«Eu vi homens duros que se transformavam em bebés... enrolados nas suas camas, em posição fetal, e nunca mais diziam uma palavra; alguns não conseguiam parar de falar, mas diziam coisas sem sentido; outros gritavam o dia inteiro; houve muitos que se conseguiram suicidar; mas eles não nos querem mortos, é por isso que nos enterram vivos». É assim que Albert Woodfox descreve os 43 anos que passou em regime de solitária, numa cela de 2,7 metros por 1,8.
Libertado este domingo após 44 anos preso por razões políticas, Albert Woodfox explicou-me, numa entrevista por via electrónica, que a primeira coisa que fez quando saiu da infame prisão de Angola, na Luisiana, foi deixar flores na campa da mãe, que morreu em 1990. «Quando ela morreu, não me deixaram ir ao funeral. Mas eu prometi que ia». E foi.
Albert Woodfox, de 69 anos, era o último dos presos políticos conhecidos como «os três de Angola» ainda atrás das grades. A Penitenciária Estadual da Luisiana, também conhecida como Angola, deve o nome à antiga plantação existente nesse lugar, onde milhares de escravos angolanos eram forçados a trabalhar. Duzentos anos depois, a principal diferença é que a plantação deixou de produzir algodão e passou a produzir cana-de-açúcar. Os 6500 presos que aí trabalham, quase todos negros, não são, porém, menos escravos.
«A prisão é uma indústria», explica Albert Woodfox. «Depois da Guerra Civil a escravatura acabou, os negros foram conquistando mais direitos e o nosso trabalho foi ficando mais caro. Em resposta, o sistema criou a indústria prisional para embaratecer a mão-de-obra negra, para desumaniza-la. É por isso que neste país um em cada três negros já esteve preso. Não se trata só do trabalho escravo dentro das prisões privadas… vai para além disso: um negro que saia da prisão está carimbado para o resto da vida como mão-de-obra barata; quando a polícia manda parar um adolescente negro a caminho da escola, a mensagem é "não levantes muito a cara, fica no teu lugar."»
«O meu crime foi ser militante»
Acusado de ter assassinado Brent Miller, um guarda prisional, em 1972, Albert Woodfox foi condenado a 42 anos de prisão num julgamento-farsa sem provas físicas e marcado pelo «desaparecimento» de elementos do processo. Há muito que a própria família de Brent Miller exigia a libertação de Woodfox e, no Verão passado, Teenie Rogers, a viúva de Miller, avisou que «está na hora do Estado parar de fingir que há qualquer prova de que Albert Woodfox matou o Brent».
«Eu estou inocente desse crime», diz Albert Woodfox, «mas não foi por esse crime que passei 43 anos em solitária. O meu crime foi ser militante do Partido Pantera Negra e lutar contra a segregação das prisões».
Recém-saído de uma tortura difícil de imaginar, Albert Woodfox promete dedicar-se agora a combater o uso disseminado da solitária nas prisões estado-unidenses. «É uma violação flagrante dos Direitos Humanos. Fechar um homem sozinho numa cela durante décadas é tortura e é bárbaro. A solitária chama-se solitária porque nos isola. É assim que nos quebram: isolados não somos humanos. Neste regime, só saímos da cela durante uma hora por dia. Às vezes, sentia-me esmagado. Não conseguia respirar. Suava em bica... Nos piores momentos, sentia as paredes a apertar-me a cara. Foi assim durante quatro décadas. Mas como imaginar submeter uma criança de 14 anos a esta tortura? Isso acontece muito nos EUA! Basta que um tribunal decida julgar um adolescente como um adulto. Que tipo de regime faz uma coisa destas?»
«(...) "If you respect my dollar, you must respect my person." It simply says that we will no longer spend our money where we can not get substantial jobs. [applause]»
- American sin, and Black Love
«I am a man with dignity and honor. (Go ahead) I have a rich and noble history, however painful and exploited that history has been. Yes, I was a slave through my foreparents (That’s right), and now I’m not ashamed of that. I'm ashamed of the people who were so sinful to make me a slave. (Yes sir) Yes [applause], yes, we must stand up and say, "I'm black (Yes sir), but I'm black and beautiful." (Yes) This [applause], this self-affirmation is the black man's need, made compelling (All right) by the white man's crimes against him. (Yes)»
- Negroes prevented from reaping fruits of their hard labor
«This man was a fool because he said "I" and "my" so much until he lost the capacity to say "we" and "our." (Yes) He failed to realize that he couldn’t do anything by himself. This man talked like he could build the barns by himself, like he could till the soil by himself. And he failed to realize that wealth is always a result of the commonwealth. (...)
And oh my friends, I don’t want you to forget it. No matter where you are today, somebody helped you to get there. (Yes) (...)
In a larger sense we’ve got to see this in our world today. Our white brothers must see this; they haven’t seen it up to now. The great problem facing our nation today in the area of race is that it is the black man who to a large extent produced the wealth of this nation. (All right) And the nation doesn’t have sense enough to share its wealth and its power with the very people who made it so. (All right) And I know what I’m talking about this morning. (Yes, sir) The black man made America wealthy. (Yes, sir)
(...) that’s why I tell you right now, I’m not going anywhere. They can talk, these groups, some people talking about a separate state, or go back to Africa. I love Africa, it’s our ancestral home. But I don’t know about you. My grandfather and my great-grandfather did too much to build this nation for me to be talking about getting away from it. [applause] Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth in 1620, we were here. (Oh yeah) Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, we were here. (All right) Before the beautiful words of the "Star Spangled Banner" were written, we were here. (Yeah) For more than two centuries, our forebearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king. With their hands and with their backs and with their labor, they built the sturdy docks, the stout factories, the impressive mansions of the South. (My Lord)
Now this nation is telling us that we can’t build. Negroes are excluded almost absolutely from the building trades. It’s lily white. Why? Because these jobs pay six, seven, eight, nine and ten dollars an hour, and they don’t want Negroes to have it. [applause] And I feel that if something doesn’t happen soon, and something massive, the same indictment will come to America—"Thou fool!"»
«(...) because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. "I must be first." "I must be supreme." "Our nation must rule the world." (Preach it) And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I'm going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.
God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now. (Preach it, preach it) God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.
But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. (Amen) The God that I worship has a way of saying, "Don't play with me." (Yes) He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, "Don’t play with me, Israel. Don't play with me, Babylon. (Yes) Be still and know that I'm God. And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power." (Yes) And that can happen to America. (Yes) Every now and then I go back and read Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And when I come and look at America, I say to myself, the parallels are frightening».
«I must say this morning that racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.
It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic».
«(...) at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the black man, though an act of Congress was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.
But not only did it give the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps».
«Now, when we come to Washington in this campaign, we are coming to get our check».
«Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal».
- Government tactics against dissent
«(...)there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It's a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, (...)».
- Blacks killing Vietnamese for liberties they themselves don't have
«We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with a cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school room. So we watch them in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village. But we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta. (...)
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. (...) for they ask and write me, "So what about Vietnam?" They ask if our nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems (...) and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government».
- The hypocrisy of the Press
«America and most of its newspapers applauded me in Montgomery. And I stood before thousands of Negroes getting ready to riot when my home was bombed and said, we can't do it this way. They applauded us in the sit-in movement -- we non-violently decided to sit in at lunch counters. The applauded us on the Freedom Rides when we accepted blows without retaliation. (...) Oh, the press was so noble in its applause, and so noble in its praise when I was saying, "Be non-violent toward Bull Connor" (...). There's something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, "Be non-violent toward Jim Clark", but will curse and damn you when you say, "Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children". There's something wrong with that press!»
- U.S. support of Hitler sympathiser
«And who are we supporting in Vietnam today? It's a man by the name of general Ky [Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky] who fought with the French against his own people, and who said on one occasion that the greatest hero of his life is Hitler. This is who we are supporting in Vietnam today. Oh, our government and the press generally won't tell us these things, but God told me to tell you this morning. The truth must be told».
- Poor Americans, and Vietnamese soldiers
«And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor».
- Spiritual death of America
«A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death».
- American arrogance
«And don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, "You're too arrogant! And if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I'll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God."»
«I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government».
«Too often, we are treated to a view of a romanticized and whitewashed Dr. King in order to fit the man and his struggle neatly within the prevailing political and economic power structures in a largely uncritical and non-threatening manner. This portrayal of Dr. King has been mass marketed as an accommodationist figure and is now so pervasive in our schools, media, etc. that it threatens to neutralize and placate the most ambitious, daring and challenging of King's critique along with his struggle to confront and organize against not only racism, but economic exploitation and militarism-imperialism as well.»
«The link in the public discourse between the careers of Barack Obama and much our black political elite is a marraige of convenience, with all the convenience on one side. Forty years in his grave, Dr. King's words and legacy call into question those who have modified his story, deleted his opposition to war, to empire and militarism, and counseled patience with injustice in his name. Dr. King and the movement he led were always impatient with injustice, and never shrank from bold and even impolite opposition to economic injustice at home or war in our names abroad.»
«Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country-but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free-that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.»
«In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes; they're worried about how they'll afford college for their kids or pay the stack of bills on their kitchen table. And most of all, they are anxious and uncertain about the future - about whether this generation of Americans will be able to pass on what's best about this country to our children and their children.»
[Martin Luther King referindo-se à guerra no Vietnam]
Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war.
(…) and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government.
What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe?
(...) we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now.
"This way of settling differences is not just."
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now.
I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
(...) Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Bem, eu não sei o que acontecerá agora. Teremos alguns dias difíceis. Mas, para mim, isso não importa. Porque eu estive no cimo da montanha. E não me importo. Como todos, gostaria de ter uma vida longa. Por que não? Mas não estou preocupado com isso agora. Só quero fazer a vontade de Deus. E Ele permitiu que eu subisse a montanha. E eu vi lá de cima. E vi a terra prometida. Talvez não vos acompanhe até lá. Mas, quero que saibam esta noite que nós, como povo, chegaremos à terra prometida. E estou feliz esta noite. Nada me preocupa. Não temo nenhum homem. Os meus olhos viram a glória da chegada do Senhor.
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