Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you for… I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for liberty, freedom and justice! —Marcus Garvey, Atlanta Prison, Feb. 10, 1925
By Gabriel Gonzalez
February may be what European mis-educators have us believing is the “official” Black History month, but dig this. Another month, August, is a month of great significance for blacks in America.
In the spirit of self-determination, Black August originated in the California penal system to honor three fallen freedom fighters, Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson and Khatari Gaulden. Jonathan Jackson was gunned down outside a 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 is the sole survivor of that armed liberation attempt.
George Jackson was assassinated by prison guards during a black prison rebellion at San Quentin on August 21, 1971. In an unsuccessful effort to cover up that state’s premeditated assassination of George Jackson, prison officials selected six Black and Latino prisoners to make scapegoats for their racist, murderous act. These prisoners became known as the San Quentin Six.
Khatari Gaulden was a political activist who worked with the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. While in prison, he organized after George Jackson’s assassination. Gaulden was killed in the prison infirmary.
Black August promotes a “non-sectarian mass based” resistance culture inside and outside the prison walls across the United States. The brothers who participated in the collective founding of Black August wore black armbands on their left arm and studied revolutionary works, focusing on the works of George Jackson.
The brothers did not listen to the radio or watch television in August. Additionally, they didn’t eat or drink anything from sun-up to sundown, and loud boastful behavior was not allowed.
The brothers did not support the prison canteen. The use of drugs and alcoholic beverages was prohibited and the brothers held daily exercises, because during Black August, emphasis is placed on sacrifice, fortitude and discipline.
August 2006 is the 27th anniversary of Black August and Black August is still a time to embrace the principles of 1) Unity; 2) Self-Sacrifice; 3) Political Education; 4) Physical training; and 5) Resistance!
Traditionally, Black August is a time to study history, particularly our history in the North American Empire. The first Africans were brought to Jamestown as slaves in August of 1619, so August is a month during which we can reflect on our current situation and our self-determining rights.
Many have done just that in their respective time periods. In 1843, Henry Highland Garnett called a general slave strike on August 22. William Still started the Underground Railroad on August 2, 1850, and the Afro-American Newspaper was founded on August 13, 1892.
On August 3, 1908, the Allensworth Township for former slaves was established in California. The March on Washington occurred in August of 1963.
“Black August promotes a “non-sectarian mass based” resistance culture inside and outside the prison walls across the United States. The brothers who participated in the collective founding of Black August wore black armbands on their left arm and studied revolutionary works, focusing on the works of George Jackson.”
The right to self-defense is often recognized during the eighth month of the year as well. Gabriel Prosser’s 1800 slave rebellion occurred on August 30. Nat Turner planned and carried out an August slave rebellion that commenced on August 21, 1831.
During the Watts rebellions in August 1965, blacks took to the streets, and on August 18, 1971 in Jackson, Mississippi, the official residence of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was raided by Mississippi police and FBI agents.
After the smoke cleared, one police officer lay dead and two officers were wounded. The brothers and sister who became known as the RNA 11 successfully defended themselves.
Further, August is a time of birth. International African leader Marcus Garvey and Dr. Mutulu Shakur, political prisoner and prisoner of war, were both born in August.
August is also a time of rebirth. W.E.B. Dubois died in Ghana on August 27, 1963.
The tradition of fasting during August teaches self-discipline. A conscious fast is in effect from 6:00am to 8:00pm. During that time nothing should be taken into the month, including water.
If a medical problem or another reason makes fasting impossible, a liquid fast can be practiced with water, or fruit juices only. No milk or protein shakes.
Some other personal sacrifice for the entire month of August can be made as well. Blacks have given up everything from sugar to sex. The sundown meal is traditionally shared whenever possible among comrades.
On August 31, a People’s Feast is held and the fast is broken. Black August fasting is a New Afrikan tradition that serves as a constant reminder of the conditions our people have faced and still face. (“White men can’t jump, but they can beat a black man senseless, murder him, and still get acquitted.”)
Fasting mentally disciplines us to control urges and the physical craving for food; fasting helps us endure physical pain and discomfort.
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 to remember all those who have come and gone before us.
Ni Kakan Mase. This means if we stand tall, it is because we stand on the shoulders of many ancestors. Excuse should not break the fast. Only September 1. Resistance is encouraged when one gets the urge to break fast before sundown.
Black August helps build spiritual unity and reminds us of collective self-sacrifice; it prepares us for the protracted struggle ahead, and re-emphasizes the Afrikan concept of “Never Alone”.