Those of you who remember my blog from the days before I went off the radar may also remember that I very rarely don my political head unless it is to talk about this guy. It would be incredibly remiss of me to ignore the opportunity to use this week’s theme of “inside” to remind you once more of the plight of Gary Tyler.
(There are lots of links in this post, so hold on to your hats! I particularly recommend the songs …).
This year is Gary’s 40th year inside the notorious Angola Prison in Louisiana, having been sentenced in 1974 for a murder he did not commit, at the tender age of just 16 years old. You can read the details of the case here, as published in the NY Times, and check out a previous post of mine here.
Two songs have been written about him by UB40 – “Tyler” appeared on their first album Signing Off, released way back in 1980 and talks of Gary having “been there five years and they won’t let him go.” A further track called “Rainbow Nation” was recorded for their album TwentyFourSeven released in 2008. It is a sombre reminder about “the futility of writing songs (referring back to Tyler) if you want to get something done” (Robin Campbell).
Gil Scott Heron’s “Angola, Louisiana” on his album Secrets (1978) and, more recently, Chumbawamba’s haunting “Waiting for the bus to take me home” on their album The Boy Bands have Won (2008) also tried to draw attention to the injustice of Gary’s plight, as did a young rap band with close family ties to the Neville Brothers called Deff Generation, who penned a song called “Gary Tyler” for their album Medicine in 2000.
If this has tweaked any interest amongst you (and I hope it has…) you can watch a documentary report aired by Democracy Now! in the States about the case by clicking the link below. Be aware, it’s a long piece – almost 45 minutes in total – but very illuminating. (It includes excerpts from an interview conducted with him way back when, beginning at around 22mins 20secs if you’re impatient).
If you’re wondering why I’m so strongly opinionated about this particular situation, it is because I was (am?) the graduate student who interviewed Gary in Angola many moons ago in 1997. Back then, I was just an ordinary person who had an extraordinary opportunity to interview this usually very private man for a full five-and-a-half hours in the bowels of one of the most notorious prisons.
I would normally shy away from drawing any attention to the “real” me – but as I appear to have been outed anyway (see yesterday’s brief post) then what the heck?
The excerpts you hear in the documentary were taped by me during that interview, and the majority of any photos you may find if you look up Gary Tyler images on the net were taken by me during that interview.
Sadly, Juanita Tyler, Gary’s mother and staunchest supporter, seen in the video, passed away last year. Let’s hope that the forty years she devoted to fighting for her son’s release were not in vain.
© Alice through the Macro Lens