320 are children.
There is little doubt that each of these children sees Nelson Mandela as
a hero. Herman Wallace is also a hero.
"Free all political prisoners, prisoners of war, prisoner of
consciousness." Wallace ended his poem. His words were not directed at
himself and his prison mates. From Palestine, to Afghanistan, to
Guantanamo, to Louisiana, his words are loaded with meaning and relevance.
"When we started out we weren't thinking about ourselves, we were
dealing with the system. That goes on," said Robert King. And it will go
on, because, as Giap had said, there is nothing more precious than freedom.
Those who fight against "the system", any "system", need to understand
that without unity no battle can be won, not those of liberation wars,
as in Palestine, nor those fought from solitary confinements.
In an interview with CNN in 2004, Giap, speaking of the US war on Iraq
said that a nation that stands up and knows how to unite will always
defeat a foreign invader. "When people have the spirit to reach for
independent sovereignty ... and show solidarity, it means the people can
defeat the enemy," the Vietnamese general said.
Like Wallace, Giap was expectedly very frail. Yet, along with Wallace,
his is one of the "defined voices" that continue to define history.
/*Ramzy Baroud* (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a media consultant, an
internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is /My Father was A Freedom
Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story/ (Pluto Press)./
(Copyright 2013 Ramzy Baroud)
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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