What is Black August?

Sunday, August 09

By Yosan Zerai

Within the month of Black August, a celebration of the history of Black resistance occurs. According to Monifa Bandele with the Movement for Black Lives, "During Black August, we honor Black freedom fighters, many of whom were killed by the state or imprisoned for defending Black lives." This month is a time to reflect on and learn about the treacherous fight for justice equality by revolutionaries fighting against systemic racism and toxic ideologies of colonialism, white supremacy, imperialism, and capitalism. We study, organize, and pledge to continue the fight for Black liberation. 

On August 21, 1971, George Jackson held a prison guard hostage using a gun and forced him to unlock the jail cells of other incarcerated people in the prison. Jackson and a few others were killed in the ensuing chaos as they all attempted to escape the prison. Many incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people came together to mourn and commemorate the life of George Jackson and other prisoners in what came to be known as Black August. 

So there was an idea that this could be a time that imprisoned people in the California prison system could use for reflection, study, and to think about how to strengthen their struggles," said Rachel Herzing, an activist who advocates for the abolition of prisons, in a 2016 interview with True Leap Press.

During the month, people would refrain from using radios, televisions, and other technologies throughout the day as a form of self-discipline and an act against the horrendous deaths of the prison inmates. Social activists and organizers also recognize that that numerous other actions against state-sanctioned violence and systemic racism occurred within the month including the Nat Turner Rebellion, March on Washington, and Watts Rebellion. 

Black August is a celebration and remembrance of the legacy of Black resistance that amplifies the struggles of Black people to come before us and continues to create beneficial spaces for Black people to come together within communities to continue and replenish the revolution.

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