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Unbreakable Spirit: The Freed Angola Three

Robert King and Albert Woodfox
In conversation with Bryonn Bain
Monday, April 9, 2018
Episode Summary

In a special Los Angeles visit, human rights activists Robert King and Albert Woodfox, the two surviving members of the Angola 3, known for having served the longest solitary confinement sentences in U.S. history, share their remarkable story of survival and advocacy.  As comrades inside Louisiana State Penitentiary—the largest prison in the U.S. and former slave plantation known as “Angola”- they jointly established a chapter of the Black Panther Party within the prison and led peaceful non-violent protest against the racist and cruel conditions inflicted upon prisoners. Together with Herman Wallace (released 2013, deceased 2013) they collectively spent 114 years in solitary confinement. Since being released, King (released 2001) and Woodfox (released 2016) travel the globe campaigning for limits to solitary confinement and an end to the 13th amendment allowance for the enslavement of prisoners.  These two unbreakable spirits shed light on the reality of the American criminal justice system and represent the struggle of everyone unjustly incarcerated.

Participant(s) Bio

Dr. Robert King is a prison reform activist and the first of the Angola 3 to win his freedom after serving twenty-nine years in solitary confinement of a 31-year sentence. He was a member of the Black Panther Party in Angola, Louisiana, the only official chapter of the BPP in the country. In the seventeen years since his release in 2001, King’s life’s focus has been to campaign against abuses in the US criminal justice system, the cruel and unusual use of solitary confinement and for the freedom of the then remaining imprisoned, Angola 2, who are now all free. In 2012, King received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK for his achievements as a civil rights campaigner and has traveled the world sharing his testimony with parliaments in Europe, Africa, and South America.  He is the author of his autobiography, From the Bottom of the Heap.

Albert Woodfox is the last of the Angola 3 to be released.  He was released on his birthday, February 19th, 2016 after his conviction had been overturned a total of three times, spanning the years between 1992-2015.  Motivated by the many years it took to be heard, Albert has made a life-long commitment to continuing his activism and advocacy on behalf of all those wrongfully imprisoned due to the multiple abuses of the criminal justice system, prosecutorial misconduct, missing or false evidence, bad science, and racism. As a former member of the Black Panther Party he hopes to be a voice for the voiceless who suffer under brutal prison conditions. He is currently writing a book slated to publish late 2018.

Bryonn Bain is a hip hop theater innovator, spoken word poetry champion, prison activist, actor and educator who currently serves as Director of the UCLA Prison Education Program.  Bain was wrongfully imprisoned while studying at Harvard Law, sued the NYPD, and wrote about his experiences in his book The Ugly Side of Beautiful: Rethinking Race and Prison in America.  Bain has organized prison workshops in 25 states and has toured nationally and internationally with his one-man multimedia production, Lyrics From Lockdown, executive produced by Harry Belafonte.  Bain’s latest Emmy-nominated film, BaaaddD Sonia, traces the life and work of Black Studies pioneer and poet Sonia Sanchez.  Bain founded the prison education program offering college degrees from NYU to men incarcerated in New York.  In 2016, Bain began co-supervising UCLA’s International Human Rights Law Clinic and facilitated an initiative with incarcerated women to develop a 92-page needs/resources assessment for the LA Mayor’s Office of Re-Entry.  Bryonn serves proudly as a faculty advisor for Underground Scholars and the Justice Work Group at UCLA.