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Solitary – Albert Woodfox | Book Review

Solitary – Albert Woodfox|Book Review

 

We are all products of our choices and actions. Our decisions define us in ways we can’t begin to imagine, if we’re fortunate, we read about people just like us, they end up changing us and leaving an indelible mark in us. They set us on a new path. They set me on a new path.

 

Solitary was written by Albert Woodfox – his own struggles as a committed activist while in prison.

Society dictated who Albert was but he forged out a path for himself, though handicapped, he went on to fight for what he believed in.

All that happened when he met other people and took special interest in reading, he said reading was his salvation.

 

Solitary has a total of 722 pages. It is divided into four parts about the life of Albert with 54 chapters.

Solitary is the autobiography of Albert Woodfox, it speaks of how he spent 4 decades in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola.

Albert speaks of the horrors of the Jim crow law, how blacks were segregated from whites, how just being black made you a suspect to every criminal activity, how the law was always unfavourable to black but amidst that, he spoke of how he was able to survive and inspire people within the walls of prison, outside the walls of prison and I, as well.

Reading Solitary within a week of acquiring it brought a whole lot of lessons to my life. This is one of the first book that spoke to me in a language I quite understood. Albert covered, for me; family, society, friends, people, the judiciary system.

 

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Family is very important in every childs development. Alberts mother, Ruby, showed him the love of a mother even while in prison and that kept him going.

His siblings never deserted him neither did they look down on him, they saw him as the older brother that he was he went to jail once because he was trying to save his sister, Violetta.

 

Albert brought to view how the society has the ability to either make you or break you, in his case, it broke him and he had to pay a great price for restoration going in and out of prison until he became a new man.

Ruby wasn’t literate, she survived by whatever means available. When schools teach children to look down on certain stereotypical people just like Ruby, we judge them not minding that they were left with no choices to choose from.

That when there is segregation in a society, when a certain class of people are favoured more than another, then there is bound to be trouble lying in the wake. That was an effect of the Jim Crow law on Albert and his black comrades.

 

Friends are priceless, good friends. Albert has two, Herman and Robert. They went on to have the same beliefs, fought the same battles, won some and lost some.

The same struggle bound them that while Robert got released and Herman died, Robert gave up more than 2 decades of his life fighting for Albert, creating awareness on the effect of solitary confinement.

Their friendship is described by how they finished their letters to one another with the phrase “separated but never apart, never touching but always connected.”

 

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People come into our life to either teach us a lesson or be a blessing. The people in the life of Albert were of both.

While some taught him a lesson like District Attorney Buddy Caldwell, a whole lot were a blessing to him like the Black Panther Party’s members, who inspired him to live a better life, Judge Brady who was the only Judge to ever admit that Albert was never given a fair hearing at court, the lawyers who took on Alberts case pro bono just because they believed he was innocent, the people who were always protesting in support of Albert.

Alone, Albert stood no chance, but when he had support from people all over the world, the court began to listen to him though little – and that gave way for great change until he was released.

 

The court has the power of life and death; they hold the keys to a mans life, argue otherwise.

Albert is proof alongside the gazillion people locked up away unjustly for crime they didn’t commit because of where they came from, or who they were or even what they believed in.

A corrupt justice system is just as bad as the devil himself.

 

A fellow Nigerian’s life is just as much, alike, like that of Albert. We live in a society dictated by ethnicity and tribalism, were one’s religion is a determining factor of one’s life just like the Jim Crow Law did for Albert.

We live in a society where our children are taught, not about their history, but others’, shaping a narrative that is untrue and uncalled for, just like Albert who thought so low of his mother because he was taught that black people who lived like his mother did where a disgrace to society. That is how school tend to affect us.

 

Our judiciary system is one feared, where speaking up can make one never to be seen by his/her family, where there are people who have been taken away from their families by the government and the courts are not saying anything, where certain policies are passed and the courts are still mute.

The law which was meant for the society is not understood by the society.

 

Just like Albert, we have the ability to forge our paths amidst all these. We can be better humans if we choose and believe we can. Thoughts are realities, if we can think in and work towards it, we shall be what our thoughts are.

 

I will vouch for this book, I give it a 5 out of 5 for every lawyer who wishes to see how a corrupt system jeopardizes the lives of innocent people, for every teacher to know that whatever that is being taught has a way to either affect your student positively or negatively like in the case of Albert, for every family man or woman who wishes to see the importance of family in the lives of children and for everyone out there who wants to see the great role of friends in the life of a person.

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