DISTRIBUTE WIDELY!!!! DISTRIBUTE WIDELY !!!! DISTRIBUTE WIDELY!!!!
US Human Rights Network
Black August Commemorative Educational Call: United States Political Prisoners, Prisoners of War, Exiles and the Legacy of Repression and Resistance
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
2 pm EST
A Combined effort of the Political Prisoner and State Repression Working Group and USHRN Training Committee
To participate in this call, please register using the following link:
is a month of great commemorative significance for peoples’ of African descent throughout the African Diaspora, but particularly those in the U.S. where the commemorative tradition originated. Black August, as noted by 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” (http://sfbayview.com/2009/black-august/).
THE ORIGIN OF BLACK AUGUST
As the battle for civil come human rights raged in the streets across the United States and around the world, the awareness of those incarcerated for social as well as political action grew and the prisons also caught afire. There arose behind the prison walls a consciousness and resistance, from the Montgomery Bus Boycotters, Birmingham Children’s Crusade, Greensboro Sit-in, and Freedom Riders, which persists to this day. While Black August originated in the prisons of California in the 1970’s to honor Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson, William Christmas, James McClain and Khatari Gaulden, it is widely commemorated across the United States.
It was sparked when Jonathan Jackson, 17 year old brother of imprisoned revolutionary human rights activist, George Jackson, was gunned down outside the Marin County California courthouse on August 7, 1970. Johnathan had attempted to liberate three imprisoned Black Freedom Fighters: James McClain, William Christmas and Ruchell Magee. Ruchell Magee is the sole survivor of the August 7th rebellion. He was the co-defendant of former political prisoner Angela Davis. There trials were severed and though he was acquitted of the most serious charges, including kidnapping, Ruchell has been locked down for 45 plus years; most of it in solitary confinement.
George Jackson was assassinated on August 21, 1971 by San Quentin prison guards. The assassination was a deliberate move by the US government to eliminate his successful and revolutionary leadership. In the midst of the government orchestrated murder of George, three prison guards were killed and six Black and Latino prisoners were charged with the guards’ deaths. These six human rights activists became known as the San Quentin Six.
Khatari Gaulden, a key intellectual architect of the Black August commemorative tradition, was murdered as a result of the government’s malicious denial medical treatment. He suffered a mysterious accident on the San Quentin Prison yard in August 1978.
To honor these sacrifices and the revolutionary vision advocated by George Jackson and others, brothers throughout the prisons of California banded together to continue the fight for dignity and human rights. Black August commemorators in the prisons wore black armbands on their left arm and studied revolutionary works, particularly those of Comrade George Jackson, abstained from music and television, and fasted from sun-up to sundown. Commemorators also exercised daily to sharpen their minds, bodies, and spirits in honor of the collective principles of self-sacrifice, inner fortitude, and discipline needed to advance the struggle for self-determination and other human rights. Black August is a commemorative time to embrace the principles of communion, unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical training and determined resistance.
THE SPREAD AND GROWTH OF BLACK AUGUST
In the late 1970’s, the observance and practice of Black August spread from the prisons of California and Black activists throughout the US, under the leadership of the Black August Organizing Committee (BAOC), began observing it. In alliance with the BAOC, members of the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) began the practice and popularization of Black August in the early 1980’s. During Black August, the community focuses on Study, Community Education and Mobilization of Afrikan people to for self-reaffirming action to advance our struggle for self-determination and national liberation.
As the Black August practice and tradition spread, it grew to commemorate not only the sacrifices in California’s prisons, but the historic struggles and sacrifices of Black people against white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism. A sampling of the “righteous rebellion” and “racist repression” that defines Black August include: The arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Jamestown, Virginia in August 1619; the start of the great Haitian revolution in August 1791; the call for a general strike by enslaved Africans by Henry Highland Garnett on August 22nd, 1843; the initiation of one of the major networks that conducted the Underground Railroad on August 2, 1850; the March on Washington on August 28th, 1963; Gabriel Prosser’s rebellion of August 30th, 1800.; the rebellion of Nat Turner on August 21st, 1831; 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 bombing 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), the legendary Pan-African Leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Maroon Russell Shoatz (political prisoner) and Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton were born in August. The great scholar and theoretician W.E.B. Dubois died in Ghana on August 27, 1963.
BLACK AUGUST AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF DISSENT AND DEFENSE
This history of activism has not gone unnoticed by the United States government in its longstanding commitment to make North America safe and prosperous for European commercial interests and arrest the fears of its beneficiaries. Today, along with Ruchell Magee, the world’s longest held political prisoner, there are dozens more human rights activists who have been held for the past 30 and 35 years despite impeccable conduct and continued service to the community both in and out of the prison walls. Most are survivors of the Justice Department, J. Edgar Hoover, and the FBI’s illegal vigilante enterprise commonly known as COINTELPRO, Counter Intelligence Program.
Their continued imprisonment is an indictment of the United States and its false claims of democracy and freedom. Before any COINTELPRO target “broke any laws”, they were simply exercising their constitutional and human rights. It was the State’s unwillingness to change its relationship to the historically oppressed groups in this country, i.e. do justice, pay reparations, recognize and honor their humanity that resulted in literal warfare. Non-violent direct action, as in India, South Africa, Algeria, Cuba and resistance struggles around the world, escalated to the use of force.
The United States, like other governments, has not acknowledged that this happened; the acknowledgement of which would be the first step towards addressing these violations and resolving that they will not happen again. It continues to deny that it holds any political prisoners, prisoners of war, and exiles (pp/pow/exiles), especially from the human rights battles of the 1960s up to the 1980s. In fact, since the safe guards put in place as a result the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee’s investigation and recommendations are now being swept aside, we can be assured that it will happen again. Recent legislation such as the USA PATRIOT Act has restored or legalized many of the extra-legal methods that were used in the past.
BLACK AUGUST AND THE CONTINUING LEGACY OF DOMESTIC REPRESSION
By holding these political activists, with or without the use of force, for excessive sentences, under the harshest possible conditions, including the threat of death, the State is saying, "if you want to protest/demonstrate/advocate/etc., you will do so in a manner acceptable to the government, or else you will face the consequences evident in our assassinations and imprisonment of those that came before you." Thus, this issue is of concern to all of us, beyond the practical matters of abuse and injustice or tactical debate regarding property destruction or the use of force.
In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech at Riverside Church, in New York, April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, pointed out that " Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable." While most activists did not use force, some did. They met the State’s violent onslaught on African, Latino, Native communities with equal vigor. The US, rather than abide by U.N. protocols, criminalized these activists and has attempted to delegitimize their role in the struggles within the United States for national independence and racial justice. The government must differentiate between righteous rebellion and illegality as is required by its international human rights obligations.
These men and women are "prisoners of war," an internationally defined designation for certain actors within an armed conflict. Moreover, combatants struggling against colonial and alien domination and racist regimes, when captured as prisoners are to be accorded the status of prisoners of war (POW) and their treatment in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 12 August 1949. (General Assembly Resolution 3103 (XXVIII)). This is particularly true of those who identify themselves as POWs, given that their resistance results directly from the U.N. acknowledged “crime against humanity” that was the slave trade and the genocide of the Native peoples.
PURPOSE OF THE EDUCATIONAL CALL
The purpose of this Educational call is to highlight the ongoing plight of political prisoners and prisoners of war in the United States, particularly those falsely imprisoned since the 1960’s and 70’s, many of who have now been held illegally for more than three decades! In addition, we aim to highlight the efforts of activists within the Network to address this human rights violation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR process). In the spring, activists submitted two reports addressing the plight of political prisoners and the question of domestic repression and torture.
These reports can be accessed utilizing the following links:
We will outline what you and your organization can do to support the recommendations of these works and help free the political prisoners, prisoners of war, and other victims of state repression, detention, and torture.
To participate in this call, please register using the following link:
Efia Nwangaza, Co-Author UN Reports on COINTELPRO/Civil Rights Era Political Prisoners, Prisoners of War, and Exiles (PP/POW/Exiles)/ Domestic Repression is a SNCC Veteran, Life long Civil/Human Rights Activist-Lawyer, Popular Educator and Organizer, Guest Columnist, Television/radio host and media justice activist. She is the Founding/President and CEO Afrikan-American Institute for Policy Studies & Planning, Malcolm X Center for Self Determination, and WMXP-LP, Greenville, SC.
is a veteran of the street fighting between Los Angeles youth and combined police and national guard forces during the 1965 uprising called Watts Rebellion. 1966 -1975, organizer, agitator, and operator within the leadership circles of the black militant prison movement in California, 1978-79. Opened up L.A.Chapter of Patrice Lumumba Coalition, 1980’s-90’s. Southern California Coordinator for Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation and Director of its Prison Initiatives. Presently, historian and So. Calif. Representative of Black August Organizing Committee.