#BlackAugust: The True History, Culture, & Practice

BLACK AUGUST: “Each year officially since 1979 we have used the month of August to focus on the oppressive treatment of our brothers and sisters disappeared inside the state run gulags and concentration camps America calls prisons. It is during this time that we concentrate our efforts to free our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, and all other captive family and friends who have been held in isolation for decade after decade beyond their original sentence. Many of these individuals are held in the sensory deprivation and mind control units called Security Housing Units (S.H.U. Program), without even the most basic of human rights.” – Shaka At-Thinnin Black August Organizing Committee from “THE ROOTS OF BLACK AUGUST”

 

Black August originated in the concentration camps (prisons) of California in 1979 and its’ roots come from that history of resistance by Black/New African/African brothers in those prisons. It’s original and unchanging purpose is to:

Honor and commemorate the lives and deaths of several fallen Freedom Fighters, amongst them were Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson, W.L. Nolan, James McClain, William Christmas and Khatari Gaulden;

To bring unity among Black/African/New African prisoners, and education and awareness to family members, friends, associates and communities about the conditions for the Black/New Afrikan prisoners held within those concentration camps (in particular in California) and;

To educate our people about and honor the history and actions of continued resistance of Black/New Afrikan/Afrikan peoples to oppression, colonization and slavery in the U.S. and throughout the Diaspora, with particular emphasis on prisoners, political prisoners, freedom fighters and their historical acts of resistance. 

 

The contemporary historical roots of Black August can be found in the actions of:

Jonathan Jackson who was gunned down outside the Marin County California courthouse on August 7, 1970 as he attempted to liberate three imprisoned Black Liberation Fighters: James McClain, William Christmas and Ruchell Magee. Ruchell Magee (who is still imprisoned in California to this day) is the sole survivor of the August 7th rebellion. He is the former co-defendant of Angela Davis and has been locked down for 40 plus years, most of it in solitary confinement in the SHU in Pelican Bay.

On January 13, 1970, W.L. Nolan, Alvin Miller, and Cleveland Edwards was assassinated when he was shot to death by prison guards on the yard in California’s Soledad State Prison. 

George Jackson was assassinated on August 21, 1971 by San Quentin prison guards. The assassination was a deliberate move on behalf of the US government to eliminate the revolutionary leadership of George Jackson. In the midst of the governments set up orchestrated to murder George, three prison guards were killed in a counter rebellion. The government charged six Black and Latino prisoners with the guard’s deaths. These six brothers became known as the San Quentin Six (who were later acquitted of all charges). 

 

Khatari Gauldenwas murdered by San Quentin Prison Guards August 1, 1978. Khatari was one of the key intellectual architects of the Black August commemorative tradition and was a prominent leader of the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) after Comrade George was assassinated. Khatari was a leading force in the formation of Black August, particularly its historical and ideological foundations. Khatari, like many of the unnamed freedom fighters of the BGF and the revolutionary prison movement of the 1970’s, was murdered. He was assassinated by the malicious intent of the government to deny him medical treatment following a mysterious accident on the San Quentin Prison yard August 1, 1978. He was murdered to eliminate his leadership and destroy the growing prison resistance movement. 

 

THE ORIGINS OF BLACK AUGUST:

In the month following Khatari’s transition, to honor him and to honor these fallen soldiers and the revolutionary vision and principles they embodied, brothers throughout the prison camps of California united together to continue their revolutionary work. Many of them shaved their heads, they wore black arm bands and in unity with the Black Muslim prisoners during Ramadan, fasted from Sunrise to Sunset.

 

In August 1979, the first official Black August took place. The brothers and political family members who participated in the collective founding of Black August wore black armbands on their left arm and studied revolutionary works, particularly those of Comrade George Jackson, many participated in the fasting for Ramadan. During the month of August the brothers did not listen to the radio or watch television, additionally, they didn’t eat or drink anything from sun-up to sundown; and loud and boastful behavior was not allowed. Support for the prison’s canteen was also disavowed. The use of drugs and alcoholic beverages was prohibited and the brothers held daily exercises to sharpen their minds, bodies, and spirits in honor of the collective principles of self-sacrifice, inner fortitude and revolutionary discipline needed to advance the New Afrikan struggle for self-determination and freedom. Black August therefore became a commemorative time for us to embrace the principles of communion, unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical training and determined resistance. A select few community members joined in solidarity.

 

“The intent among those of us who commemorated and practiced Black August was to educate ourselves, our families and communities about the conditions of our family and community members in prison and to create revolutionary consciousness and encourage the spirit of resistance among themselves and our communities.” – Mama Ayanna. This was in order to unify and continue and grow a strong prison movement to resist and change the conditions in the prisons and the conditions in our communities that were feeding the growth of our people in the prisons and the very real growth of the prison industrial complex (PIC). “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”, while unifying, organizing and creating strategies and science for freedom for those family and community members behind the walls, our political prisoners and stop the program to have millions of our young people on the “classroom to prison pipeline”. 

 

August 1980; the Black August Organizing Committee (BAOC) held its first Black August Commemoration event at Marcus Bookstore in San Francisco with a revolutionary film showing, statements from prisoners, statements of unity and solidarity, poetry and collective breaking of the fast. Members of the National Black Human Rights Coalition, the New African Independence Movement, the Black Muslim community and local defense committees, joined us in solidarity and unity to participate in the event. All proceeds from the event were used for prison legal funds and sent to men and women prisoners in the California penal system. It was that year that family and community members came together and started the practice of Black August study groups and community gardens. 

 

August 1981; BAOC held a Black August Commemorative Festival in San Antonio Park with speakers, edutainment, book sales and a free food give away. It was that year that Black August house fundraisers and education events began. Again all fundraising proceeds were distributed among prisoner legal funds and sent to the brothers and sisters behind the walls. THIS IS THE YEAR WE WON THE VICTORY OF DISMISSAL OF ALL CHARGES AGAINST ERNEST “SHUJAA” GRAHAM OF “GRAHAM AND ALLEN” AFTER FOUR TRIALS.

 

August 1982; the first official Black August demonstration in front of San Quentin took place, with organizing input from the brothers behind the walls at San Quentin. There was a Black August Festival held at Little Bobby Hutton/Defermary Park; The Black August Organizing Committee had a large standing room only fundraising event that year taking place at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley and had outreach tables at the Berkeley Flea Market (aka The African Marketplace). By this time many members of the Black August Organizing Committee were fighting multiple court cases resulting from a wave of State oppression focused specifically on the Black Liberation Movement to suppress our movement.* It must be noted that the Bay Area prison justice community has historically held demonstrations in front of San Quentin since the year of George Jackson’s death and were joined in solidarity by many radical and progressive organizations from around California and the U.S.

 

August 1983: After a wave of aggressive state repression, the Black August Organizing Committee continued with the Study Groups and held a large fundraising event for our members who continued to fight court cases and bogus charges resulting from the State crack down on our movement. ALL CASES ENDED UP BEING ACQUITTED AND/OR DROPPED!

 

THE BLACK AUGUST COMMEMORATION:

Black August is a month of education, resistance and is of great commemorative significance for the Afrikan peoples of the Diaspora, particularly those in the U.S. our people in prisons and jails and especially the California prison isolation units, where the commemorative tradition originated.  Black August, as noted by one of our most dedicated New Afrikan Freedom Fighters, Mumia Abu-Jamal,” is a month of divine meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of repression and righteous rebellion; of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us”.

 

The tradition of fasting, studying and education during Black August was developed to help instill self-discipline and unity amongst it’s’ observers. The fast is also intended to serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifices of our fallen Freedom Fighters, the conditions that our people face in prison, in the past during captivity and enslavement and the ongoing oppression of our people throughout the Diaspora. The commemorative fast is from sunrise to sunset (or generally from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm or 8:00 am to 8:00 pm). The fast includes refraining from drinking liquids and eating food of any kind. The meal to break the fast is shared whenever possible among comrades. Other forms of sacrifice are also encouraged to teach self-discipline and self-reflection, such as abstaining from sex or needless consumption (i.e. drug and alcohol use), refraining from listening to the corporate radio and watching corporate television. People are also encouraged when ever possible to refrain from patronizing and using corporate businesses, gas stations, department stores, supermarkets and grocery stores. Traditionally a “Peoples’ Feast” is held on August 31st to honor the fallen and acknowledge our collective sacrifices for the greater good. 

 

Early on, the Black August practice and tradition also observed not only the sacrifices of the brothers in California’s concentration camps, but to commemorate the acts of rebellion and resistance that occurred within the California Prison Camps and by other Black/New Afrikan prisoners, Political Prisoners (PPs), Prisoners of War (POWs) and freedom fighters. Within the first year(s) of Black August the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors against white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism were also included in the commemorative observation and practice.

 

*It must be clear that the purpose of Black August as created by the founders was not to celebrate, but to observe by individual and collective fasting, studying, educating and community work, as well as political and cultural edutainment.

 

Black August is a time to engage in self-reaffirming action to advance our struggle for self-determination and national liberation, and to commemorate actions of resistance, revolution and rebellion while promoting an understanding and awareness of what is happening to our people in prison and encouraging active and proactive acts of resistance. During Black August the community is encouraged to join in the observation and commemoration. Not only are the actions of self-discipline suggested, but also community members and community organizations are encouraged to come together, study and educate one another about what is happening in the prisons and about resistance and liberation past and present through studying, discussion, reading, DVD/Media sharing, cultural edutainment, exercising, training and breaking fast together. Black August study groups are encouraged. Black August reading and media lists are promoted.

 

*It is strongly suggested that we should write and/or visit someone in prison, to fund raise for and donate to the prisoners, political prisoners and prisoners of war. 

 

THE OBSERVATION AND COMMEMORATION OF BLACK AUGUST:

To observe and commemorate Black August each individual is encouraged to:

*Fast for a suggested prolonged period or if really disciplined drink only water from sunrise until after sunset from the 1st until the 31st (Alternative suggested hours are 6am to 6pm or 8am to 8pm);

*Eat only one meal a day after 6pm or after sunset;

*On days called flea days, (1st, 7th, 13th and 21st), fast 24 hours until next sunset. (Knowing that refraining from liquids is unhealthy, Mama Ayanna suggests to make this a liquid fast or to drink only water if you are especially disciplined)

*Work out an exercise routine for each day either individually or in groups.

*Do not use any drugs, smoke or ingest mind altering herbs or alcoholic beverages during the entire month.

*Do not go to any corporate store for anything other than essentials or medical or health related items.

*Do not watch TV or listen to radio from sunrise to sunset

*Do not watch corporate television or movies at all unless for educational purposes (for example ‘Malcolm X or     Biko’)

*Do not patronize fast food or commercial eating establishments or vendors.

*Eat healthy, natural and nutritious foods, beverages and meals to nourish your body and practice discipline.

*Observe Black August through educational study groups, educational events, edutainment and commemorations.

*Contribute funds and monies made from Black August events to men, women and youth in prison or prisoner legal funds

*Educate your family, community and loved ones about what is happening to our people in prisons. 

*Visit and/or write someone in prison or jail. It is suggested to also write and support our political prisoners and prisoners of consciousness (this practice should be continued all year)

 

BLACK AUGUST FASTING: 

Black August fasting is a New Afrikan tradition begun by the brothers inside that serves as a constant reminder of the sacrifices made by our people behind the walls and the conditions our people have faced historically and still face. Fasting mentally disciplines us to control urges and the physical craving for food; fasting helps us endure physical pain and discomfort. It is a reminder of what our Ancestars endured working as captives in the fields of the colonizers. Ultimately physical strength can be gained from fasting if a regular exercise program is developed and continued beyond August. Also fasting increases one’s abilities to break other addictions, like excessive cursing, and watching television. Fasting is uncomfortable at times, but it helps us to remember all those who have come and gone before us. 

 

*FASTING HEALTH NOTE: IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER; HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE OR PRE-HYPERTENSIVE; IF YOU ARE A DIABETIC OR PRE-DIABETIC; IF YOU HAVE A SERIOUS ILLNESS THAT NECESSITATES THAT YOU TAKE MEDICATIONS; IF YOU HAVE ONGOING PROBLEMS WITH YOUR KIDNEYS, BLADDER OR LIVER, IF YOU HAVE INFECTIONS OR INFLAMMATION, IF YOU HAVE AN IMMUNE SYSTEM DISEASE OR DISORDER, IF YOU HAVE HEALTH CONDITIONS THAT NEED DAILY HEALTHY NUTRITION, IF YOU ARE MENSTRUATING, DO NOT ABSTAIN FROM DRINKING WATER, DO NOT FAST FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET!  Instead, drink plenty of water, drink fresh fruit and vegetable juices and/or eat small meals consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and raw salads during the day so that you keep yourself nourished, sustained and healthy.

 

*Do not partake of a fast without medical supervision or consulting with your health practitioner.  

 

THE MOVEMENT OF BLACK AUGUST:

 

In the early 1980’s under the leadership and practice of the Black August Organizing Committee (BAOC), the observance and practice of Black August spread from the concentration camps of California and began being practiced by Black/New Afrikan revolutionaries throughout the country.

In alliance with the BAOC, members of the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) began practicing and spreading Black August during this period. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) inherited knowledge and practice of Black August from its parent organization, the New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO). MXGM began introducing the Hip-Hop “generation” to Black August in the late 1990’s after being inspired by the Cuban based New Afrikan political exile Nehanda Abiodun to start “Black August Hip Hop” benefit concerts to raise awareness about our captured and exiled Freedom Fighters, our Political Prisoners, Prisoners of War, and Political Exiles like Hugo Pinell, Ruchell Magee, Mutulu Shakur, Sundiata Acoli, Sekou Odinga, the NY 3, the Move 9, Assata Shakur, and dozens more. The benefits from these political/cultural events go to the political prisoner’s and their legal funds. The Black August Organizing Committee and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement continue to collaborate and work together in unity and resistance.

 

In the spirit of Black August organizations are encouraged to have political, cultural and educational events and not celebrations or parties. Commemoration and observance is a totally different action than celebration and partying. Black August was designed and brought to our communities to educate about prisoners and political prisoners, to agitate and activate the spirit of revolution, resistance and rebellion in our people. Along with the Black August Organizing Committee, MXGM other organizations and individuals are now observing and commemorating Black August all over the U.S. and the Diaspora including Oakland, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Austin, New Orleans, Omaha, Rochester, New Jersey, Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, Tanzania, South Africa and Brazil.

 

A sampling of the racist oppression and “righteous rebellion” and “resistance to repression” that define this commemorative month include:

*The arrival of the first enslaved Afrikans to Jamestown, Virginia in August 1619;

*The start of the great Haitian revolution in August 1791;

*The call for a general strike by enslaved New Afrikans by Henry Highland Garnett on August 22nd1843;

*The initiation of the major network that conducted the Underground Railroad on August 2, 1850;

*Gabriel Prosser’s rebellion of August 30th, 1800.

*The rebellion of Nat “the Prophet” Turner on August 21st, 1831;

*On August 3, 1908, the Allensworth Township for former slaves was established in California;

*The March on Washington occurred in August of 1963;

*The Watts rebellion of August 1965;

*The defense of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PG – RNA) from a FBI assault in Mississippi on August 18, 1971;

*The attack of the MOVE family by Philadelphia police on August 8, 1978.

 

Black August is also a commemorative month of birth and transition. Dr. Mutulu Shakur (New Afrikan prisoner of war), Pan-Africanist Leader Marcus Garvey, Maroon Russell Shoatz (political prisoner) and Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton were born in August. The great New Afrikan revolutionary scholar and theoretician W.E.B. Dubois died in Ghana on August 27, 1963. Khatari Gant the son of Original Black August Organizing Committee Members Mama Ayanna and Shaka At-Thinnin was murdered on August 4, 2007.

REMEMBER AND COMMEMORATE THE MONTH OF BLACK AUGUST.

BLACK AUGUST RESISTANCE!

 

References:

Points and quotes in this writing were taken from historical articles written by:

The Original Black August Organizing Committee

Baba Shaka At-Thinnin

Mama Ayanna Mashama

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Javad Jahi

 

FASTING HEALTH NOTE:

IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER; HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE OR PRE-HYPERTENSIVE; IF YOU ARE A DIABETIC OR PRE-DIABETIC; IF YOU HAVE A SERIOUS ILLNESS THAT NECESSITATES THAT YOU TAKE MEDICATIONS; IF YOU HAVE ONGOING PROBLEMS WITH YOUR KIDNEYS, BLADDER OR LIVER, IF YOU ARE MENSTRUATING, DO NOT ABSTAIN FROM DRINKING WATER, DO NOT FAST FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET! Instead, drink plenty of water, fruit and vegetable juices and eat small meals consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables and raw salads during the day so that you keep yourself nourished, sustained and healthy. Do not partake without medical supervision or consulting with your health practitioner.

 

BLACK AUGUST WEEKEND: August 3 & 4, 2013 Omaha, NB

https://www.facebook.com/notes/10151909180590237/https://www.facebook.com/events/440989169333073/

 

BLACK AUGUST CALENDAR LOS ANGELES:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/10151909180590237/https://www.facebook.com/notes/10151909180590237/https://www.facebook.com/notes/blackaugust-losangeles/calender-for-black-august-in-los-angeles-2013-will-be-updated-when-necessary/10153072450365648

 

 

An ongoing solidarity event to establish a group of friends and supporters for Jalil Muntaqin August 8, 2013:

 

https://www.facebook.com/notes/10151909180590237/https://www.facebook.com/notes/10151909180590237/https://www.facebook.com/events/554265921284908/

 

NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY AUGUST 

13, 2013:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/10151909180590237/https://www.facebook.com/events/374070472686422/?ref=14

 

 

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