[Kevin “Rashid” Johnson has been imprisoned for over 30 years. His original conviction stemmed from lumpen activity, but he became a revolutionary New Afrikan early in his time inside. He is the author of Defying the Tomb (2010) and Panther Vision (2015), and the Minister of Defense for the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party. This article was originally posted to Rashid’s website on July 21,2021.]
The Birth, Meaning, and Practice Of Black August
by Kevin “Rashid” Johnson
Black August is a month designated to pay tribute to the true heroes, martyrs, and history of New Afrikan (Black) people in our struggle for liberation against the over 400 years of violent repression, suffering, and exploitation that we’ve endured under the systems of bondage here in the Western hemisphere. Many important events and the lives of people that occurred and contributed to our struggles fell within the month of August, and coincide with our need to know, remember, and commemorate the people and events that have fed the flames of our struggle to yet be free.
The concept of Black August began in the California prison system in response to the assassinations of political prisoners and prisoners of war held there, such as George L. Jackson, W.L. Nolen, Jeffrey “Joka Khatari” Gaulden, and others. Joka Khatari, a torch-bearer of Comrade George Jackson, died on August 1, 1978. He died at the hands of California prison officials at San Quentin, who refused him medical care for head injuries sustained while playing football.
It was Joka Khatari’s death that first inspired the concept of Black August among New Afrikans imprisoned in California. Initially it commemorated the lives and deaths of George L. Jackson, who was murdered by California prison guards on August 21, 1971; his brother Jonathan Jackson, and James D. McClain and William Christmas, who died during an armed action to free Comrade George and others staged at the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970; and W.L. Nolen, Alvin “Fig” Miller, and Cleveland Miller who were assassinated by prison guards during a racial melee that was instigated by the pigs at Soledad Prison on January 13, 1970.
Since its early beginnings, Black August has grown to embrace many significant events and people in our history of struggle in Amerika, especially those that have occurred during the month of August.
Black August is now celebrated each year by our people across the Diaspora.
Commemorating Black August is not simply a holiday observance, but a time of reflection, recognition, fortification, consciousness-building, and inspiration. The events and people it pays tribute to demonstrated the greatest sacrifices and commitment, and represent a higher awareness of and ongoing service to New Afrikans as a collective people, as a distinct nationality and community of people. But for these struggles and people and their sacrifices, we would not have survived until today. Black August cannot be looked upon lightly.
Our economic practices during Black August embrace community socialist values of mutual aid and support, not individual profit and exploitation of others that is the very basis of the suffering we have endured for centuries, and are the values that the U.S. capitalist imperialist system works to indoctrinate us with, to make us predatory against ourselves and others in its own image.
During the month of Black August, we practice fasting, exercise (twice daily or as our health permits), political education (educating us in New Afrikan history and the values of revolutionary theory and practice), and refrain from prison commissary purchases as much as possible, and instead rely on mutual support.
Black August serves to instill practice and values in us that will develop our ways of thinking and being 365 days per year, and to become the people of the liberated future that we are fighting to create for ourselves, for all oppressed peoples, and especially for those that will come after us!
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!