By Aswad Walker
What if I told you, there’s a profound, pro-Black tradition that has been around for nearly 50 years that is absolutely beloved and commemorated by a national army of participants, yet most Black people know absolutely nothing about it?
Well, I am telling you, and that event is Black August.
Black August officially became an annual commemoration in 1979, but actually began in the early 1970s as a vehicle for showing support for Black political prisoners. It was inspired by the assassination of political prisoner George Jackson who was murdered by prison guards at San Quentin State Prison, Aug. 21, 1971. In response, incarcerated brothers started the tradition of dedicating the month of August to fasting and focusing their reading on the plights, struggles and victories of Blacks and other oppressed people globally.
From there, those outside prison walls began participating, expanding the annual experience to include many community building and empowerment activities, including the annual National Night Out For Safety & Liberation (started by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights), book club discussions, block parties, art events, film festivals and community service activities.
“Black August organically manifested from California prisons in the 1970s by Black freedom fighters who sought to honor the lives and genuinely acknowledge the martyrdom and sacrifice of Black political prisoners killed by the state,” said Sedrick Keeler, host of KPFT’s “Conscious Mindset. “This August especially is a time to reflect and learn about the legacies of Black revolutionaries, while we simultaneously reinvest to eradicate white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism and imperialism.”
“During Black August we commemorate the deaths of Jonathan P. Jackson and his brother George Jackson,” said NBUF officer Krista Davenport Madzimoyo. “We recognize the birthday of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. We recognize the beginning of the Haitian Revolution and a number of significant events in Black History. We write our Political Prisoners to let them know we will not leave them on the battlefield and most importantly we organize for their freedom.”
Here are some of the Black History events that fell in August: