In 2003 Jackie Sumell asked Herman Wallace a very simple question:
“WHAT KIND OF HOUSE DOES A MAN WHO HAS LIVED IN A SIX-FOOT-BY-NINE-FOOT-CELL FOR OVER THIRTY YEARS DREAM OF?”
Herman Wallace spent over 4-decades in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. On October 1st, 2013 his conviction was overturned Herman left the prison unshackled, free and innocent in the eyes of the law. Less than three days later Herman joined the ancestors passing peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by supporters who loved him dearly.
The House That Herman Built is an on-going (he)art project that radically transformed the lives of both Jackie Sumell and Herman Wallace. It began as a simple exchange between two and over the course of a decade has expanded into an international art exhibition, a book, a documentary film and now it is in the fundraising stages to build Herman Wallace’s dream home in the city of New Orleans- where Herman grew up and Jackie now lives. Please stay tuned as we ultimately transform this great loss into the visuals of resounding victory- to honor Herman Wallace, the legacy of his struggle and the struggle of all people forced to endure wrongful convictions and the inhumane conditions of long term solitary confinement.
In the wake of Herman’s death, this project continues to elevate the conversation around the practice of long term solitary confinement in hopes of bringing it to an end. At present, more than 80,000 people are held in isolation in US jails, prisons, and detention centers. Solitary confinement places prisoners in single cell isolation for a minimum of 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. The context for this struggle is informed by the reality that the United States is the greatest incarcerator in the world, maintaining 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prison population. 97% of those who are incarcerated will be released back to our communities.