Black August in LA: Month of Meaning and Resistance

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Organizations across the country are holding events throughout the month to commemorate Black August. For Black revolutionaries and communities, the month of August is emblazoned with the struggles, sacrifices, and resistance of Black people in the United States.

Group leaves the the Civic Center with a shotgun taped around Judge Harold Haley's neck. The inmate at left, James McClain, was fatally wounded in the van as it attempted escape. (IJ photo/Roger Bockrath)

“Black August is a month that has shaped our liberation struggle unlike any other…a month of Action; repressive action and Revolutionary action. Action that has elevated and transformed our consciousness of ourselves as a self-determining people. Black August is a month of Freedom Fighters…Warriors who told no lies and claimed no easy victories!” — Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Black August exposes the ongoing system of brutality and racial oppression, bringing executions, assassinations, state repression and mass incarceration of Black radicals to the fore. It also brings to life the achievements and continuing legacy of Black dissidence and leadership that have ignited society and carried forward the liberation movements of oppressed people.*

History and Continuing Resistance

In August 1619, the first Afrikans were brought to the English colony of Virginia as slaves stolen from a Spanish ship. This event marked the beginning of an era of capture, kidnapping, and enslavement that made possible the development of capitalism and amassing of wealth in the United States in particular.

On August 14, 1791, in the French colony of St. Domingue (Haiti) a siege was organized against white plantation owners, leaving over a thousand dead. This ambush led by Afrikan maroons and slaves evolved into a revolutionary movement for national liberation, making Republic of Haiti the first Afrikan Republic in the New World in 1804.

On August 21, 1831, Nat Turnerʼs Rebellion broke out in Virginia with just seven men and over 36-hours led to the murder of over 50 slave owners. It came to symbolize an “act of war” against the slave system that reverberates with Black resistance today.

On August 11, 1965, the beating and arrest of a Black motorist Marquette Frye, his brother Ronald and mother by white police officers led to a six-day uprising in Los Angeles called the Watts Rebellion. The Watts Rebellion was a turning point in Los Angeles and around the country for Black revolutionary struggles to break with pacifism and organize against racist police terror.

Trailer: Jackson Not Just A Name: Jonathan Jackson Educational Cadre (JJEC)

Perhaps the most significant founding event of Black August was the Marin County Courthouse Slave Rebellion in San Rafael, California. On August 7, 1970, 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson broke into the Marin Courtroom. He threw guns to prisoners William Christmas and James McClain, who in turn got jailhouse lawyer Ruchell Cinque Magee to join them. The four men took the judge, assistant district attorney and three jurors hostage. With shouts of “We are the revolutionaries!” they broke out the courthouse, planning to take over the radio station to demand freedom for the imprisoned Soledad Brothers (John Clutchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Jackson) and expose the brutally racist prison conditions. However, before they could escape through the garage, they were cornered by San Quentin guards. The guards opened fire; when the shooting stopped, the judge, Jonathan Jackson, Christmas, and McClain lay dead.

On August 21, George Jackson was murdered in prison within days of his trial. Ruchell Magee survived, but has since served over 50 years in the California state penitentiary system and remains locked up as a political prisoner. George Jackson, author of Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye was a socialist revolutionary who built Black political organizations within the prison system. The legacy of George Jackson and the many other political prisoners has an influence inside and outside prisons today.

Far from forgotten, this history of revolutionary resistance provides inspiration and political grounding to Black activists and revolutionaries today. The documentary film, Jackson: Not Just A Name, The Story Of The Jonathan Jackson Educational Cadre (JJEC). Filmmakers and Left Voice supporters Harold Welton (JJEC co-founder) and David Dang (organizer in the Vietnamese and Black community) 

Motivated by the assassinations of Jonathan and George Jackson, the JJEC organized youth in the Avalon Gardens Housing Projects (PROUDjects) of South Central Los Angeles during the 1970s. By organizing youth in a poor community and creating community programs, the JJEC continued the legacy of the Black Panthers. The film contains rare footage of Jonathan Jackson at the Marin County Courthouse, the JJEC youth practicing martial arts, and the LAPD’s repression of the JJEC. The film portrays the role of gangs in Black neighborhoods–particularly the CRIPS, which was beginning to grow during the same period. The film raised how the CRIPS gang was encouraged by the LAPD to flourish and even attack Black revolutionary organizations like the JJEC. This was carried out on top of the police’s overt campaign of State repression.

Lessons from Black August: The Struggle Continues

Black August and its spirit of resistance and for liberation continues.  There are the struggles for the freedom of all political prisoners, such as Chip Fitzgerald . The 2018 labor and hunger strikes in prisons across the country were inspired by the tradition of Black August: a struggle against white supremacy and capitalism. 

Long Live the Spirit of Jonathan Jackson!

Free All Political Prisoners!

#FreeThemAll

On August 21 there will be a Black August event: 

Black August Los Angeles Presentation & Interactive Dialogue

They’re Running Out of Time!! Free Them All!
Supporting and Freeing Political Prisoners
August 21, 2019 7-9 PM
5730 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90043-2410

Please join us Wednesday evening and learn about the importance of supporting and working to free all political prisoners, some who have been held for decades in solitary confinement.

About author

Julia Wallace

Julia Wallace

Julia is a contributor for Left Voice and has been a revolutionary socialist for over ten years. She served on the South Central Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles and is a member of SEIU Local 721. Julia organizes against police brutality and in defense of LGBTQ, women, and immigrants' rights. When she's not actively fighting the patriarchy, white supremacy and/or capitalism, she enjoys many things: she loves Thundercat, plays ultimate frisbee and is a founder of the team, "Black Lives Hammer."

Tre Kwon

Tre Kwon

Tre is a writer and editor for Left Voice. She is a nurse and member of NYSNA.