Friday, September 04, 2009

The History of Black August

Submitted by Black August organizers in Toronto BASICS #15 (Sep/Oct 2009)

Black August was established in the California prison system in the early 1970s by men and women of the Black Liberation Movement. Black August holds great significance in the African tradition of resistance against white supremacy and imperialism in the United States. In the late 1970s, the observance and practice of Black August left the prisons of California and was practiced by African American revolutionaries throughout the United States. Since then it has spread and grown and there are Black August events in cities throughout the U.S. and internationally.

As the journalist and former Black Panther Kiilu Nyasha writes: “Black August, [was] first organized to honor our fallen freedom fighters, Jonathan and George Jackson, Khatari Gaulden, James McClain, William Christmas, and the sole survivor of the August 7, 1970 Courthouse Slave Rebellion, Ruchell Cinque Magee. It is still a time to embrace the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical fitness and/or training in martial arts, resistance, and spiritual renewal. The concept, Black August, grew out of the need to expose to the light of day the glorious and heroic deeds of those African women and men who recognized and struggled against the injustices heaped upon people of color on a daily basis in America.”

U.S. Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal noted that August “is a month of meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.” Many important dates in the history of the Struggle in the Americas took place in August, including the Nat Turner Rebellion (1831), the beginning of the Underground Railroad (1850), the birth of Marcus Garvey (1887) and the March on Washington (1963).

The most significant event to the founders of Black August was the assassination of George Jackson in August 1971. George Jackson was a prisoner who became a revolutionary while locked in California’s jails. He was an activist inside prison who worked to transform prisoners into soldiers for the struggle against racism and exploitation. He also wrote two books, Soledad Brother and Blood in my Eye. He was eventually killed by guards.

Doc Holiday, an original comrade of George Jackson, and a longtime member of the Black liberation and prison struggle, and currently in prison in Illinois, has written that the tenets of the Black August Program include:

1. A fast which historically has been used as an expression of personal commitment and resistance.

2. We abstain from consuming any type of intoxicants for the entire month of August.

3. We limit our selection of television and radio to educational programs, i.e. news, documentaries and cultural programs, etc.

4. During BA we emphasize political and cultural studies for individuals involved in BA. Participants in BA should pair off with someone else you know to study and share knowledge of African Affairs.

5. As an outward expression of BA we wear a Black arm band on the left arm or wrist as a tribute to those Africans who have died as a result of their sacrifice for African Liberation. The arm band can be worn either on the inside or outside of your clothing.

6. Black August (BA) is a revolutionary concept. Therefore, all revolutionaries, nationalists and others who are committed to ending oppression should actively participate in Black August.

August 2009 marked the 30th anniversary of the Black August tradition. ∗