Burning Spear News
Make Black August 31 days of African resistance!
This article is part of a special Black August series on TheBurningSpear.com. We encourage all our readers to help “Keep The Spear Burning” during our Black August Fund Drive. Support your black power newspaper! Sponsor a prisoner or donate today at Burningspearmarketplace.com
Black August is a commemoration begun in 1979 by Africans in prison to raise up those who have died struggling for African liberation from within prison walls or in attempts to liberate Africans from the colonial prisons like George and Jonathan Jackson.
Of course, the struggle for African liberation has been a long one, and even as we raise up those who have contributed to the struggle in prison in this 38th commemoration of Black August, we also raise up individuals who have made material and philosophical contributions and events of significance to our struggle in the month of August.
In August of 1800, Gabriel Prosser was killed before he could lead the slave rebellion he was organizing in Richmond, VA. However, Nat Turner took up the mantle and led a successful rebellion in August of 1831.
The Watts rebellions were in August of 1965, and the list goes on.
Black August must remember Garvey
Of course, August 17, 1887 was the day African giant Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. This son of the African working class would go on to call for “Africa for Africans, at home and abroad” and to develop organizations to work to make that a reality.
Millions of Africans throughout the continent and the world embraced Garvey’s mass movement organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
The success of Garvey’s UNIA, along with the Negro Factory Corporation, the Black Star Line shipping company and the Negro World—his successful international newspaper—led U.S. imperialism to target Garvey.
The attack led by J. Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), known then as the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), resulted in Garvey’s imprisonment and deportation. After much struggle with the imperialists and their black petty bourgeois lackeys, Garvey died on June 10, 1940 in London, England.
The imperialist techniques used against Garvey would be refined and resurrected for use against the Black Power Movement of the Sixties as COINTELPRO—a counterinsurgency program designed “to prevent the rise of a Black messiah,” push Africans out of independent political life and ensure that the only African leadership that was allowed to emerge was leadership complicit with the agenda of parasitic capitalism.
The black petty bourgeoisie’s call for assimilation was deemed acceptable and celebrated as true progress while the African working class’ revolutionary call for independent Black Power and socialism was met with the full brutal military repression of the State.
Our organizations were infiltrated and destroyed. Many of our leaders were assassinated and persecuted. Thousands were locked up and many remain incarcerated in solitary isolation units and/or super-maximum security prisons.
George and Jonathan Jackson
With the introduction of so many political prisoners from the Black Power Movement, the prisons became a place where many became politicized.
In 1960, an 18-year-old George Jackson was sentenced to one year to life in prison for the theft of $70 from a gas station. In Soledad Brother, Jackson wrote of his own political development:
“I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me. For the first four years I studied nothing but economics and military ideas. I met black guerrillas George “Big Jake” Lewis, and James Carr, W.L. Nolen, Bill Christmas, Tony Gibson and many, many others.
“We attempted to transform the black criminal mentality into a black revolutionary mentality. As a result, each of us has been subject to years of the most vicious reactionary violence by the State. Our mortality rate is almost what you would expect to find in a history of Dachau.”
George Jackson and the men that he named formed the core of the Black Guerilla Family (BGF), an organization inspired by Marcus Garvey and Marxism. The BGF said it was committed to the goals of eradicating racism, maintaining dignity in prison, and overthrowing the United States government.
“Theory is what determines whether you join the revolution or whether you join the CIA,” says Chairman Omali Yeshitela.
Once it became known that the colonial prisons had become centers for revolutionary higher education, the BGF was marked for elimination.
The BGF was not helpless, however. They made it clear to the guards and the white gangs that, in the gulag, every violent action against an African would be dealt with in the same manner.
The BGF also established relationships with other organizations, and the publication of George Jackson writings linked the African presence in the prisons to the development of revolutionary consciousness and the struggle against imperialism.
Black Panther Party (BPP) founder Huey P. Newton named Jackson as a General and Field Marshal of the BPP.
On August 20, 1970, George Jackson’s little brother, 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson entered a Marin County, California courtroom with a briefcase filled with guns with the intention of liberating the Soledad Brothers—George Jackson and two other brothers accused of killing a white prison guard after a prison guard murdered three Africans.
The action was a FBI setup however, and Jonathan and the imprisoned brothers who he had armed were gunned down in a hail of bullets as they attempted to get away.
“His death only sharpens my fighting spirit. I am proud just to have known that he was flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. I’ll think of him now as I think of Che Guevara,” said George about the murder of his little brother.
A year and a day later on August 21,1971, George Jackson was killed by prison guards that alleged that he was trying escape.
The murder of George Jackson was recognized throughout the world as a political assassination. “No Black person will ever believe that George Jackson died the way they tell us he did,” wrote James Baldwin.
George Jackson was 29 years of age and had spent a total of 11 years in prison, seven of those years in isolation.
Jackson’s last book, entitled Blood In My Eye, was published posthumously. In the final pages he expressed his love for the revolution and the necessity for action: “Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done; discover your humanity and your love in revolution.”
Sponsor an African prisoner!
The Burning Spear newspaper, during the month of Black August is waging a fierce campaign to “Keep The Spear Burning.”
We are calling on all our readers and supporters to take up the mantle of revolutionary struggle and support our sisters and brothers behind bars with a subscription to The Spear.
Through the pages of our black power newspaper, African people held in captivity can be won to the revolution and emerge from the trenches as revolutionary freedom fighters, ready and armed to organize towards overturning colonialism.
So we call on you to sponsor a prisoner you know today! You can also get a subscription for yourself or a loved-one or make a generous donation!
Let’s make Black August 31 days of African resistance!
Keep The Spear Burning!