Our main and annex galleries host local and national artists in rotating exhibits. We present works from photographers and visual artists, as well as archival footage such as posters, broad sides, books, poetry, vinyl, and other items that speak to Third World cultural movements.
ENVISIONING THE YARD - THE ANGOLA 3 COMMUNITY CULTURAL CENTER
Sunday April 23, 2023
Eastside Arts Alliance Cultural Center
2277 International Blvd. Oakland, CA 94606
Sunday, April 23rd, 2023 we welcomed Robert King, sole surviving member of the Angola 3, and fellow Louisiana Black Panther Malik Rahim to East Side Arts Alliance - joined by San Francisco poet laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin, choreographer/performance maker amara tabor-smith and visual artist Rigo 23.
The conversation at East Side Arts Alliance centered on Robert King’s plans for a community cultural center, in Algiers, New Orleans, dedicated to continuing the legacy of the Angola 3. This talk touched on the shared experiences and struggles for liberation that connect Oakland to New Orleans while uplifting the important role cultural centers play in keeping these histories alive during times where erasure of these memories are rampant.
The Angola 3 are a group of three formerly incarcerated Black men who were held in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Prison of Angola, in retribution for their successful in-prison organizing and for their Black Panther Party membership. Herman Wallace (1941-2013), Albert Woodbox (1947-2022) and Robert King (1942) survived a combined 114 years of solitary confinement at the infamous penitentiary, commonly referred to as “The Farm” or “The Last Slave Plantation”. One by one they triumphed and walked out of the front gates of that anachronistic monument to systemic racism and inhumanity, as vindicated free men.
Herman Wallace lived but a few days outside, suffering from hepatitis C, compounded by egregious institutional medical neglect. He was released on October 1st 2013 and died three days later. He had spent 41 years in solitary confinement and was an avid communicator with the outside world, keeping correspondence with countless Angola 3 supporters advocating for his case and that of many others
Albert Woodfox lived a little over seven years as a free man. His release made it to POTUSA Barack Obama’s weekly briefing, and in 2019 Gover Atlantic, (publisher of Malcolm X’s Autobiography) published “Solitary” - authored by Albert Woodbox and Leslie George, his life partner. Woodfox kept a busy schedule of talks and travel ever since being released, but in the summer of 2022 a COVID infection coupled with the impact of 44 years of solitary confinement was finally too much for his body, and Albert died last August.
Robert King, has remained in society since walking out of Angola on February 8th 2001 - he has traveled the nation and the world advocating on behalf of his two comrades and denouncing the systemic racism which is pervasive in the USA’s justice system. He has continually advocated for the abolishment of the 13th amendment of the US’s constitution which makes slavery de facto still legal in this country, as we approach the second quarter of the 21st Century.
All three men saw their release from prison not as an end in-and-of itself, but as a necessary step on their life-long struggle against injustice, racism, institutionalized cruelty and abuse. To this day, as he enters his 9th decade on this young nation, Robert King continues to dedicate himself to the betterment of living conditions for all life on this planet. Left without his life long comrades, to see The Yard open to the public and go into operation is Robert King’s last and most pressing desire. Mr. King came to share his vision and to gather input from Oakland’s current crop of radical community organizers - in the City that gave birth to the Black Panther Party, and at East Side Arts Alliance where Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture for the BPP is a regular participant in its activities.
About the Speakers:
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
Malik Rahim: Malik Rahim joined the Black Panther Party during the Civil Rights movement and was a leader in the New Orleans Panthers by 1970. His house became the depository for the Chapter. Through the Panthers, he participated in the free breakfast program for children, political education classes, facilitation of free medical care, and neighborhood clean up and empowerment programs. Ever since, he has continued to be involved in community organizing against the death penalty, against solitary confinement on a national and international level.
In 2005, Rahim co-founded the Common Ground Collective within his house, where he still resides on Atlantic Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana. The house and the vehicles on the property were used to house thousands of volunteers, store materials, and for the planning and execution of rescue efforts immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Rahim continues to be an activist and community leader while his house is both a memorial to past civil rights movements and current center for post-Katrina support and organizing efforts in New Orleans.
Tongo-Eisen Martin: Tongo Eisen-Martin is the Poet Laureate of San Francisco, California. He is the author of Heaven Is All Goodbyes (City Lights Books, 2017), which was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, received the California Book Award for Poetry, an American Book Award, and a PEN Oakland Book Award. He is also the author of someone's dead already (Bootstrap Press, 2015). Blood on the Fog, his newest collection of poems, was published as volume 62 in the City Lights Pocket Poets Series in September 2021.
amara tabor smith: (She/they) is an Oakland, CA based choreographer/performance maker and the artistic director of Deep Waters Dance Theater. She describes her dance and performance making practice as Conjure Art. Her interdisciplinary site-responsive and community specific performance experiences utilize Yoruba Lukumí spiritual technologies to address issues of social and environmental justice, race, gender identity, and belonging. Her work is rooted in Black, queer, feminist principles that insist on liberation, joy, home fullness and well-being. Her work has been performed in theaters and public sites nationally and internationally. Amara recently completed a multi-year project House/Full of Blackwomen created in collaboration with Ellen Sebastian Chang and a collective of artists and activists, addresses the displacement, well being and sex-trafficking of black women and girls in Oakland. Her She is a 2021 inaugural recipient of the Rainin Fellowship for Artists; a 2020 recipient of the Hewlett 50 grant with East Side Arts Alliance; a 2019 Dance/USA Fellow; a 2018 United States Artist Fellow and a 2018 recipient of KQED’s “Bay Brilliant” award. amara received her MFA in Dance from Hollins University and is an artist in residence at Stanford University. www.deepwatersdance.com
Rigo 23: Rigo 23 has exhibited his work internationally for over 30 years placing murals, paintings, sculptures, and tile work in public situations where viewers are encouraged to examine their relationship to their community, their role as unwitting advocates of public policy, and their place on a planet occupied by many other living things. His projects have included inter-communal collaborations with Native Tribes in North and South America; long-term partnerships with political prisoners; and alliances with underrepresented and disenfranchised individuals and communities.