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Court Temporarily Blocks Release of ‘Angola 3’ Inmate

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This undated photo provided by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 shows Albert Woodfox. Prosecutors sought to keep Woodfox, the last of the "Angola Three," behind bars Tuesday, June 9, 2015, despite a federal judge's order to immediately release him after 43 years in isolation, a longer period in lockdown than any other living U.S. prisoner. Woodfox was one of several prisoners accused of killing Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, in Angola, La., in 1972. (Courtesy of International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 via AP)

This undated photo provided by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 shows Albert Woodfox. Prosecutors sought to keep Woodfox, the last of the “Angola Three,” behind bars Tuesday, June 9, 2015, despite a federal judge’s order to immediately release him after 43 years in isolation, a longer period in lockdown than any other living U.S. prisoner. (Courtesy of International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 via AP)

CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press
BRIAN SLODYSKO, Associated Press

ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP) — Prison activist Albert Woodfox, the last member of the “Angola Three” inmates held for decades in solitary confinement, will have to wait a bit longer to see if he’ll experience the “immediate” and “unconditional” freedom ordered by a federal judge.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the release of Woodfox, who spent more than 40 years in isolation after being accused of killing a guard. His supporters say it was retribution for his Black Panther Party activism to protest prison conditions.

Tuesday’s order came a day after a federal judge ruled that the state can’t fairly try Woodfox, now 68, a third time for the killing of a prison guard 43 years ago, and that the “only just remedy” would be setting him free after all the years he spent in “extended lockdown.”

Woodfox has long maintained his innocence in the guard’s killing, which happened during protests of brutal conditions inside the huge penitentiary built on a former slave plantation in Angola, Louisiana. His two previous convictions were overturned for racial prejudice and lack of evidence.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is appealing the order by U.S. District Judge James Brady, saying Woodfox is a killer who should remain locked up. The stay by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocks his release until 1 p.m. Friday, providing time for the court to decide whether to accept the state’s appeal.

Woodfox is currently being held at the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center in St. Francisville, where he was transferred in preparation for a third trial. His attorney, George Kendall, met with Woodfox on Tuesday after the stay was granted.

Kendall said he is “hopeful and optimistic” the court will release Woodfox while the state’s appeal is pending. But he acknowledged the court could order Woodfox to stay in jail while that process plays out.

Kendall described the conditions Woodfox has served his time under as “brutal,” and blasted the attorney general for fighting to keep him incarcerated.

“This case ought to end,” he said.

While not awaiting trial or attending hearings, Woodfox has remained in state prisons. Most of the time was spent at Angola, where for decades an “extended lockdown review board” renewed the decision to hold him in isolation every 90 days, his attorneys say. His attorneys say he was denied contact with the general prison population and kept in a roughly 55-square-foot cell 23 hours a day.

The isolation continued when he was moved to another state prison in 2010.

Amnesty International and the United Nations have condemned Woodfox’s imprisonment as inhumane. Human rights advocates call it a form of torture.

But he has been allowed visitors and reading material, and can see a television through the bars on his cell. State officials dispute that his circumstances constitute “solitary confinement,” saying he is able to communicate with others, including other inmates and chaplains, through the bars of his cell.

“The perception of ‘solitary confinement’ is a far cry from the reality,” said Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office.

Angela Allen-Bell, an assistant professor of legal writing and analysis at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, said she talked with Woodfox on Monday night. She said he has been having panic attacks and is suffering from health problems, including diabetes.

“He does not allow himself to be very optimistic about things. I think that that is a coping mechanism that he has developed. But we talk often about the power of prayer and the ability of God to deliver miracles. And I do believe that he believes that that is possible,” Allen-Bell said.

Woodfox was one of several prisoners accused of killing Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the prison. A year earlier, Woodfox and Herman Wallace helped establish a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party, while Robert King helped establish a Black Panther chapter in the New Orleans prison.

All three were active in hunger strikes and work stoppages that spurred improvements to prison conditions, and all three suffered harsh treatment thereafter as prison authorities kept them isolated at Angola to prevent more disruption behind bars.

Parnell Herbert, a 66-year-old New Orleans playwright and boyhood friend of Woodfox, said that at one point, the Angola Three refused to submit to dehumanizing cavity searches for contraband. They were then taken to a chamber where prison guards beat them with clubs and baseball bats, but they eventually won a battle in court to end the searches.

“Albert told me, ‘They will never break me,'” Herbert said.

In ruling against a third trial, Brady cited the inmate’s age and poor health; the unavailability of witnesses; “the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty years in solitary confinement”; and “the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice” before his convictions were overturned.

Wallace died in October 2013, days after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial. King has become a public speaker since his release in 2001 after the reversal of his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate in 1973.

___

Burdeau reported from New Orleans. Associated Press writers Kevin McGill and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans contributed to this report.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Herman Wallace died in October 2013, not last fall.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Black History

Alexandre Dumas: The French Author of ‘The Three Musketeers’

Alexandre Dumas wrote plays, both comedies and dramas. Scholars describe his writing as having a “heavy emphasis on plot; his primary skill as a writer consisted of his capacity to imagine and execute tales of breathtaking adventures that cause the reader to experience feelings of excitement.”

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Alexandre Dumas.Wikipedia.org image.
Alexandre Dumas.Wikipedia.org image.

By Tamara Shiloh

Best known for having penned the historical adventure novels “The Three Musketeers” (1844) and “The Count of Monte Cristo,” (1846) Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870) established himself as one of the most popular and prolific authors in France.

He wrote essays, short stories, volumes of romantic novels, plays, and travelogues, many having been translated into more than 100 languages and adapted for numerous films. But Dumas’ own story begins with his father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie.

Thomas-Alexandre adopted the Dumas name from his Haitian grandmother. He did so just prior to enlisting in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. He rose to the rank of general, the highest rank of any Black man in a European army. He would separate from the military after clashing with Bonaparte over his Egyptian Campaign.

The elder Dumas left Egypt in 1799 traveling on what was known to be an unsound vessel. The ship’s troubles forced it to put aground in Naples, a city in southern Italy. There Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was arrested, thrown into a dungeon, and held for two years.

After his release, he returned to France. The following year, Alexandre was born. Thomas-Alexandre died when his son was four.

Dumas’ mother, Marie Louise Labouret, took on several jobs to ensure that her son was educated. He attended Abbé Grégoire’s school, but later quit to take a job assisting a local notary.

He held such a great interest in reading and books that he relocated to Paris at age 20 to immerse himself in literature. There he met the duc d’Orléans (later named King Louis Philippe) and began working for him as a scribe. It was then that Dumas dreamed of publishing his own works.

He wrote plays, both comedies and dramas. Scholars describe his writing as having a “heavy emphasis on plot; his primary skill as a writer consisted of his capacity to imagine and execute tales of breathtaking adventures that cause the reader to experience feelings of excitement.”

Dumas’ style is often compared to that of his contemporary and rival Victor Hugo.

It is estimated that all his published writings, if placed in one document, would span about 100,000 pages.

Dumas did well financially, but his spending rivaled his earnings. He spent much of his life in debt because of his extravagant lifestyle. He built a home in the country himself (now a museum), but after two years of lavish living, financial difficulties forced him to sell it. Another downfall was that he kept several mistresses.

Dumas married actress Ida Ferrier (1840) yet continued to have relationships with other women. According to scholar Claude Schopp, Dumas entertained about 40 women and fathered at least four children outside of the marriage.

To escape creditors, Dumas fled to Belgium, then to Russia. Still, he published his work, including travel books on Russia. He continued to take on mistresses, including much younger women in his old age. He remained married to Ferrier until his death in 1870.

Suggested reading: “Alexandre Dumas: Genius of Life,” by Claude Schopp.

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Activism

Collaboration Key to Anti-Trafficking Efforts

According to District Attorney Lori Frugoli, community education is paramount in the work of the coalition. Student, parent, and teacher education is also something that MCCEHT strongly supports through the PROTECT program, coordinated with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). MCCEHT member Marlene Capra has worked with MCOE and the 3 Strands Global Foundation to keep efforts to stop human trafficking in the spotlight and teach residents and school educators about the realities of human trafficking.

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Many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family.
Many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family.

Local work t stop human exploitation coordinated through DA’s Office

Courtesy of Marin County

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Bay region and San Francisco are among the top sex trafficking areas in the United States. As the co-chair organization of the Marin County Coalition to End Human Trafficking (MCCEHT), the Marin County District Attorney’s Office is addressing the problem and working with partnering nonprofits and agencies to increase public awareness, prosecute those who commit the crimes, and put a halt to all types of slavery.

On Jan. 11, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to proclaim the month of January as National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Jan. 11 happened to be Human Trafficking Awareness Day as well. Video of the presentation is on the County website (skip ahead to agenda item #4, Consent Calendar A).

The DA’s staff has worked closely with key stakeholders to make sure the red-flag warnings of human trafficking are widely known, even using advertisements at bus stops to urge people to speak up and report potential exploitation.

According to District Attorney Lori Frugoli, community education is paramount in the work of the coalition. Student, parent, and teacher education is also something that MCCEHT strongly supports through the PROTECT program, coordinated with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). MCCEHT member Marlene Capra has worked with MCOE and the 3 Strands Global Foundation to keep efforts to stop human trafficking in the spotlight and teach residents and school educators about the realities of human trafficking.

A new nonprofit created by Capra arose from her community work. SpeakSAFE, with SAFE meaning Save Adolescents from Exploitation, assists with local fundraising for educational efforts and has provided online learning opportunities during the pandemic.

“With our coalition, the DA’s Office [has] been extremely supportive and helpful in partnering on our work and connecting us with law enforcement, service providers and community members,” Capra said. “It really is all hands on deck, and their involvement has been pivotal. Our work has always been a priority with them in supporting our youth.”

Frugoli said human trafficking is difficult to detect and rarely reported. Many victims are moved from county to county or state to state, making the trafficker harder to follow and the victim feel isolated and unfamiliar with surroundings.

“Many victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family,” Frugoli said. “Our coalition’s mission is to develop our regional collaborative approach to end all forms of human trafficking. We’ve focused our efforts on education and outreach advocacy. We have turned several cases over to state and federal authorities because the conduct occurred over multiple jurisdictions.”

Cecilia Zamora, Executive Director of the Latino Council and Co-Chair of MCCEHT, emphasized the need to have the coalition’s work be grounded in multicultural best practices, ensuring that the messaging and resources are shared with our thriving Latino communities across the county.

“We do this,” she said, “by successfully utilizing our nonprofit members as partners in the education and outreach to their own constituents.”

The Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act (AB 1227) became California law in 2017 and provides a basis for localized anti-trafficking work. The MCCEHT Steering Committee meets monthly. MCCEHT’s quarterly online meeting on Jan. 19 will feature guest speaker Antonia Lavine of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking and County Supervisor Judy Arnold. The videoconference begins at 11 a.m., Spanish translation will be provided. Participation details are on the MCCEHT website.

Learn more about local anti-trafficking efforts via the PROTECT website or call the DA’s Office at (415) 473-6450.

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Black History

Fort Mose: The First Free Black Settlement

Fort Mose was the first free Black settlement in what is now the United States, and the only one known to have been sponsored by a European colonial government. Two Fort Mose sites eventually existed: one occupied by the Spanish (1737–1740) and the other by Blacks (1752–1763). Although living there was peaceful, the settlement was not immune to violent opposition.

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Fort Mose as it may have appeared in the 1700s. PBChistoryonline.org photo.
Fort Mose as it may have appeared in the 1700s. PBChistoryonline.org photo.Fort Mose as it may have appeared in the 1700s. PBChistoryonline.org photo.

By Tamara Shiloh

During the 18th century, Florida had become a haven for colonial South Carolina’s fugitive slaves. This was a result of the competition between Spain and Britain. Spain held a flexible attitude toward slaves and Black freedmen and thus encouraged British-owned slaves to escape to Florida. Such a move would inevitably destabilize British colonization in the north.

Runaway slaves crossed swamps and forestlands on foot. Help provided by Native Americans along the way created the first Underground Railroad. Parts of the journey were treacherous, and many did not survive. Those who reached St. Augustine, Fla., were granted asylum by the Spanish government: freedom in exchange for converting to Catholicism. Male slaves served a term of military service.

The first group seeking these freedoms arrived in 1687: eight men, two women, and a three-year-old child. By 1738, the numbers increased to more than 100. That’s when the fortified town of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose (Fort Mose) was constructed on St. Augustine’s northernmost border. (A fortified town is one with strong defenses, usually a massive wall structure and inner citadels or strongholds.)

Fort Mose was the first free Black settlement in what is now the United States, and the only one known to have been sponsored by a European colonial government. Two Fort Mose sites eventually existed: one occupied by the Spanish (1737–1740) and the other by Blacks (1752–1763). Although living there was peaceful, the settlement was not immune to violent opposition.

A war broke out between England and Spain (The War of Jenkins’ Ear: 1740–1750). Citizens of St. Augustine and Fort Mose had suddenly found themselves involved in a conflict spanning three continents. This action of war was The Battle of Fort Mose (then dubbed Bloody Mose or Bloody Moosa).

The English employed thousands of soldiers and dozens of ships to destroy St. Augustine. All runaway slaves were to be returned to their former owners. A blockade was set up and the city was bombarded for 27 consecutive days. Those protecting St. Augustine and Fort Mose were hopelessly outnumbered. But that did not stop a group of Blacks, whites, and Native Americans from pulling together and fighting back.

Capt. Francisco Menéndez, a formerly enslaved African, led Fort Mose’s free Black militia in protecting St. Augustine. They lost the fort briefly but were able to recapture it, holding back English forces. In 1763, Spain ceded all of La Florida to England (Treaty of Paris). The citizens of Fort Mose once again faced enslavement. To maintain their freedom, they abandoned the fort for safety in Havana, Cuba, then a colony of Spain.

Fort Mose was demolished by the British during the War of 1812. As the years passed, the land was swallowed by marsh; the important legacy of its community was forgotten.

But later in the 20th century, a team of archaeologists, historians, government leaders, and citizens restored Fort Mose to its rightful place of honor.

Today, the location of the fort occupied by Blacks is recognized as a significant local, national, and international historic landmark.

Image: http://www.fortwiki.com/Fort_Mose

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