[Pnews] Vietnam General Vo Nguyen Giap, Angola 3 - Herman Wallace and Freedom

Prisoner News 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,

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
    To disappear,
    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 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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