Architectonic · Human-ities · Social/Politics

THE HOUSE THAT HERMAN BUILT: What kind of house does a man who has lived in 6′ x 9′ box for 30 years dream of?

For over thirty-eight years Herman Joshua Wallace has been in Solitary Confinement in Louisiana’s State Prison System. Solitary Confinement, or Closed Cell Restriction [CCR] at The Louisiana State Penitentiary consists of a minimum of 23 hours a day in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell. As a member of the Black Panther Party, Herman Wallace has been isolated to the darkest places in the United State’s largest penitentiary. Specifically because of his political beliefs, he has been forced to endure the worst conditions of Solitary Confinement for nearly four decades.

In 2003 artist Jackie Sumell asked Herman a very simple question:

The answer to this question has manifested a remarkable project principled in social sculpture, community outreach, benevolence and the ultimate power of the imagination called THE HOUSE THAT HERMAN BUILT.

This extraordinary collaboration has gained international recognition through its exhibition and corresponding book. This enormous project has been shown dozens of times in over 7 countries, garnishing accolades from the harshest critics. A documentary is being produced and directed by independent film maker Angad Bhalla. As Herman & Jackie transition from building a virtual home through an art exhibition to building Herman’s actual dream home in (his birth city) New Orleans, the growing community of support has increased infinitely. THTHB has formal alliances with various community groups, collectives, and committees. MAISON ORION, a Los Angeles based design studio, is providing architectural support for this project to see that it is realized with faithfulness to Herman’s vision with the absolute minimum of modifications. Once the land is acquired, construction can begin.

The House That Herman Built is a testament to the human imagination, an illustration of kindness, an art project, and an introduction to history that highlights institutionalized racism in the United States. Ultimately, Herman’s House is a monument to resilience, courage, creativity and magnanimity. Herman Wallace & Jackie Sumell have committed their lives to building it. Please join us on this journey.

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Human-ities · Social/Politics

The Gray Box: An investigative look at solitary confinement

A multimedia investigation by Susan Greene at the Dart Society. Their mission is to connect and support journalists worldwide who advance the compassionate and ethical coverage of trauma, conflict and social injustice.

Susan Greene: A few weeks ago, on the fifteenth anniversary of his first day in prison, Osiel Rodriguez set about cleaning the 87 square feet he inhabits at ADX, a federal mass isolation facility in Colorado.

“I got it in my head to destroy all my photographs,” he writes in a letter to me. “I spent some five hours ripping each one to pieces. No one was safe. I did not save one of my mother, father, sisters. Who are those people anyway?”

Such is the logic of the gray box, of sitting year after year in solitude.

Whether Rodriguez had psychological problems when he robbed a bank, burglarized a pawn shop and stole some guns at age 22, or whether mental illness set in during the eight years he has spent in seclusion since trying to walk out of a federal penitentiary in Florida – it’s academic. What’s true now is that he’s sick, literally, of being alone, as are scores of other prisoners in extreme isolation.

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