Black August: A Celebration of Freedom Fighters

BY DOC HOLIDAY ET AL.

Black August originated in the California penal system in the 1970s. Many significant events in the New African Nation’s struggle for justice and liberation have occurred in August. The commemoration of Black August particularly hails the advances and sacrifices of Black Freedom Fighters. Following are several pages of authentic information on Black August provided by Doc Holiday, an original comrade of George Jackson and a longtime figure in the Black Liberation and prison struggle. Doc is presently in prison in Marion, Illinois.

History of Black August: Concept and Program

The month of August gained special significance and importance in the Black Liberation Movement beginning with a courageous attempt by Jonathan Jackson to demand the freedom of political prisoners/prisoners of war, of which the Soledad Brothers’ case brought to the center of attention.

On August 7, 1970 Jonathan Jackson, William Christmas, James McClain, and Ruchell Magee were gunned down at the Marin County Courthouse in that attempt for freedom. Ruchell Cinque Magee remains the sole survivor of that bid for liberation. He also remains a POW at Folsom prison, doing life. Though this rebellion was put down by gory pigs and their agents, it was internalized within the hearts and minds of the people on the outside in the larger prison as well as those in the concentration camps (prison), internalized in the same fashion as we honor other heroic African Freedom Fighters, who sacrificed their lives for the people and the liberation.

On August 21, 1971, almost exactly a year following the slave rebellion at Marin County Courthouse, George L. Jackson (older brother of Jonathan Jackson as well as one of the Soledad Brothers) whose freedom was the primary demand of the Marin rebellion, was assassinated at San Quentin prison in an alleged escape put forth by prison administration and the state to cover its conspiracy. Comrade George Jackson was a highly respected and purposely influential leader in the Revolutionary Prison Movement. Jackson was also very popular beyond prison, not only because he was a Soledad Brother, but also because of the book he authored appropriately entitled Soledad Brother. This book not only revealed to the public the inhumane and degrading conditions in prison, he more importantly, correctly pointed to the real cause of those effects in prison as well as in society: a decadent Capitalist system that breeds off of racism and oppression.

On August 1, 1978 brother Jeffery “Khatari” Gualden, a Black Freedom Fighter and Prisoner of War, captured within the walls of San Quentin was a victim of a blatant assassination by capitalist-corporate medical politics. Khatari was another popular and influential leader in the Revolutionary Prison Movement.

An important note must be added here and that is, the Black August Concept and Movement that it is a part of and helping to build is not limited to our sisters and brothers that are currently captured in the various prison Kamps throughout California. Yet without a doubt it is inclusive of these sisters and brothers and moving toward a better understanding of the nature and relationship of prison to oppressed and colonized people.

So it should be clearly understood that Black August is a reflection and commemoration of history of those heroic partisans and leaders that realistically made it possible for us to survive and advance to our present level of liberation struggle, such as Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Gabriel Prosser, Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson, Rosa Parks, M.L. King, Malcolm X, and numerous others in our more contemporary period. It must be further clarified that when we speak of “Culture Development,” we are not advocating Cultural Nationalism and/or merely talking about adopting African names, jewellery, dashikis, etc. Our primary interest lies not only in where we came from, but the nature of “WHY” we were forcefully brought here, understanding the character of “CONTINUOUS” struggle with the recognition that it is a protracted struggle and developing the necessary lifestyles to guarantee its success.

August 20, 1619: First born Afrikan captives were brought to England’s North Amerikan colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

August 16, 1768: Charlestown, South Carolina. Rebellious Afrikan slaves (known as maroons) engaged British military forces in bloody battle defending their camp which was a haven for fugitive slaves.

August 30, 1800: Day set for launching Gabriel Prosser’s revolt. On this day over 1000 armed slaves gathered to endeavor to secure their liberty, however bad weather forced them to postpone the revolt and betrayal ultimately led to the crushing of their physical force.

August 21, 1831: Slave revolt launched under the leadership of Nat Turner which lasted four days and resulted in fifty-one slaveholders and their loved ones being subjected to revolutionary people’s justice.

August 29, 1841: Street skirmish took place in Cincinnati between Afrikan and Euro-Amerikan, wherein for five days Afrikans waged valiant struggle in defense of their women, children and property against brutal racist terror campaigns.

August 1854: Delegates from eleven states met in Cleveland at the National Emigration Convention of the Colored People, to advance the position that an independent land base (nation) be set up for the absorption of captive Afrikans in Babylon who wanted to return to Afrika.

August 1, 1856: North Carolina. Fierce battle erupted between fugitive slaves and slaveholders who sought their capture and re-enslavement. The only recorded casualties were among slaveholders.

August 1860: Freedom (slave) conspiracy uncovered with the discovery of an organized camp of Afrikans and Euro-Amerikan co-conspirators in Talladega County, Alabama.

August 2, 1865: Virginia. A statewide conference of fifty Afrikan delegates met to demand that Afrikans in Virginia be granted legal title to land occupied during the Civil War. Numerous off-pitch battles ensued during this same month as terrorist mobs moved to evict Afrikans from the land and were met with resistance.

August 17, 1887: Honorable Marcus Garvey, father of contemporary Afrikan Nationalism, was born.

August 1906: Afrikan soldiers (in service of Babylon) enraged behind racial slurs and discrimination struck out and wrecked the town of Brownville, Texas.

August 1906: Niagara Movement met at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia and issued W.E.B. DuBois’ historic manifesto against racist discrimination in Babylon against Afrikans.

August 1, 1914: Garvey founds Universal Negro Improvement Association, advancing the call for Land, Freedom, and Independence for Afrikan people.

August 23, 1917: Afrikan soldiers in Huston engaged in street skirmishes that left more than seventeen Euro-American racists dead.

August 1920: Over two thousand delegates representing Afrikans from the four corners of the earth gathered in New York for the International Convention of the Negro People of the World, sponsored by UNIA. The convention issued a bill of rights for Afrikans.

August 1943: Slave revolt took place in Harlem as result of a K-9 shooting a brother defending the honour of Afrikan womanhood. More than 16,000 military and police personnel were required to quell the rebellion.

August 1963: 190,000 Afrikans (250,000 people in total) took part in the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King to petition for the extension of the rights and privileges due to them mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

August 1964: Afrikans launched comparatively large-scale urban slave revolts in the following cities: Jersey City NY, Paterson NJ, Keansburg NJ, Chicago IL, and Philadelphia PA. These slave revolts were for the most part sparked by either police brutality or disrespect shown toward Afrikan womanhood.

August 16, 1965: Urban revolts took place in Northern Philadelphia.

August 7-8, 1966: A large-scale urban revolt was launched in Lansing, Michigan.

August 28, 1966: Waukegan, Illinois. Urban slave revolt launched in response to police brutality.

July 30-August 2, 1967: Urban slave revolt launched in Milwaukee.

August 19-24, 1967: A comparatively large-scale urban slave revolt was launched in New Haven, Connecticut.

August 7, 1970: Jonathan Jackson killed in firefight while leading the Marin County Courthouse raid.

August 21, 1971: George Jackson shot and killed in San Quentin by tower guards.

Most standard history books tend to either play down or ignore New African resistance as a factor in the destruction in the slave economy. On the other hand, when one understands that New Africans are still an oppressed nation, the reason for such deception becomes clear. Black August contends that not only was such resistance a factor in the destruction of the slave economy, but New African resistance to slavery continues to inspire New African resistance to national oppression. Herbert Aptheker (the author of “American Negro Slave Revolts”) recounts the personal remark of one New African involved in the civil rights struggle:

“From personal experience I can testify that American Negro Slave Revolts made a tremendous impact on those of us in the civil rights and Black Liberation movement. It was the single most effective antidote to the poisonous ideals that blacks had not a history of struggle or that such struggle took the form of non-violent protest. Understanding people like Denmark Vessey, Nat Turner, William Lloyd Garrison etc. provided us with that link to our past that few ever thought existed.”

Black August contends that from the very inception of slavery, New Africans huddled illegally to commemorate and draw strength from New African slaves who met their death resisting. Black August asserts that it is only natural for each generation of New Africans faced with the task to liberate the nation, to draw strength and encouragement from each generation of New African warriors that preceded them. It is from such a rich heritage of resistance that Black August developed, committed to continuing the legacy of resistance, vowing to respond to the call for the destruction of colonial oppression with our George Jacksons, Malcolm Xs and Fred Hamptons etc.

New African resistance moved decisively into the 1920s and 1930s. Evidence of this was movements like The African Blood Brothers, The Share Croppers, The Black Bolsheviks, etc. Unduly there is an incorrect tendency to confine the discussion of African Nationalism to the well-known Garvey Movement as the sole manifestation of national consciousness. The Garvey Movement was the point of the emerging politics of New African resistance.

In labor, national consciousness, (i.e. literature, jazz, art, etc.) in the struggle for the land, in all areas of politics, like a great explosion of previously pent-up National Consciousness took place among New Africans. The sixties were a further example of New African resistance to national oppression. It should be emphasized here that that struggle of non-violence was at that time a strategy of illegality, of danger, of arousing New Africans to direct confrontation with the colonial oppressor. Whether it was a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter or bus station, the movement deliberately broke the colonial law.

Inevitably the anti-colonial struggle moved to a higher level, growing beyond the initial stage of non-violent civil rights protest. The non-violent civil rights strategy was tried and discarded by New Africans, who found that it was a failure, incapable of forcing an entrenched settler’s colonial regime to change.

Black August purports that it is important to briefly mention such events to counter the colonial propaganda that the riots of the 1960s was due to anger brought on by overcrowding and summer heat. Black August asserts that in order for New Africans to arise to the historical task of defending the Nation, it is imperative that New Africans have a historical perspective of themselves resisting colonial oppression.

Black August avers that at a time when the Black Nation is experiencing the destruction of its community through planned gentrification, at a time when the quality of New African life is being blunted through unemployment, prison, drugs, high infant mortality and poverty, the call of New African organization should be one of resistance.

Black August is the antithesis to “celebration” and empty “homage.” Black August attempts to place struggle and sacrifice on center stage. In this respect, Black August summons all progressive people who identify with the legacy of resistance to colonial oppression to actively participate in Black August. Thus during the entire month of August in commemoration of those Africans who have made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of African Liberation and reflect upon the significance of those contributions as well as to draw closer to the continuing necessity for resistance, we embrace the following as tenets to be practiced during Black August.

Tenets of the Black August Program

  1. A fast which historically has been used as an expression of personal commitment and resistance. Hence, from sunrise until evening meal we will abstain from eating. We abstain from consuming any type of intoxicants for the entire month of August. The necessity for this should be self-evident for all serious participants of Black August (BA).
  2. We limit our selection of television and radio to educational programs, i.e. news, documentaries and cultural programs, etc.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Black August is a revolutionary concept. Therefore, all revolutionaries, nationalists and others who are committed to ending oppression should actively participate in Black August. Such participation not only begins to build the bridges of international solidarity, but it is through such solidarity that we strengthen ourselves to struggle for victory.

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