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Monday, April 26, 2002

The Angola 3 – and TRUTH

In 1970 Robert King Wilkerson was sentenced to 35 years in prison for armed robbery, for a crime he did not commit. Through a diabolical combination of circumstances, the original 35 years became a life sentence, and beginning in 1972, he spent 29 years in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

On February 8, 2001 the state exonerated Wilkerson and released him. Since that day, he has traveled about the country, seeking freedom for two comrades in solitary, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, and laying bare the horrors of the U.S. prison system.

This week Wilkerson came to San Francisco. On April 1 he received a commendatory mayoral plaque and helped to dedicate a new mural on the side of the Odd Fellows Building – positioned so that the mayor can see its message whenever he looks out of his office in City Hall.

The ceremony, held in U.N. Plaza, attracted a very San Francisco audience, from Wilkerson and the mural’s creator, Rigo ’02, to Arts Commissioner Stanlee Gatti, to the folks from Food Not Bombs.

A number of poets were read, including this one.


Poem for Robert King and Rigo ’02’s T-R-U-T-H

By Don Paul


"It was really – it was rough"


Robert King has stood at the bottom of a well

Robert King fought for four decades inside Hell

Robert King knows more than I can ever tell

Robert King stands like the ringing of a bell


When Robert Wilkerson came up there were no Blacks

In Louisiana. Negro was about the best

Any such man or woman could expect,

Buses, beaches, water-fountains were Whites-only,

Klaxons burning crosses on lawns

Behind their pointy-headed sheets.


Strengths not to be put down, some dared to resist. Some dared to reach

For their rightful places. Some wanted even more

Than voting within corruption could bring.

Some saw Vietnam and wanted to join

In turning a world of oppression upside-down.

Some picked up guns in self-defense and for a dawn ahead.


Robert "King" Wilkerson was one,

Herman "Hooks" Wallace another,

Albert Woodfox another, among many more

Friends, brothers and sisters, who fed and taught and fought.

Tricks of the Law and a lawless campaign (COINTELPRO)

Tripped them down. Prisons were their further bondage.


Imagine solitude – blank solitude –

Sweating hot, freezing cold – in a box no bigger than an SRO Hotel bathroom –

Hour after hour – for one morning-to-morning of such hours.

Imagine a week of such hours – imagine a month – imagine a year –

Imagine 30 years of no more than one hour a day of sunlight

To your eyes and skin! –

Of clangs, bangs, barks, Guards' and Wardens' endless plots –

Of beetles on the red dirt and roaches in your soup

Looking like freedom –

Of a bed a board 14 inches wide – your bed a board, 14 inches wide! –

Imagine your arms and legs broken because you talked to a friend.


Imagine you must be a slave or prisoner,

Nothing changed since Pharoahs' or Caesars',

Khans' or Washington's or Queen Victoria's centuries –

Imagine your home still a plantation,

Nothing of brutal force changed since Nazis' murdered Reds,

Cripples, Juden, Roma,

For the glory of one more Number One –

Because you Boy – Kike – Raghead – Sand ...

"Kain't" be a human being:

Your mirror exposes too much for shame to stand.


His shoulders like an oak's,

His smile like the sun's,

Robert King comes out to a world

Even harder than 30 years ago,

The play from White elites' Houses

More grabs for a chokehold on the slippery wealth

Of oil and other drugs,

Even greater fools and killers

Wielding power as if it were a horse

They'd never dare to ride.


Surrounded by a hundred million miles of still "dark" wires,

We need ones who know how much they can bear.

We need ones spiritual and political.

We need fighters.

Who need ones who refuse to feed the Beast.

We need ones who know that truth is essential for peace

We must shake glad hands for Robert King's strength and light.


"R-E-S-P-E-C-T" –



Look and smile – a living message –

In black on gray – from Portugal! –

Here's one.