I’m officially on sick leave, but I just found this card that Annabelle and I made for Kenny Whitmore for his birthday this fall – I posted it to his facebook or something and turned it into a postcard, but don’t think I ever mailed it to him because I only had black ink in my printer for a month…I guess time got away from me then.
So, I figured in addition to sending off his birthday card, at long last, I’d give him a little PR. It’s also just a great idea, for those of you supporting prisoners: if you can’t bust them out of the pen or visit them there, throw a party for them anyway, make a card with everyone there, and take a picture. Pass the hat while you’re at it and drop a little something extra in their commissary account.
Anyway, most folks who know anything about prisons or the Black Panthers have heard about the Angola 3 – Kenny’s story is more of the same, pretty much. I don’t know how Louisiana gets away with what they’ve done to all these guys at Angola, but prisoner organizers get hit pretty hard all over the place. If it was just Louisiana (or Arizona or Nevada or New Mexico or…), there wouldn’t be all these Prison Watch websites going up in protest across the country.
This is Kenny’s story, in his words, from the site run by some of his supporters, Free Zulu.
– Peg (Arizona Prison Watch)
My name is Kenny Zulu Whitmore. I have been enslaved In Angola state prison Louisiana for the last thirty-two years, falsely charged and convicted of armed robbery and murder.
In December 1973 I was arrested on frivolous charges and held over for a magistrate hearing where a bond would be set. While awaiting my court appearance I found myself in a cage right across from a black man who struck me as a fearsome revolutionary. It turned out to be Herman Wallace. I was impressed with his words of wisdom, which enabled me to better understand the treatment and condition of my community by the police. I felt honored just to have been in his presence. There were others on the unit, but all you could hear was the voice of Herman. We talked all through the night after he learned why I was arrested. He explained that if my concern was to protect the people, my only route of doing so would be to educate myself of the political Kingdom and then organize the people to effectively challenge the ill that cripple the people. I realized my speaking out against drug dealers and police brutality alone would be viewed as a personal war and wouldn’t achieve anything. He told me he and others had established a chapter of the Black Panther party in Angola, to fight against prison corruption.
I gave him all my information because what he spoke of was what I needed in my life. I dare say it was my first true political education. The next day I learned he was there on trial for the death of a prison guard. At that time I believed he didn’t stand a chance. In the mean time history has proven I was wrong. However, instead of focusing on his trial, he had many questions about community service and conditions. I ended up giving him my name and address. He told me he was officially making me a member of the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party. I was very honored but I had no idea what this man expected of me. But I knew about the Panthers and so I went back to the community with the idea of organizing the community against illegal drug trafficking.
On February 19, 1975 I was arrested again. This time charged with two counts of armed robbery of a Zachary shoe store. In June of 1975 all charges were dropped after both victims argued with the judge that I was not the person who did this crime. But I still couldn’t go free. While awaiting an evidentiary hearing on the two robbery charges I was also charged with a 1973 robbery and murder. In this case the district attorney Ossie Brown came to me with a prepared confession and said, “You, Whitmore, were imprecated in the 1973 robbery and murder of Marshall Bond. And I know you didn’t do this, but I need a key witness against the guy who did this and you are going to help me to get this guy.”
He, the then D.A., gave me the confession to read and sign. The D.A. told me out right, “You are going to take the stand against this guy and say what I have prepared in that confession for y’all. And I am going to give you five years. You will not go to Angola, and you will be out in two and a half years.” I told him, “Man, I don’t have any idea of what you are talking about.” He said, “I am the district attorney and my word is three against yours. And I can do whatever I want to you. Now help me get this guy or I will send you to Angola for the rest of your life.” I refused and they immediately started beating me with sticks.
On January 3-6, 1977 I was tried and found guilty of second-degree murder and armed robbery. The victim was a wealthy ex-Mayor, member of the KKK in Zachary, Louisiana, which is a small rural community in the northern part of East Baton Rouge Parish. In the early morning I was dragged from my house to the murder place. I was beaten up from that time till 10 in the evening in order to make me confess, which – of course – I did not.I was given life and ninety-nine years. I believe my incarceration on these charges is a direct result of my being out spoken against the police harassment and brutality in the community. The police had a procedure of randomly choosing a Black person and falsely charging them to clear their unsolved cases.
On March 14, 1977 I arrived here at Angola. I was not here a good two hours before Angola guards jumped on me because I dared to complain of the guard throwing my mother’s picture in the trash can. In a matter of minutes I was surrounded by guards in brown uniforms. I had an instant flash of Hitler’s Brown Shirt Troops. They returned my personal property and within an hour I went before the classification board and I was assigned to CCR maximum security D-tier, which was known at that time as a militant tier. I was put in D#9.
Once in the cage a Big Brother stopped and spoke to me. He told me his name was King Wilkerson. He told me that the tier was organized in a way to benefit everyone and explained to me what was expected of me while on that tier. King said Mondays were tier discussion days; any questions I might have about the structure of the tier would be discussed. Classes were held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: reading, writing, math, history and language. Albert Woodfox was teaching history. Albert Woodfox and I had become cool. Still, I had not learned of his connection with Hooks (Herman Wallace) until much later. But Woodfox and I fastly became best friends. About two weeks after being on D-tier, we had a confrontation with the guards and King was singled out and sent to Camp-J for breaking a guards jaw after they tried to jump him.
Since being on D-tier, I had heard the name Hooks many times, but had not had the opportunity to meet him because by the administration rules I could not go out on the yard for two years. And those two years were a learning experience – Woodfox was teaching me the principles of the BPP and the struggle here in Angola. Our goal was to organize all of the tiers of CCR.
In March of 1980, my two-year yard restriction was up. My third day on the yard Woodfox and I were out there with the brother everyone called Hooks. When I first saw him, I said to myself, I know this brother. I said “Herman from Baton Rouge Jail!”. He remembered me and asked, “How long have you been here?” And Woodfox asked, “Y’all know each other?” Herman told him how we met and Woodfox said, “This is the little brother I have been telling you about.”
That very day on the yard our family began. Though Hooks made me a member of the Black Panther Party long time ago (1975), it was agreed upon by all of us that I would remain in the shadows to keep me from being exposed to the danger that they themselves faced. And I would be in a better position to walk from the shadows and by-pass some of the harassment that they were getting from the administration and the inmate hatchet men that the administration would place on the tier to try and destroy the collective lifestyle that had been established in CCR. And thus we could reach out in the general population area. In the spring of 1981, King had returned from Camp-J, and they put him back on D-tier with Woodfox and I. King had heard that I had become a member of the Black Panther Party through Wallace, and he too agreed that I should remain in the shadows out of the direct line of the administration fire.
Woodfox, Wilkerson, Wallace and I would often be on the yard at the same time. Thereafter, I think security suspected that I had become a member of the Black Panther Party. They started with their harassment. I had too many books and I needed to put this or that in my locker box. And when I would go before the classification board, they would tell me, “We heard you are a Black militant. We hate Black militants. Denied.” And when I asked why I was being denied release from CCR, they would say “nature of original reason”.
In September of 1981, I was sent to Camp-J for, as security said, a partially dismantled zip gun they found in my cell. ‘Camp-J’ was security for lil’ torture camp. I stayed at Camp-J for three weeks before I was on transfer back to CCR. While back on the tier I was on, I saw the guards brutally beat two guys on the tier.
Then they dragged them off as though they were dead animals. I immediately started to organize the tier. I asked guys on the tier to set their differences aside and become one voice. Two nights later three guards came down the tier harassing a few people about b.s. stuff, then they stopped in front of a guy’s cell who clearly had mental problems. We all stood at the bars with homemade missiles to throw at them if they had attacked that guy. The guards left with a “we’ll be back” look on their faces. The very next day I was transferred back to CCR, security’s way of preventing me from spreading our revolutionary ideas at Camp-J.
The only reason I am being denied release from CCR is my connection with A-3 and my political concepts. My only reason for stepping out of the shadows is the truth of the guard’s death back in the 1970’s, which has now been proven to be part of a conspiracy against Albert and Herman. I was recruited by Herman Hooks Wallace into the Black Panther Party in 1974; once I got to Angola I participated in the Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party. Other comrades who made up the Angola Chapter, I later learned of. It was the prison authorities and the FBI trying to learn the names of Panthers and it was for that reason everyone became a shadow.
My being in the Shadow has nothing to do with my activism. I have been a part of the A-3 committee since its inception. Right now I have a motion before the court to correct my sentence. I have an illegal sentence for which I intend to prove that could very well set me free. The Louisiana State Court just recently ordered my trial court to respond to my motion, and if the judge applies this motion to the letter of the law, he would have no choice other than to correct this sentence and set me free.
So here I am, out of the shadow,
IN THE STRUGGLE.