It is the month when our oppressors have nothing to celebrate.
It is the month where the nature of our oppression and the boldest expressions of our resistance to that oppression have been made most plain.
We who like it hot call it ‘Black August’…
As a concept of resistance, Black August has its beginnings in the mid 70’s with the prison justice movement. It was inspired by the courageous legacy of Black Panther prison organizer George Jackson, who was assassinated on August 21, 1971, one of the hallmark dates for the concept.
Originally, the concept concerned itself with and confined itself to those hallmark dates of repression and resistance for this month within the confines of these bloodsucking united states exclusively.
We revisit this concept here in a more comprehensive Pan-Afrikan manner to explore and to propose it having a broader Pan-Afrikan application.
Our ancestors first coming here ‘to work’…the ‘beginning of the end’ of their freedom…can arguably be traced back to August 20, 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia. Although those first ancestors were actually considered ‘indentured servants’ in that initial moment, with the growth of that colony and England’s new stranglehold on the slave trade in North America, the rights and privileges of Black indentured servants were legally stripped within a generation and chattel slavery would then emerge in full gear right from that citadel of settler colonialism! (There is some new evidence that indicates that the Portuguese in fact brought the first cargo of Afrikan slaves to what is now South Carolina in 1526).
In most recent times, and for the first time in decades since the bombing of the Congo in 1964 under the so-called liberal rule of Lyndon Baines Johnson, u.s. forces, demonstrating unchallenged New World Order military supremacy, bombed our Afrika when they bombed the Sudan, the land of the earth’s oldest civilizations, under the most bogus of pretenses, ‘CounterTerrorism,’ on August 20, 1998.
Ironic coincidence you think? This beast was trying to bomb us outta our land, outta our minds and outta our hearts!… on the anniversary that brought us here!…Hmmm!
Self-critically, we should also acknowledge the recent betrayal of Pan-Afrikan potential in Central Afrika too. Just as were gearing up here for the heroic Million Youth March, the u.s. covertly sponsored an attack on the recently liberated Congo on August 2, 1998, using Rwanda and Uganda as proxy forces. To the honor of our ancestors, however, that betrayal has been checked and contained in a Pan-Afrikan manner by a courageous union of forces from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia…
An important recently declassified FBI memo detailing the scope and the national coordination of a sinister covert operation, which would ultimately destroy the Black Liberation Movement known as COINTELPRO,or ‘the CounterIntelligence Program,’ was set in full ‘no holds barred’ motion against the Black nation on August 25, 1967.
Many conscious of our history know that COINTELPRO was not only illegal, immoral and absolutely off da hook in its making a mockery of democratic rights. But have we truly assessed ‘how’ successful it was in disabling the Black Liberation Movement? Have we truly assessed how that crippling of our movement left our community wide open for the unprecedented violent social disintegration we currently face, set off most insidiously by a heroin epidemic in the early 70’s and the hoodsplitting crack explosion blowing up in our faces in the awful 80s and the nasty 90s? The epic Million Man March was the beginning of an answer, we hoped,…an answer for our times , but it wasn’t enough. And with Black Panther/BLA political prisoners Albert ‘Nuh’ Washington, Teddy ‘Jah’ Heath and Bashir Hameed* recently dying in captivity after being locked down for decades virtually unknown to the community they sacrificed their lives trying to defend and with that same community in more disarray now than it was when they were captured in the early 70’s, we think not.
By the way, the first of two vicious attacks against those defiant, dreadlock-wearing pioneers of environmentalism, known to the world simply as MOVE, also took place in Black August. It was on August 9, 1978 that 500 of Philly’s finest laid siege to the MOVE home compound in Powelton Village in an attempted massacre. When it was over, the world saw Delbert Afrika being brutally beaten on national television while peaceably surrendering. He was beaten with a savagery that anticipated the videotaped beating of Rodney King. James Rapp, a Philadelphia police officer was killed from what we now call ‘friendly fire.’ Bro. Delbert and his surviving comrades are now going on their 38th year of prison facing sentences that go up 100 years for Rapp’s death!…Two of their comrades have died in prison, Merle Afrika in 1999 and Phil Afrika in 2015.
Lest we forget, it was on August 9, 1997 that Abner Louima was sodomized with a plunger up his rectum in a supreme expression of police brutality by New York City police.
Starting on August 29, 2005, we faced one of the greatest ordeals and calamities of this time. On that day, as the bewildering winds of Hurricane Katrina came barreling down on New Orleans, the world’s 1st Black cultural capital, the u.s.government decided to abandon the people of that great chocolate city because the majority of its victims were black and poor! This genocidal spectacle garnered international criticism and outrage abroad, but here at home, the national media order just accelerated what the late Charshee McIntyre called ‘the criminalizing of the race!’
It must be noted here though for the historical record, that just days later, while many among our people felt helpless about trying to do something directly, the New Black Panther Party, under the leadership of Attorney at War Malik Zulu Shabazz, dared to launch ‘Operation Rescue’! Defying curfews, roadblocks and government mandates, these brave men, armed with their God and their gun, rolled into New Orleans, went into the devastated 9th ward in particular and come out with several hundred of our people!**
Add the harrowing “Hands up! Don’t shoot” case of Ferguson, Missouri’s Michael Brown, killed by Officer Darren Wilson in cold blood August 9th, 2014, to the litany of oppressive abuses particular to this month. Brown was then left on the streets dead for hours!…for hours!…as state forces sought to make a horrific example out of him. To their chagrin, however, Brown’s slaughter triggered instead an incredible surge in protest against police brutality all over the country! Three new words were added to our protest lexicon in that upsurge…‘Black Lives Matter’!
So we must also be very clear here…Black August is also a time of the most heroic resistance to the hottest hell we’ve faced!
On August 11, 1965, a pivotal, timemarking rebellion took place foreshadowing many more to come. It was the Watts section of Los Angeles that exploded. Black youth, tired of police brutality, boldly stepped off from their perceived limits of nonviolence and went off!… Although casualties in this uprising were high, after six days of supreme hellraizin, almost 1000 buildings were destroyed and most of those destroyed were white-owned businesses. Out of the blood and ashes of this rebellion emerged the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense! It is one of the hallmark dates of this concept in its origins.
The other of course is August 7, 1970!…On this day, an incredibly fearless young warrior chose not to wait on the white man’s courts for justice. He took it upon himself to liberate his comrades! On this day, the immortal Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson’s courageous little brother, walked into a Marin County Courthouse locked and loaded and announced that he was now in charge and he would be leaving with his comrades who were on trial! He also announced that the presiding judge would be coming also to secure their exit! He was 17 years old! 17! It foreshadowed the reemergence of the Underground Railroad in the collective persona known as the Black Liberation Army! You wanna know why you have to be searched when you go into a courtroom, you have pay homage to Jonathan for that!
On August 14, 1791, a fearless Afrikan warrior queen named Cecille called together all the field slaves of the French sugar plantation island of Haiti ( originally spelled ‘Ayiti ), to convene the launching of the most successful of all slave revolts just eight days later!…The Haitian Revolution!
On August 21, 1831, Rev. Nat Turner launched his own prophetic answer to the Haitian Revolution when he led a force of armed field slaves in amerikkka’s most famous slave insurrection in Southampton, Virginia. Before his capture, dozens of the overseer and slave owner class were vanquished by those willing to pay the ultimate price for freedom!
This is not at all to diss or to minimize nonviolent direct action; For on August 9, 1956, 20,000 Afrikan women fearlessly took to the streets of Pretoria, South Afrika and defied the vicious ‘Passbook Act of 1956, which made aliens of Afrikans in their own land during the obscene racist reign of Apartheid. It is from this defiant act that we get the phrase “You have struck a rock.”
“Now you have attacked the women! You have struck a rock! You have dislodged a boulder! You will be crushed!” rings the phrase from this heroic expression of Afrikan women defying the bloody teeth of Apartheid.
The March On Washington of August 28, 1963 must also be acknowledged for Black August in spite of its obvious co-opted limitations. Not because it was a high point for the legacy of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement; We must acknowledge it here because we understand that the state saw that on its own terms, the scale of the mobilization made it too successful for their interests and then marked ‘The Drum Major For Justice’ for death! Declassified government documents are very clear. COINTELPRO operations escalated against our movement after that march and escalated against him in particular! Let the ‘Dreamers’ speak to that!…
Another March on Washington note…Malcolm was not the only Black voice on the ‘national’ scene warning America of the limits of our people’s commitment to ‘Nonviolence’. James Baldwin, who warned of The Fire Next Time, was banned from speaking by the white liberal overseers of the March after having been originally invited to do so!….Baldwin, another fearless legendary literally ‘son of Harlem’, is also a Black August baby, born on August 2, 1924.
We must also acknowledge why the date was chosen for that march. On August 28, 1955, a young man from Chicago visiting his family in Mississippi, was made missing and viciously lynched. His face and body was so savagely ravaged by his killers that his mother decreed to have her son’s funeral with the casket open so the whole world could see what lynching looks like! That young man was Emmitt Till. It was our people’s last straw under the terrorism of Jim Crow!
On the eve of that march, the sun set on one of the immortal pioneers of PanAfrikanism. WEB DuBois died in Ghana at age 97 in service to Ghanaian independence and PanAfrikanism in Black August on August 27, 1963.
Fannie Lou Hamer bum rushes the ‘64 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, NJ with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and boldly and eloquently ‘questions’ Amerikkka on August 22, 1964!