Herman's Blog Personal Writings of Herman Bell



Black Panther Party political prisoner Herman Bell was viciously assaulted by guards at Great Meadow Correctional Facility (Comstock) on September 5, 2017. Read about the incident and the letter from his attorney ROBERT J. BOYLE.



Your thoughtful words and warm greetings prompted me to express, as requested, a few thoughts on u.s. political prisoner (pp) support work and alternatives to incarceration.



I've lived in this cell longer than I've lived on the streets.  Its metal locker where I keep my food from the mice, the toilet and face bowl, the bed, the floor, the cell bars and metal clothes rack all have come to know some part of me.  I want to talk about me today.



The black fight for social justice and community control clashed with the white power structure.  Some blacks argued that the black community constituted a colony within an imperialist nation – a perspective that likened the black struggle against oppression to a shared global struggle and resistance to that oppression.  The government’s resistance to blacks’ fair and honest demands that it eliminate poverty, reform prisons, provide decent housing, jobs, schools, health care and cease unrestrained police violence, radicalized black youth.



These events, at least the killing of unarmed civilians, are such common occurrences nowadays til talk about them seem unending.  What I find most striking about this is that the authorities, the police, are so condemnatory of violent acts in our society and yet they commit the most violence.

For we know that, inevitably, more of the same will occur again.



I have followed, supported, and I continue to follow and support your heroic struggle to rid Israeli occupation of your homeland. Almost daily we hear of israeli tank shells and missiles firing into your homes, your hospitals, and school buildings; we see pictures of broken bodies being dug from the rubble. Whole neighborhoods and vital resources: food, water, electricity are decimated. So much death, bloodshed, and destruction when seizing and occupying other people's land, an old narrative that Indigenous people the world over know so well.



My dear brother, you know the kind of hell we black people were born into in america, and we were not among the first of our people to arrive here. My mind's eye can still see the chains on their hands and feet, and smell the fetid air wafting from the holds of the slave ships that brought them to these shores to be bought and sold and owned as chattel, to fetch and carry as ordered.

January 2014


Yesterday, as descendants of former slaves who were judged as less than fully human, we were spat upon, lynched, subjected to mob violence and all manner of indignities. Today, it's mass incarceration, stop & frisk, a dream still deferred.

October 13, 2013


Realities, the theme of this 47th Anniversary Celebration. For I firmly believe that programs are among the finest ways to educate and organize a people and their resources.

October 13, 2013

Time Perspectives

TIME PERSPECTIVES: Today is October 13, 2013 - could you imagine what life would be like in the year 2038? It seems like forever to get to 2038. Well how about 1958 to 1983, that seems like eons - or 1989 to 2014. Most people can't see that far ahead and are in awe at the passing of time and how much has changed in those years.

September, 2013


Everything I have learned about football has taught me that it is about more than simply blocking and tackling on the playing field. Football is a team sport, and any team sport or collective endeavor clearly highlights the importance of communication. Even as babies, we know that no single somebody watched over us until we were able to do it for ourselves, because people have historically depended on each other in order to survive.

July, 2013


Loneliness is a prominent fixture in a long-termer's life. He wakes with it and beds with it. It can lead to mental depression that is marked by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, to a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, to feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes to suicidal tendencies. In such a state the will is fragile: your hair might come out in clumps. You might pick at your skin, at your nose, or at both. Your lack of hygiene may cause noses to flair, people to talk about you, and even to avoid you. Another prominent feature of prison life is tension, which is so rife in prison that it is worn like an extra layer of skin. Anger is yet another feature: an unpaid debt, a slight - real or imagine - a look, an unguarded word, and it flares-up like a volcanic eruption. A person could well take a life or lose his own, or wear some hideous disfiguring scar because of it.

July, 2013

Ready For The Junkyard

How is it that a state which prides itself as being symbolized by a shiny, sleek escort into a bright and better future remain so mired down in the political muck of the past?

June, 2013

Paying Homage

To the Fallen But Not Forgotten. How do you say "Thank you" to the men and women that sacrificed Life and Freedom for the voiceless, oppressed and the generations to come?

April 4, 2013

What It's Like

Physically, I feel like I did when I started this prison journey in 1973, but mentally and spiritually, I have traveled far. The authorities today watch me as close as they did back then; it has been the way of things since my imprisonment; back then, nobody quite knew what to make of me or what to expect.

June 17, 2013

An Insider's View

He plays the flute. I have neither seen nor heard him play, but I know because he's mentioned it. In his cell, when the noise of prison has died down and he can hear himself think, Herman Bell plays the flute. I imagine there are people for whom that image is simply too dissonant to believe. But that's only because they don't know him like I do. A couple of years ago, shortly after arriving in this prison, Herman was called to an office in which I worked - something about an error made in his program assignment. After he left, my boss - a competent, compassionate senior administrator - said, "Notice how he carries himself? That's a gentleman." My boss went on to say that he'd have offered him a job in the office, but security staff would be apoplectic, on account of Herman's past. So it goes with the System: we are only as good as the worst lines on our rap sheet.

Release Aging Prisoners Project (R.A.P.P.)

Hello, everybody - my name is Herman Bell. I've been imprisoned since 1973 (for nearly 40 years). I am 65 years old. I've appeared before five parole boards and have been denied five times. Each Board recognizes my considerable accomplishments: program fulfillment, release plans, letters of support, and that I have no disciplinary concerns. But I'm still denied parole. The Board writes that after careful review, release at this time is incompatible with the welfare of society, and they say that my release would deprecate the serious nature of my charge of conviction. Thus, the Board is resentencing me, as it does others, for an offense on which the court has already pronounced judgment.

June 6, 2011

Thoughts on Human Rights and Social Justice.

As we use the "human rights and justice approach", since it's generally agreed we should proceed this way in the next period, how do we define "human rights" and "justice"? Let us take time and humanize these terms. Let us give them life, a beating heart, a discerning mind, and courageous spirit. Let us make them living, and more than dead words.

April 7, 2011

Cointel Pro - Then & Now

Cointelpro is a powerful, sophisticated, government instrument of repression and social control. It was designed to repress; traces of it can be found back in the most ancient of times where the drama is enacted of "haves" against "have-nots"; of weak against strong; of rich against poor; of who will be master, who will be slave; of who will be dominant, who will be subordinate.

The Victory Gardens Project

The Victory Gardens Project (VGP) was an eight-year-long grassroots enterprise located in Central Maine. Its primary goal was to effect radical social change and economic independence through food production. VGP reached out to disenfranchised people in both urban and rural communities to help them develop their own source of wholesome organic food.

Fall, 2005

Opposition To Isolation and Torture

Greetings to the People of Venezuela and to your Beloved President, Hugo Chavez. My name is Herman Bell. I am a USA Political Prisoner and a former member of the Black Panther Party. I have been imprisoned for over 32 years because of my activism in the Black liberation movement of the 1960s & early 1970s. I was asked to write the following for a recent conference in Europe, and wish to share these words with you as well:

April 2, 2012

Occupy Justice

The people Occupy Justice to express dissatisfaction with their government and elected officials. The recent near melt-down of the U.S. economy on Wall Street, brought on by unregulated trading, big banks, and the complicity of elected officials, leaves absolutely no doubt that the U.S. government is no longer "of and by the people." Through lobbyists and campaign contributions to elected officials, Big Money - the banks and Wall Street - now fully control the levers of power in the U.S. Their officials legislated laws that opened the speculative flood gates on Wall Street and nearly toppled the U.S. economy. ...

May 27, 2012

Thoughts on Occupy Movement

You probably know that the United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. Two-point-four million souls . . . and counting. U.S. prisons operate on punishment and retribution, not "rehabilitation." For the past 39 years, I have lived in a series of U.S. "correctional facilities" - warehouses that stockpile human beings. These warehouses serve the economic interests of other human beings in depressed rural communities, where industries have disappeared, and job security resides in maintaining a large prison population. We prisoners - the poor, the marginalized, the irrelevant - are products of an antiquated Jim Crow political agenda that exists to own and control people of color. Meanwhile, the 1% who own and control the "free" market continue to make a killing, and now, given the current trend toward privatization, it's even possible to buy stock in their prison system.

Yet from inside prison, I get the idea that the Occupy movement might finally begin to change all this.

October 2, 2006

In Support of Palestinian Prisoners

To the Palestinian people, their political prisoners and detainees held in israeli jails. To our brothers and sisters in struggle, we u.s. political prisoners and prisoners of war extend greetings and solidarity and commend you for your stout-hearted resistance to zionist occupation of your land. Your dogged resolve to expel them is admired and respected more than ever. We recognize your plight and honor your historic resistance to this occupation and aggression.

April 2, 2012


Wrist-chains, waiste-chains, ankle-chains, shackles;

Chain-gangs: wooly-haired, black-faced bumblebees shuffling in chains, grading dirt roads, hacking weeds in ditches as pale-face men, tall sticks in hand, sit on horseback looking on.

Chains - the sound of chains; never-forgotten-chains. Perhaps they harken back to the day on the Goodship Jeasus, wherein the dark of night Capt. John Hawkins, slave-ship runner, piloted stolen bodies across the dreaded Middle-Passage, on back to tobacco fields in Virginia before Kunta Kunte morphed into Toby.

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