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Black August honors George Jackson

George Jackson was politicized while in prison and became a Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party.
 
George Jackson, his younger brother, Jonathan Jackson and Khatari Gaulden are central to understanding Black August, the commemoration of the martyred freedom fighters that began in the California prison system in the 1970s. Jackson was an African born in America who became a Field Marshal of the Black Pan­ther Party while in prison, where he spent the last 12 years of his life. His book of published letters, “Soledad Brother,” became an in­stant classic.
 
Gaulden became the leader inside San Quentin after George Jackson was murdered by the State on August 21, 1971. The Louisiana-born Gaulden was him­self assassinated in 1978. The hit on Gaulden was the spark that led to the Black August prairie fire.
 
On August 7, 1970, in an ac­tion initiated by FBI infiltrator Cot­ton Smith to discredit and destroy the Panthers, George’s 17-year-old brother Jonathan burst into a Marin County courtroom with automatic weapons in attempt to free the “Soledad Brothers.”
 
The Soledad Brothers were George Jackson, Fleeta Drum­goole and John Clutchette.
 
The three brothers were accused of killing a white prison guard after another guard was cleared by the State for having gunned down three black inmates.
 
Jona­than Jackson freed three San Quentin prisoners and took Judge Harold Haley, Assistant Dis­trict Attorney Gary Thomas and others as hostages to demand free­dom for the three “Soledad Brothers.”
 
However, Haley, prison­ers William Christmas and James Mc­Clain, and Jon­athan Jackson were killed as they attempted to drive away from the court­house. Ruchell Magee, the only survivor of the Marin County incident, still languishes in a California pris­on. The case made international headlines.
 
One year later on August 21, 1971, three days before he was to go on trial, George was as­sassinated in the prison yard at San Quentin in what was later exposed as an FBI counterinsur­gency operation.
 
George Jackson’s assassination impacts a movement
 
On the day Jackson was murdered, this writer saw grown, macho men break down and cry tears bigger than cantaloupes. Jackson influenced a larger num­ber of Africans-in-America and progressive thinking whites than can be imagined.
 
The murder of Jackson sent Archie Shepp, Bob Dylan and Steel Pulse into the studio to re­cord tributes to him. Jackson was eulogized in the jazz, pop and reg­gae idioms. “Jazz” man Shepp re­leased “Blues for Brother George Jackson” on his “Attica Blues” album.
 
Dylan did a single, “George Jackson,” and the British reg­gae band Steel Pulse recorded two songs, “George Jackson,” a cover of Dylan’s song, and “Uncle George,” on their 1977 album “Tribute to the Martyrs.” The group actually re-recorded “George Jackson” and “Uncle George” on the 2004 album “Af­rican Holocaust.”
 
Jackson’s impact was so great that Warner Bros. at­tempted to cash in on his im­age by producing a film, “Broth­ers,” starring Bernie Casey and Vonetta McGee. The soundtrack was performed by Taj Mahal. I saw the film in Memphis, Ten­nessee. There was only an el­derly Euro-American couple and myself in the theater that day. When I saw the film, I was slippin’ into darkness (I was un­derground).
 
George Jackson’s influence
 
Who was George Jackson and why eulogize a “convict?” When Jackson was 18, he was sentenced from one year to life for stealing $70 from a gas sta­tion. He spent the next 11 years in prison, eight and a half of them in solitary confinement.
 
When he was 28 years old, he was charged with the murder of a guard in Soledad prison. Shortly after his indictment for this mur­der, his first book, “Soledad Broth­er,” a book of his letters, was pub­lished in England, Germany, Italy and Sweden.
 
He was acclaimed through­out the world as the most power­ful and eloquent Black writer to emerge in years. He became a symbol for the struggle of all op­pressed people.
 
Commenting on Jackson’s writing, C.L.R. James pointed out, “The letters are in my opinion the most remarkable political docu­ments that have appeared inside or outside the United States since the death of (Vladimir Ilyich) Len­in.”
 
The late Walter Rodney used to talk about how it was amazing that Jackson could develop an international consciousness from a prison cell. Rupert Lewis, who wrote the book, “Walter Rodney’s Intellectual and Political Thought,” found an essay that Rodney had written about Jackson while he lived in Tanzania. The essay is ti­tled, “History Is A Weapon George Jackson: Black Revolultionary.”
 
George Jackson continued to make news even after his death. When Stanley Tookie Williams was executed on December 13, 2005, California Governor Ar­nold Schwarzenegger evoked his name as one of the reasons that he wanted the co-founder of the Crips to die. Schwarzenegger, speaking of the list of individu­als Williams’ book “Life in Prison” was dedicated to said, “the inclu­sion of George Jackson on this list defies reason and is a signifi­cant indicator that Williams is not reformed…”
 
Jackson’s second book, “Blood in My Eye,” was complet­ed only days before his assassi­nation. “Blood in My Eye” clearly showed Jackson’s global outlook.
 
He wrote, “The commitment to total revolution must involve an analysis of both the economic motives and the psycho­social motives which perpetuate the oppressive contract. For the black partisan, national struc­tures are quite simply nonexis­tent. A people without a collective consciousness that transcends national boundaries—freaks, Afro-Amerikkkans, negroes, even Amerikkkans, without the sense of a larger community than their own group—can have no effect on history. Ultimately they will sim­ply be eliminated from the scene.”
 
Black August to honor fallen freedom fighters
 
Kumasi is the official historian of the Black August Organizing Committee. Kumasi, who knew George Jackson personally and was locked down with him for a time, stated “Black August was created as a commemoration of those who have given their all already and a way to [rededicate] yourself to this struggle that is not over.”
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