Black August and The Millions for Prisoners March
Jared A. Ball
“When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.”
– Ho Chi Minh
“This is it gentlemen, the dragon has come.”
– George Jackson
“Got to be real.”
– Cheryl Lynn
This is my favorite time of year because we get to forcibly move the dragon metaphor from blondes in HBO fantasy series to world majority revolutionaries in real life! In fact, Black August, as this time is known (to some at least), is a threat to all White fantasies and an encouragement to the Black (all colonized!) people everywhere to first dream of liberation and then prepare to make it real. Black August, and its particular focus on the politically imprisoned, appropriately reclaims mythology making very real the potential for revolutionary change; the dragons of Ho Chi Minh and George Jackson were/are the prisoners whose incarceration so brutally collapses the make-believe worlds of colony.
All prisoners, especially those locked up for having the audacity to – not simply hope –but study, organize and act in direct and conscious clarity to redistribute society’s benefits, all of them, material and immaterial, back to the people. There are still so many political prisoners, you can always check with the Jericho Movement, Prison Radio, The Freedom Archives and The Abolitionist Law Center as sources for learning about and communicating with them. And this year, August 19 to be exact, you can now join and/or support The Millions for Prisoners March in Washington, D.C. led by Krystal Rountree and the I Am We Prison Advocacy Collective.
In THIS important interview veteran activist Mama Ayanna Mashama can be heard describing the history and purpose of Black August, particularly its origins in commemorating the freedom struggle as conducted by those, “behind the prison walls.” But essentially Black August is an important time to remember not only the particular legacy and history of African liberation in this country, on this continent, on this hemisphere, but the unfinished business associated with that struggle. Black August is about having the struggle as waged by the most militant in that tradition become the standard by which we judge our current moment and assess our condition, preparation, organization and political education so that we can be better prepared for the continuation of that struggle.
Especially in this moment of enhanced internet-driven celebrity and the powerful seductive invitation of individualism it remains exceedingly important to commemorate and remember Black August because at no time in the world have we ever seen greater degrees of propaganda and the ability of those in power to disassociate the rest of us cognitively from our conditions an actual state of affairs. There has also be no easier time to supplant, replace and impose forms of leadership on communities seeking to improve their material or lived conditions. Marcus Garvey, himself a major Black August figure having been born on the 17th, once said:
We are living in a civilization that is highly developed. We are living in a world that is scientifically arranged in which everything done by those who control is done through system; proper arrangement, proper organization, and among some of the organized methods used to control the world is the thing known and called “PROPAGANDA.” Propaganda has done more to defeat the good intentions of races and nations than even open warfare. Propaganda is a method or medium used by organized peoples to convert others against their will. We of the Negro race are suffering more than any other race in the world from propaganda — Propaganda to destroy our hopes, our ambitions and our confidence in self.
We have to recognize the severe extent to which the process accurately described by Garvey has intensified, undergone extreme sophistication of design and penetration with an impact, since the time of Garvey, that has only magnified largely due to the absence of the kind of collective organization and movement represented by Garvey and not since equaled or sustained.
Finally it’s good that we commemorate Black August because of its call that we center those imprisoned for themselves engaging in and reminding us of the state-excised histories of Black rebellion. If we not only adorn ourselves with their images and slogans but actually study and organize around the ideas of the still-living and exiled or imprisoned revolutionaries – of all backgrounds for that matter – we are better suited or oriented to becoming the necessary threat to power we must be if we ever want more than those slogans, symbols and empty commercial media references. For instance, lets learn about, promote the work and history of and organize for the freedom of Mutulu Shakur instead of ignoring him or giving undo credit for his reference in All Eyez On Me.
So and to that end it is essential that we support The Millions For Prisoners March on August 19. No, it’s not because I think we need another march or summer time hang out spectacle for liberals. We should support this march because of its call for our focus to be on the imprisoned, particularly those politically imprisoned, and for us to adjust our political standard to something beyond a commercial, corporate or state-sponsored fantasy.
(featured art by Kevin Rashid Johnson, a political prisoner whose history, art, writing and calls for help can be found at RASHIDMOD.COM)