Dying ‘Angola 3’ Inmate Herman Wallace Released After 41 Years in Solitary

Dying 'Angola 3' Inmate Herman Wallace Released After 41 Years in Solitary

After spending more than 40 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison, Herman Wallace is a free man. Wallace, 71, has advanced liver cancer and was granted immediate release on grounds that women were excluded from his grand jury. Wallace was taken to a hospice in New Orleans last night.

Wallace’s legal team released the following statement on Monday:

“Tonight, Herman Wallace has left the walls of Louisiana prisons and will be able to receive the medical care that his advanced liver cancer requires. It took the order of a federal judge to address the clear constitutional violations present in Mr. Wallace’s 1974 trial and grant him relief. The state of Louisiana has had many opportunities to address this injustice and has repeatedly and utterly failed to do so.

“Mr. Wallace has been granted a new trial, but his illness is terminal and advanced. However, the unfathomable punishment of more than four decades which Mr. Wallace spent in solitary confinement conditions will be the subject of litigation which will continue even after Mr. Wallace passes away. It is Mr. Wallace’s hope that this litigation will help ensure that others, including his lifelong friend and fellow ‘Angola 3’ member, Albert Woodfox, do not continue to suffer such cruel and unusual confinement even after Mr. Wallace is gone.”

A former Black Panther, Wallace and fellow inmates Robert Hillary King and Albert Woodfox, were put in solitary confinement in 1972 after they were convicted in the fatal stabbing of 23-year-old prison guard Brent Miller. Both Woodfox and Wallace maintain their innocence in Miller’s killing, instead saying that they were targeted because they’d established a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1971. The three came to be known as the Angola 3.

Wallace’s story was the subject of the film “Herman’s House”, which chronicled his friendship with an artist who encouraged him to imagine his dream home.

Shutdown Day 1: Costs Already High

Shutdown Day 1: Costs Already High

Capping a jarring day in which the economic costs of the shutdown started to pile up, early evening reports emerged that the House of Representatives will begin separate votes on each government agency to determine which will stay open and which will remain closed.  There are close to 500 government departments and agencies.

According to Politico, the House will take up a bill to allow full operations at the Veteran Affairs Administration and the National Parks Service. It would also permit the government of Washington DC to continue delivering services to DC residents. Should the House move forward with this idea, it essentially means that Congress would pick winners and losers by deciding which services citizens would receive and which they would not. 

But it’s unlikely to become law. That’s because Democrats in the Senate turned a cold shoulder to the proposal. Dick Durbin, the number two Senate Democrat, told Politico that conservatives are trying to pick their “favorite agencies to keep open” and went on to dismiss the idea.

The House move comes against a backdrop in which the economic hit of the shutdown is becoming clearer. Washington area economist, Stephen Fuller, told the Washington Post that the DC region would lose $200 million each day in economic output every day that the shutdown continues.  Particularly hard hit is its $6 billion tourism industry in the nation’s capital, which relies upon the nation’s monuments and generates badly needed revenue for the majority people-of-color city. 

Underscoring the chaos caused by the closure of the government, WWII veterans in wheelchairs and on canes broke through barricades at the World War II Memorial in order to honor their fallen comrades. But what happened today is more than symbolic. The reality is that the closings have started to bite.  

Nineteen thousand kids in Head Start were shut out from the program on this first day of the shutdown.

All of this underscores that the peculiar legislative process is spreading disruption far and wide. NBC News reports that IHS Global Insight, the global consulting firm, released a report that details the fact that the shutdown will cost taxpayers $12 million an hour. That means that at the end of this day taxpayers will have shelled $300 million just to keep the government closed. 

Seven of the Dream 30 Group Have Been Released

Seven of the Dream 30 Group Have Been Released

Yesterday’s Dream 30 border crossing action, organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) as part of the Bring Them Home campaign has resulted in the almost immediate release of seven people of the original 36 people who crossed.  NIYA activists now want to know how long it will be until the other 29 border crossers will be released. 

Elsy Núñez, originally from Honduras, and her four-year-old daughter Valeria, who is a U.S. citizen, were released late Monday—just hours after the action in Laredo, Texas. Since then, Javier Galvan, 16, and his father Javier Calderon were released; Jessica Gallegos, 16, and her sister Ingrid Gallegos, 13, were released with their mother Victoria Reyes; and Brandow Gonzalez, 15, and his mother, were released. That leaves only one minor—Luis Lopez Rivera, 17—in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody. NIYA organizer Mohammad Abdollahi says that officials have indicated Lopez Rivera will be transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement; CBP declined to comment on the case.

Aside from Lopez Rivera, 28 of the Dream 30 remain in custody. According to Abdollahi, the seven who have been released so far obtained almost immediate humanitarian parole because of a “significant public interest.” NIYA activists now want to know whether the 28 will also be released in the public interest, or whether they will be transferred to an immigrant detention center, as happened with the Dream 9.

Brandow Gonzalez, who left his home in Columbus, Ohio, when his parents were deported four years ago, was elated after his relase today. “I was prepared to be in detention for a long time, and I was prepared to suffer there,” says Gonzalez. “I’m surprised, but so happy and so grateful.”

Details are still emerging; check back for more coverage soon. 

Did Obamacare Crash Your Internet?

Did Obamacare Crash Your Internet?

Somewhere in America, Obamacare is still working. Even if its website is not. Many people complained this morning, the first day for, the federal web portal for Obamacare health exchanges. Reason for the grief was the website was running slow and crashing. During a press conference at the Rose Garden, President Obama said that was because of the overwhelming traffic of people looking to use it.

“ demanded exceeded anything than we expected,” said Obama, who calculated that more than 1 million people visited the site before 7 a.m. “Like every new law, every new product roll out, there are going to be some glitches in the signup process along the way that we will fix.”

Obama likened it to the recent Apple iOS7 upgrade rollouts, which garnered plenty of complaints for rolling so slow.

Apple “fixed it in a few days,” said Obama, “but I don’t remember anybody saying Apple should stop making iPhones.”

One thing the president said he will not stop making is Obamacare for the American people. House Republicans have been sending continuing resolutions to the Senate that would temporarily fund the federal government, but only under the condition that Obamacare funding would be delayed one year. The Senate has rejected those bills and Obama said he would not accept them anyway.

“As long as I am president I will not give in to the reckless demands of some Republicans in the House who want to deny healthcare benefits” to the American public, said Obama.

Watch video of Obama’s press conference this afternoon:


Civil Rights Division Hit Hard in Justice Dept. Shutdown

Civil Rights Division Hit Hard in Justice Dept. Shutdown

Yesterday, while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was announcing a lawsuit against North Carolina for its voter ID bill, his Justice Department staff was preparing to shut down. When Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution or a spending bill last night, Cabinet agencies across the federal map began implementing plans for working at partial capacity — many of those plans drafted in 2011 when a government shutdown was threatened then.

For the Justice Department, many of its staff will be exempt from shutdown-imposed furloughs, due to the nature of its national security work, but some of its divisions will have to send home huge swaths of their staff. Among those is the Civil Rights Division, which is furloughing 71 percent of its employees, according to a copy of the Justice Department’s shutdown contingency plan.  Of the division’s 634 employees, 182 will stay on board, including 134 attorneys.

Also hit: the general Civil Division with 71 percent of its 1,310 employees on furlough and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which would lose 70 percent of its 1,339 employees.

 All political appointees are immune to furloughs, but at yesterday’s press conference, Holder said some of his agents and lawyers will not survive.

“It is entirely possible that we will have to put on furlough some FBI agents and prosecutors as result of the dysfunction that exists primarily in the House of Representatives,” said Holder

Holder will remain in office, but he said he would reduce his pay by the largest amount of salary loss suffered by any of his impacted staff. Training for new Justice staff and for state and local officers the department regularly works with will also either be cancelled or postponed.

People are trying to make a political point and I’m trying to run a Justice Department,” said Holder. “We’re trying to keep the American people safe; we’re trying to keep crime down”

Other impacted areas:

  • U.S. Parole Commission: In this agency, which responds to requests for emergency warrants and processes parole certificates, 87 percent of this department is vulnerable to furloughs.
  • Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force: The Wire will not come down. This Task Force has “strike forces” that target drug kingpins and wide-scale organizations that move weight. While its administrative support will shrink considerably, it’ll still be on the prowl for that highest-level drug activity that Holder has not grown lenient on despite his current reforms. Also note, both DEA and ATF has exempted large portions of their staff from furloughs, 87 percent and 83 percent respectfully. The Wire stays up.
  • FBI: Their investigations are expected to carry on and it is retaining at least 84 percent of its staff.
  • Office on Violence Against Women: This grant program will keep 100 percent of its staff.

Activists Kick Off Letter-Writing Campaign for Marissa Alexander

Activists Kick Off Letter-Writing Campaign for Marissa Alexander

Timed with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a group of activists has launched #31forMarissa, a letter-writing campaign for Marissa Alexander, the Florida mother sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot to deter her abusive husband from harming her. On each day of October, a different man will write Alexander a supportive letter and upload it to a Tumblr called theSWAGspot. At the end of each week, organizers will mail the letters to Alexander. 

“Our society makes women responsible for the violence they suffer at the hands of men.  We want to know what she did, what she said, how she said it,” says campaign co-organizer* Esther Armah. “We are training our lens on men; #31forMARISSA asks the men to share what the men in their family, circle, community did or did not do. Blame, deflection, avoidance and guilt are ways men deal and have dealt with domestic violence. #31forMARISSA challenges that reaction.”

An excerpt of a letter by activist Darnell Moore:

“Marissa, I write to you as the son of a black mother who was abused. … My mother’s story is her story, but I’ve inherited the pain that comes as a result of vicarious abuse, of violence. Today, I write and speak and do work connected to these issues because I want you and other beautiful black women to live, Marissa. Not live in the dry unimaginative sense of the word, but live as in thrive, smile, love, exist in abundance without the force of our hands, our unwieldy male privilege, our sexist gaze, our desire to maintain patriarchal power pressing down upon you. That is my work. Indeed, it is the work that all black men must engage so that you don’t have to use a gun to protect yourself from the very persons who are meant to love you.”

Last week, Alexander was granted a new trial due to flawed jury instructions. 

*Post has been updated to reflect multiple campaign organizers. 

Got Questions About Obamacare? Watch This Video

Got Questions About Obamacare? Watch This Video

Today, Planned Parenthood launched a national multimedia campaign to help inform millions of uninsured people in America about Obamacare, which is now open for enrollment. The campaign is geared toward women and includes a ton of helpful questions to ask when looking for an insurance plan. Visit for more information. 

Majority of Detained Immigrants Have No Criminal Convictions

Majority of Detained Immigrants Have No Criminal Convictions

A report released today by TRAC Immigration shows that only one in 10 immigrants currently being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) meet the criteria of posing a serious threat to national security.  ICE issued new guidelines in December requiring officials to reserve immigrant detainers for those convicted of serious criminal offenses, and new data collected six months later seems to show ICE is not honoring that directive.

Among those in detention as of June 2013, 62 percent have no criminal convictions, and most others have been convicted of minor criminal offenses such as traffic violations and marijuana possession. As the government shutdown looms over the possibility of immigration reform this year, the findings of this report highlight a critical area of failed policy that keeps people behind bars.

Watch the Ohio State Football Team Hug Anchor After Daughter’s Death

Watch the Ohio State Football Team Hug Anchor After Daughter's Death

Longtime sports director and anchor at CBS affiliate WBNS-TV Dom Tiberi tragically lost his daughter, 21-year-old Maria, in a car accident on September 17. But when Tiberi returned to the air last week to anchor the Ohio State Buckeyes’ football game, he got an unexpected outpouring of sympathy from the team’s players. After the game, several players lined up one-by-one and hugged Tiberi. It’s not often that you see this type of camaraderie in Big Time college football. Go Buckeyes.

(h/t Buzzfeed)

Jennifer Hudson Channels Olivia Pope in Health Care ‘Scandal’ Spoof

Jennifer Hudson Channels Olivia Pope in Health Care 'Scandal' Spoof

Ok, so the federal government is shut down. That sucks. But today’s also when pieces of the Affordable Care Act go into effect. And in case you’ve got questions, “Lydia Cole” is the woman with the answers.

NBA Player Learns How to Swim With Kids at Boys and Girls Club

NBA Player Learns How to Swim With Kids at Boys and Girls Club

Brandon Bass, 28, is a top athlete. He starred in college at Louisiana Tech and is entering his third season at power forward for the Boston Celtics. But there’s at least one thing that his athletic prowess didn’t allow him to do: swim.

“My son’s the first one in the family to learn how to swim,” Bass told the Boston Globe. “If you threw me out in the ocean, I would drown.”

Bass and his family grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana without a real place to swim. When he was a kid, a neighbor who was his age drowned, and the memory stuck with him. Now, he’s conquering his fears by volunteering with 10 young children at the Boston Boys and Girls Club who are all learning how to swim. Like the kids, Bass is afraid.

 “I’m nervous, because I don’t know how to float,” he told the Globe. “I can’t tread water.”

Bass’ situation isn’t unique. According to a report released in 2008, 60 percent of black children can’t swim. In his book “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America” author Jeff Wiltse writes about how municipal swimming pools were often segregated during mid-20th century when swimming became a popular recreational activity in the United States. The impact of those policies are still being felt by people like Bass, who grew up in communities where virtually no one swam.

 Here’s video from Bass’ first swim lesson.

(h/t Bleacher Report)

TAGS: NBA Swimming

What Obamacare Means For You

What Obamacare Means For You

In spite of the government shutdown targeted to stop it, Obamacare will take a major step forward today. For the first time, millions of uninsured Americans will be able to purchase affordable health care on one of dozens of healthcare exchanges. The opening of the healthcare exchanges will be an important tool in meeting the health needs of people of color. Uninsured rates for Latinos are up to three times that for whites. For blacks, it’s up to twice as high compared to whites. The ability to sign up on affordable plans is welcomed by many

Government-operated websites, with an interface much like those used to buy airline tickets or book car rentals, will list available health insurance products. Plans purchased on the exchanges will kick in on January 1, 2014 and sign up closes on March 31, 2014. The launch of healthcare exchanges will not be affected by a government shutdown.

Since more than seven out of 10 people eligible for help under the law don’t know it, here are some key points to understand about getting the healthcare that you, your friends, and your family might need:

Health insurance is mandatory. Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans citizens and certain immigrants must sign up for health insurance.  Failure to do so will result in an annual tax penalty. 

Visit to determine which plan is best for you. Enter basic information such as age, state of residence, and income in order to get the options available to you. Results will vary by state, and prices will vary depending plans, which range from the bare-boned Bronze option to the feature-rich Platinum plans.  

For millions, coverage will be free or involve minimum costs. Given the combination of the health care law’s extension of Medicaid to the working poor and/or subsidies for individuals making up to $46,000, monthly healthcare costs for many could cost less than a daily cup of coffee. As Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News points out, subsides for a family of four in certain states like Florida could cost only $30 a month.

Spread the word and explore your options.

Dream 30 and Others Cross the Border

Dream 30 and Others Cross the Border

More than 30 people have successfully crossed the U.S.-Mexico border at the Laredo port of entry in Texas, as part of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance’s Bring Them Home campaign. Today’s very public border crossing is a follow-up to what the Dream 9 did about two months ago. 

As they prepared to enter into Texas, the group of about 35 crossers, surrounded by friends, family and supporters began shouting louder and louder chants in English and Spanish, including, “Undocumented! Unafraid!”

Among the 35 or so who crossed was 13-year-old Ingrid Gallegos. The Gallegos family left Phoenix, Ariz., because they were scared of living under Sheriff Joe Arpaio as undocumented immigrants—but they say it’s been much worse in Mexico.

Speaking by phone this morning, Galleges said she’s leaving any fear she has behind in Mexico as she attempts to make her journey to relatives—including her 8-year-old brother, Javier—in Phoenix. But she may be detained in a juvenile facility as her case is processed, and there is no guarantee that she will even be allowed to stay in the United States. 

But none of that sways her. “I know very well what I’m doing,” said Gallegos. “And I am not afraid anymore.”

Her father, Plácido Gallegos, said goodbye not only to 13-year-old Ingrid, but to 16-year-old Jessica today as well. He says his daughters never got used to being back in Mexico, and will be safer with relatives in Phoenix. “It hurts me to separate myself from them, but they deserve a chance to live out their dreams,” he said.

Citing privacy laws, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency declined to comment on any specific case, but made clear that anyone wanting to enter the U.S. must demonstrate admissibility. 

Attack Against Sikh Professor Sparks Community Dialogue

Attack Against Sikh Professor Sparks Community Dialogue

On September 22 Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh physician who teaches at Columbia University, was attacked in his neighborhood of Harlem by a group of young men who allegedly yelled the words “Osama” and “terrorist” at him.  That same week, news surfaced of a Sikh man who was harrassed and humiliated by police in Mississippi for wearing articles of faith, and later threatened by a judge for refusing to remove ‘that rag’ off his head.

In response, on Sunday a group of students from Columbia University Sewa organized an “American Cultural Awareness Day” at the site where Singh was attacked in Harlem, to bring attention to ongoing incidents of violence and discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S.

“With the hate crime against our beloved professor and the Sikh man who was threatened by a judge in Mississippi, it is clear that respect and acceptance acceptance are still lacking in many of our communities,” Gurbani Suni, one of the events organizers, says. “We hope that community outreach events will help us embrace our differences and celebrate our unity and diversity.” 

Nearly 100 people attended Sunday’s event, which brought together both local communities members and Sikh students involved with the university organization.

Activists Work to Finish Film About Transgender Elder Miss Major

Activists Work to Finish Film About Transgender Elder Miss Major

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy has a story to tell and two San Francisco-based filmmakers are determined to tell it. 

A pioneering transgender activist and elder, Miss Major, as she’s formally known to circles in the Bay Area and across the country, participated in the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969 and now works as the Executive Director of the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). She’s formerly incarcerated, a former sex worker, and an icon in the world of Bay Area queer politics.

Annalise Ophelian and StormMiguel Florez have been working on a documentary about Miss Major’s life since last February, but they’ve recently taken to Kickstarter to help bring the film across the finish line:

As queer and transgender filmmakers, we want to see our stories and our communities represented on screen with authenticity and fierceness. We believe all audiences, LGBTQ and straight, are smart and savvy enough to feel compelled by stories that don’t need manufactured drama to be dramatic. We love documentary films that challenge the way we think and feel without offering easy answers, and inspire us to break through stereotypes and preconceived notions. And we’re committed to bringing innovative visual storytelling and high production values to this work, to create art that stirs the senses and takes the viewer on a journey.

So far they’ve raised more than half of their goal of $25,000, but there are only eight days left to raise more money.

Janelle Monáe: ‘Love Has No Sexual Orientation’

Janelle Monáe: 'Love Has No Sexual Orientation'

In case you missed it: Once again, Janelle Monáe is dealing with rumors about her sexual orientation. She had a pretty killer response recently on “Sway in the Morning:”

I feel love has no sexual orientation. Love has no religious belief. Love is the purest and most important thing we can possess for ourselves and for others. €œI keep my personal life very much to myself. I want everybody to focus on my music.”

(h/t AfroPunk)

Rah Digga Raises Nearly $5k for Newark Community Dance Center

Rah Digga Raises Nearly $5k for Newark Community Dance Center

Longtime emcee Rah Digga has a new project on her hands. The Newark, New Jersey native has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 for The NJ Dance Network, a facility that the artist and several community members are trying to establish in an abandoned building in the city’s downtown. According to the Kickstarter page:

It is a chance for children that do not attend the one (1) performing arts school (Arts High) in the city to receive some formal training. The goal is to develop full-scale dance recitals, theatrical productions to be performed in our city, and basically act as a stomping ground to deter talented kids from getting into trouble with their idle time.

Rah Digga is also working on a new EP called “Hood House: So Jersey” that’s scheduled to drop this December. It’ll feature participants from the NJ Dance Network. According to the rapper, “It is my hope that employing people directly from the community would be a great way to boost morale and offer them a chance to experience pop culture in a positive environment while utilizing his or her natural born talents.”

Read Chef Roy Choi’s ‘Lost’ Chapter on Food, Growing Up in Immigrant LA

Read Chef Roy Choi's 'Lost' Chapter on Food, Growing Up in Immigrant LA

Roy Choi is a Korean-American chef who gained a huge following with his gourmet Korean taco truck Kogi. He’s got an autobiography called “L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food” due out November 5 and what makes him unique is how unafraid he is to talk about food as an important part of a city’s culture, along with its crime and missed opportunities (check out his presentation at MAD3 posted above). But, as the chef wrote over at his blog recently, there’s one chapter that you won’t see in the book:

I’m very proud of it and think it represents LA, immigrant life, food, and my growth well. It feels and smells like LA and OC. It extends itself like a good album. I hope you will like it. There are 12 chapters but one didn’t make the cut. So here is a b-side before the book even comes out. It’s not edited, it’s still raw.

You can read the so-called “lost” chapter over at Choi’s blog

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

MC Lyte and Kendrick Lamar Shine at This Year’s BET Hip-Hop Awards

MC Lyte and Kendrick Lamar Shine at This Year's BET Hip-Hop Awards

This year’s annual BET Hip-Hop Awards ceremony in Atlanta was a celebration of old and new trendsetters in the industry. The night began with a tribute to pioneering artist MC Lyte, who received the “I Am Hip-Hop Award” during Saturday’s taped show at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center. 

“Please keep the dream alive, I am with you,” MC Lyte told the crowd.

And one person who’s definitely keeping hip-hop alive right now is Kendrick Lamar, who wowed spectators with a four-minute freestyle.

The show airs on October 15th. Stay tuned for video from this year’s awards ceremony.

(h/t CBS News)

Maya Angelou to be Awarded Mailer Lifetime Acheivement Award

Maya Angelou to be Awarded Mailer Lifetime Acheivement Award

Celebrated author and poet Dr. Maya Angelou has been awarded two major literary awards this year. Earlier this month the National Book Foundation announced that Angelou will receive the 2013 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, her first major prize. Last Thursday, the Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony announced they would be awarding Angelou a lifetime acheivement award. Author Junot Díaz is also being honored with a distinguished writing prize by the Mailer Center this year.

Best known for her influential autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which paved the way for generations of writers to explore issues of race, gender, and sexual violence, Angelou published her seventh autobiography titled “Mom & Me & Mom” this year at age 85.

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